The Guidelines for Stadium Accessibility: Offering People with Disabilities a Good Experience

The Guidelines for Stadium Accessibility: Offering People with Disabilities a Good Experience

The Guidelines for Stadium Accessibility: Offering People with Disabilities a Good Experience

 

All football fans will agree: watching the game on TV is nothing compared to going to the stadium to cheer their favorite team on. Or listening to The Boss at home will never reach the sensation felt by those who were lucky enough to see him perform at the old Giants Stadium, now MetLife Stadium, for his Born in the U.S.A. Tour making him a rock legend. People go to the stadium to enjoy the ambiance, to shout out and sing along, to gather, to share a good time…

For people with disabilities, going to the stadium can prove to be a real challenge because of accessibility. In a venue that can receive more than 100,000 visitors, what place is given to people with disabilities? How can such huge and complex venues like stadiums be made accessible? What measures are implemented to welcome and guide disabled people? Can they adapt to all types of disabilities? 

Is it a perfect touchdown for stadiums in the US? Let’s take a look at their overall score on accessibility!

Measures promoting stadium accessibility

Stadiums are such huge venues with a constant and ubiquitous crowd that it would be easy to think that making them accessible is nothing short of a utopia! And yet, different measures are already or currently being implemented to enable all visitors to be welcome and to feel comfortable whatever their profile is. 

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, venues that receive visitors have to make sure people with disabilities are offered the same access and services as any visitors. For stadiums, it means applying measures to enforce and promote accessibility for all regardless of the disability such as:

⊗ PRM parking spaces;

⊗ Lowered counters at concession and merchandise stands;

⊗ Wheelchair seating areas;

⊗ Wheelchair escorts;

⊗ Assistive listening devices for hearing impaired people;

⊗ Audio induction loops; 

⊗ Audio beacons located at different strategic points of interest (entrances, exits…) for visually impaired people;

⊗ Elevators, escalators and ramps;

⊗ Visual contrasting non-slip stair nosings;

⊗ Guide paths;

⊗ Universal pictograms for people with an intellectual disability;

⊗ Dedicated spaces for service animals;

⊗ Closed captioning for special announcements and/or public addresses for the hearing impaired;

⊗ Audio description for the visually impaired;

⊗ Accessible restrooms.

A lot of stadiums already provide these types of measures and solutions that are easy to implement such as the Madison Square Garden. The Garden, also known as The World’s Most Famous Arena, welcomes both sporting games and concerts. The venue shows a perfect example of what accessibility can and should be. Indeed, the Garden goes further providing interpreting services to visitors. People with hearing impairments can thus have a complete understanding of the situation of the game thanks to a sign language interpreter. People with sensory sensitivity who may react badly to strobes or flashing lights during an act can be warned in advance upon request to be aware of the potential challenges. Knowing this in advance enables them to feel safe and in control. They can still enjoy the show just like anybody else.

The Garden isn’t the only venue to think of the wellbeing of everybody regardless of their profile. Indeed, the U.S. Bank Stadium in Chicago, home to the Vikings, created a sensory room, a quiet and soothing place for those who need silence when the activities of the game become too loud and too intense. People with Down syndrome, people on the autism spectrum or with dementia can thus find a safe haven. The room provides noise-canceling headphones, ear plugs, sensory toys, low lighting… An innovative initiative that favors the inclusion of people with sensory needs! A stadium that leads the way to a better accessibility!

The U.S. Bank Stadium website provides maps of both the exterior and the interior of the stadium. Visitors can thus prepare their excursion and get all the information they need in advance to avoid any stress and can even download the maps on their smartphones. Knowing that 84% of people with disabilities use a smartphone to have a better autonomy in their everyday lives, it makes sense smartphones are becoming more and more necessary for them. 

Using an indoor wayfinding app like Evelity that guides people with disabilities step by step could be extremely valuable in such a complex venue as the app can not only help the users find their bearings but can also locate entrances and exits and other landmarks within the venue.

How to ensure people with disabilities have a good experience?

As we’ve seen, the goal of having an accessible stadium is to enable all its visitors to share the same experience: easily accessing their seat, having a good visibility of the game… Plus actively participating in the festivities: singing the team anthem, shouting out their joy when their favorite team scores and thus fully enjoying the ambiance the stadium has to offer.

It’s essential for people with disabilities to feel comfortable in a busy and crowded place. Some prefer to come to the stadium with a companion who can assist them if necessary. For those who come by themselves, they may rely on staff members or any attendants at the stadiums to guide them and assist them. 

This means that attendants have to be able to answer the needs of supporters whatever their disabilities are. Greeting them with a smile, being available, knowing how to anticipate their needs and their potential obstacles and having empathy are all necessary qualities. The whole stadium personnel (attendants, vendors, security guards), internal or external, have to be well trained in all aspects. Thanks to a partnership with Fraser Pediatric Therapy, two licensed behavioral specialists take care of visitors at the sensory room of the U.S. Bank Stadium. During every home game, people with sensory disabilities can request their help to relax.

The Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina and home to the Panthers Carolina has Guest Relations Booths located at each main entrance to answer any questions that people with disabilities may have about the stadium or public transportation and assist them accordingly. 

Having a well trained staff enables the visitors to feel safe and comfortable thus ensuring them to fully enjoy the game. They share the same experience as any other visitors.

 

Getting in and out of the stadium

It’s not always easy to go to the stadium due to a large number of people who go there as well and the traffic jams that follow. Is it more practical to leave early to find a parking space? The Ohio Stadium in Colombus, Ohio provides a map that informs visitors how to reach their accessible parking from different directions and also the route the accessible shuttles take from the parking to the stadium entrances. Other stadiums enable visitors to book in advance their parking space so that they don’t have to worry about finding a space once they arrive. For those who don’t have a vehicle, using public transportation can always be an option but it’s easier with an accessible subway.

The Penn Station leads directly to the Madison Square Garden. A major hub since it connects intercity and commuter rail services around New York City. When using public transportation, people with disabilities must always be careful of their surroundings. Sometimes even buying a ticket can prove to be challenging for them. Being accompanied can relieve their stress and make them feel secure hence having an efficient and well trained staff to answer their questions is vital for them. 

An inclusive and accessible stadium is indeed possible thanks to different measures that are easy to implement whether it’s inside or outside the stadium. All fans, with disabilities or not, can enjoy their experience and share a good time together. Stadium accessibility constantly needs to renew itself to answer the needs of people with disabilities.

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The goal of having an accessible stadium is to enable all its visitors to share the same experience: easily accessing their seat, having a good visibility of the game…

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Carole Martinez

Content Manager Junior

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on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

How Is Airport Accessibility Progressing for People with Disabilities?

How Is Airport Accessibility Progressing for People with Disabilities?

How Is Airport Accessibility Progressing for People with Disabilities?

 

Checking-in, dropping off luggage, going through the security checkpoint, boarding…, the course of a traveler can often lead to stress and worry. A largely amplified phenomenon for travelers with disabilities who struggle to move around and find their bearings in such huge places. Millions of people pass through airports every year. How is accessibility deployed within airports? What measures can be implemented to enable the 61 million Americans with disabilities to safely travel?

Indeed, when we travel, a lot of us tend to be stressed because of all the steps to follow and things not to forget. This feeling can be increased for a person with disabilities who needs precise information and a personalized care according to their profile.

Let’s make a quick scan of the progress of airport accessibility in the United States!

 

How to safely travel?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) aims at prohibiting discrimination towards people with disabilities and at implementing accessibility measures in public accommodations. Thus, every American airport has to follow rules and regulations to make sure that travelers with disabilities can easily have access to the same services and advantages as other travelers. Moreover, the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 focuses on discrimination on airlines. They have to accomodate the needs of people with disabilities aboard aircraft. From any airport in the US, travelers with disabilities are provided with the same assistance services such as:

⊗ When purchasing their flight tickets, travelers can indicate if they need assistance;

⊗ The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) helpline helps travelers with disabilities to go through security checkpoints;

⊗ Pet relief areas for furry companions. Even they have their own private restrooms;

⊗ Airlines provide assistance throughout the whole trip (boarding, deplaning and making connections).

Even when travelers prepare their journey at home, they can easily know what type of assistance the airport provides since airports all have a dedicated page on assistance service on their website. Plus all airport websites have to be accessible to enable visually impaired people to easily get the necessary information. Such is the case with Denver International Airport (DEN) that lists all its accessibility services and details specific subjects (the location of its accessible parking spaces for example). A map of the airport and its terminals is available on the website but also on the airport app. Smartphones are indeed a vital tool for people with disabilities enabling them to gain more autonomy.

However, assistance services constitute a huge cost for airports. People with reduced mobility and people with disabilities more and more request these services that have difficulties to meet demand. Customer care representatives aren’t always available and some may not have received the appropriate training. If airports could focus on other accessibility measures, this could hugely relieve assistance services and provide more autonomy to travelers with disabilities. Indeed, they wouldn’t have to depend on assistance services as much. Plus there wouldn’t be as many complaints as there are now.

Following the ADA, travelers who didn’t have access to any services provided by airports can directly file a complaint online. Each airport website gives this opportunity to passengers, for example the Los Angeles Airport (LAX).

It’s to be noted that some people don’t want to use assistance services and prefer to travel by themselves or accompanied by a relative to help them through all the steps in their trip.

An efficient signage system is key to answer their needs and can easily be implemented to equip such a complex place like an airport:

⊗ Audio beacons that indicate to visually impaired people the location of different strategic points of interest (entrances, counters, restrooms…);

⊗ Braille signs;

⊗ Display screens with bigger letters and contrasting colors;

⊗ Pictograms with geometric shapes;

⊗ Guide paths for orientation;

⊗ An indoor wayfinding app like Evelity that guides from point A to point B people with disabilities (everything can be located: check-in counters and shops entrances).

Installing a clear and understandable signage system helps travelers with disabilities (blind or visually impaired people but also people with intellectual disabilities) to get their bearings, just like any traveler.

LAX already breaks ground thanks to the Aira app available on its site. It helps passengers to find their way on the premises. A lot of airports lean on technology to assist travelers. 

Easily accessing check-in counters and boarding gates makes our experience better. For travelers in wheelchairs, that means lowered counters, wide-access doors and security lanes. For them and other travelers with a lot of luggage, all airports have elevators, escalators and ramps. With wide ramps, one of the principles of universal design, people can easily and rapidly move around in the airport. Embracing universal design, airports create a better and more accessible environment to facilitate the trip of all their passengers. The restroom stalls of Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) have doors that swing out and side grab rails. Plus some space for those who have a carry-on suitcase.

 

A trained and receptive staff

Since every American airport provides its passengers with disabilities with assistance services, a trained and open staff is key to make sure a trip is going according to plan. But this proves to be difficult to achieve seeing that airports are faced with a constant turnover, plaguing the efficiency of the services. Continually emphasizing the importance of an adequate training program is critical to ensure that travelers with disabilities are properly taken care of.

Greeting with a smile, being informative, available, having empathy and adapting to the persons according to their profile and their needs all are essential qualities that make a good customer care representative. A true accessibility service that’s focused on helping others.

For travelers with a hearing impairment, a visual paging system can help them to stay informed concerning their flight since they can’t rely on audio messages. The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) uses both a visual and an audible paging system to convey real-time information to passengers. At check-in counters, hearing impaired travelers still can interact with the staff thanks to sound amplifying devices. Besides, several apps can also help travelers with an hearing impairment to communicate with staff. For example Ava which can be downloaded on both the traveler’s smartphone and the flight attendant’s in order to facilitate their conversation. Even shops can be equipped with sound amplifying devices, induction loops, or use Ava or any other app, providing a comprehensive and efficient service to all their clients. Thus airport accessibility happens at different levels.

 

How to go to the airport?

The first step is going to the airport. By car? By train? By bus? What’s the best way to go to the airport for people with disabilities? 

A person with reduced mobility who uses their personal vehicle can park at different areas since parking airports are all equipped with PRM spaces. A true asset to get more independence! The John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) even makes its passengers with reduced mobility who use PRM spaces profit from discounts.

The Chicago O’Hare International Airport (OHD) can be reached by public transportation in different ways. Indeed, from downtown, passengers can take the CTA Blue Line train. The station within the airport is equipped with an elevator making it easy for people with reduced mobility to go to or leave the platform. Although not all CTA stations are accessible, its buses and trains have: spaces designated for people in wheelchairs, buses with ramps or that can kneel to the curb. Thanks to a station directly connected to the airport, passengers can gain more autonomy. They don’t have to depend on a taxi or on a friend to drop them off. Using a reliable system that adapts to people with disabilities, regardless of their profile, helps travelers feel safe and more comfortable in their trip. In a previous article, we saw that people with disabilities needed to count on an accessible subway. Travel without feeling any unnecessary stress is quite the luxury. 

It’s obvious that airport accessibility is progressing. The implementation of the ADA ensuring travelers with disabilities have access to the same services as other travelers has permitted to move things forward. Even if nowadays it’s easier to travel, airports still have to continue to listen to all its passengers. Other measures can make people with disabilities have a better experience during their travels. A constant renewal is necessary to truly answer the needs of everybody.

media

Millions of people pass through airports every year. How is accessibility deployed within airports?

writer

Carole Martinez

Content Manager Junior

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.