Goodison Park has undergone over the course of this summer a major development programme to improve the stadium’s accessibility for disabled supporters.
After the Blues' final home game of the 2016/17 season, work began in response to regulations for accessibility agreed by the Premier League. The Club consulted with Everton Disabled Supporters Association (EDSA), Everton Fans’ Forum, CAFE, Level Playing Field, Autism Adventures and Liverpool City Council over plans to offer a range of more expansive viewing options for disabled fans.
The works were completed ahead of the Club’s first competitive fixture of the season in the game against Ruzemberok in a Europa League qualifying round on July 27. A new elevated platform has been created, providing an additional 54 elevated positions distributed across the Goodison Road and Howard Kendall Gwladys Street stands, increasing wheelchair spaces from 118 to 172.
To gain access to the new viewing platforms new accessible designated entrances and exits have been constructed. In addition, two new platform lifts have been installed in the Main Stand South and two fully accessible lifts in the Main Stand North along with stairs to provide access for companions and personal assistants.
The new accessible seating is supported by six new accessible toilets and a new Changing Places facility, which is different to standard toilets as they contain a height-adjustable, adult-sized changing bench, a hoist system, a curtain for privacy, non-slip flooring as well as adequate space in the changing area for a disabled person and up to two carers. The new toilet facilities support the existing facilities which have also been refurbished with full length mirrors, dignity curtains, coat hooks and all are now fitted with radar locks.
Three new refreshment bars have been installed, two of which will be for the sole use of disabled supporters. All of the new bars have low counters, scald-proof cups and other accessibility-friendly utensils and will support the seat-side refreshment service available to disabled supporters introduced last season.
Taking advantage of the new facilities, Season Ticket holder Mark Wilson said: “I have been a Season Ticket holder for 40 years and now have what is not only a wonderfully accessible place from which to watch Everton, but, I believe, the best view in the house. The new accessible viewing platform on the Main Stand is amazing and the stewarding is the best I’ve ever come across. I can now watch football like a VIP.”
The new facilities have seen the Club invest in extra resources with an additional 15 Accessibility Stewards employed and trained in manual handling, Evac+Chair and evacuation and contingency plans.
Outside the stadium, 14 disabled parking spaces are available on Goodison Road and 12 spaces on Gwladys Street School are part of the Club-managed spaces. Everton One, the Club’s official retail store at Goodison Park, has been fitted with automatic entrance and exit doors and induction loops at till positions.
Disabled supporters purchasing or picking up tickets from the Park End Box Office will have noticed a new low-level ticket counter and all the Club’s Box-Offices and reception areas have also been fitted with induction loops.
At the start of the 2017/18 season the Club produced a Disability Access Guide which has been produced to assist supporters plan their journey to and from Goodison. The guide, available here, provides information regarding facilities and services for disabled supporters. The guide has been highlighted as best practice by CAFÉ who in collaboration with UEFA are producing a Disability Access Officer Handbook.
Michelle Kirk, Equality and Disability People Partner at Everton said: “Goodison Park is one of the oldest stadiums in the country and poses unique challenges in relation to the regulations. Our Stadium Operations team has worked hard alongside fan groups to identify solutions that help enhance the experience for our disabled supporters. We were the first Premier League club to employ a Disability Access Officer and we are determined to do our utmost to make Goodison Park as accessible as it can be for all our fans in the time we remain at the stadium. As well as looking after our disabled supporters we have invested a lot of time in making Goodison Park an ‘autism-friendly stadium’ and we have some exciting developments coming up later this season.”
Everton were one of the first organisations in the city to sign up to the Autism Charter, helping the city of Liverpool to become one of the first autism-friendly cities in the UK. Everton’s commitment to the Charter will see the Blues introduce a Sensory Room during the 2017/18 season alongside a new Autism Awareness Guide and awareness key fob which will be recognised by trained stewards who joined Club staff for Autism Awareness training. The training has provided matchday personnel with the relevant knowledge and tools required for them to recognise the signs of someone living with autism and the skills to offer the appropriate level of support to both home and away fans.
The Club will continue to consult with key supporter groups with the aim of working to improve the experience for all supporters at Goodison while further development plans remain ongoing and will continue throughout this season.