On International Day of People with Disabilities, Amy Wilson, from the Everton Disabled Supporters’ Association (EDSA), on the ‘sense of belonging’ members gain from attending Blues matches, inclusivity at Goodison Park, and how fans can sign up to the organisation…
It’s hard to put into words how much going to Everton matches means to our members.
It’s often life-changing.
Some of our members often have to go through hospital stays, and the main thing that keeps them going is the thought of getting out and going back to Goodison again.
For people who have become disabled later in life, members have told us going to the match and socialising with friends who they only know through the match has helped build up their confidence and made them feel part of society again.
Going to the match has a huge effect on the lives of disabled people. One of our aims as an organisation is to help get more disabled people going to games, home and away, and that’s a big reason we do what we do here at the Everton Disabled Supporters’ Association.
We are a pan-disability group, there for all disabled supporters, be that wheelchair users, supporters with reduced mobility, partially sighted, deaf or with a non-visible or long-term health condition. And whether you go to one game a season or every game – if you have any problems or issues, we’ll take them to the Club to make them aware and try to help overcome them to make going the match an inclusive and accessible experience for everyone.
We will help with any advice fans need about attending matches at Goodison or away from home. It could be about purchasing tickets or accessible services and facilities at away grounds – anything accessibility related, you can come to us for guidance. We have improved our communications strategy over the past year and now send out a lot of information on social media and via email, so fans are kept up to date. I think the improvement in communications has been well received and appreciated by our members.
At EDSA, we’re here to act as that point of contact for all our disabled fans and will help away supporters with any queries they may have, too.
The communication with the Club is very good. We have regular contact and meetings about ticketing and accessibility matters.
There have been a lot of changes at Goodison over the past few years to make things so much more inclusive for disabled fans. The new seating areas in the Park End, Main Stand and Gwladys Street have been so well received and it has made a massive difference to the matchday experience.
The Club has also already asked for our input regarding the disabled facilities at Bramley-Moore Dock. That’s huge for us and it’s an honour, really, to be able to have our say.
Lockdown and the suspension on football was so difficult for everyone, but even more so for disabled people because a lot were shielding due to being in the high-risk category.
Not being able to look forward to going to Goodison every other weekend was so difficult for our members. I remember going back to the stadium around this time last year, when Goodison opened to about 2,000 fans. It was quite emotional for our disabled fans to have that sense of belonging again.
Going to games has a huge impact on mental and physical wellbeing. And it is such a social thing, too. I’ve met almost all my best mates from going to the match.
As well as attending games, we also hold events for members here at the EDSA. We recently had one at The Blue Base with Peter Reid, who is one of our EDSA patrons, as the special guest, which was brilliant.
We work with the Club on events, too, and earlier this year our junior members had a virtual Q&A session with Tom Davies, which was so good! Tom was great with our young fans and all the junior members loved being able to speak with him.
I’d encourage all our disabled fans and their families to join up to EDSA. We’ll be there to help you with any issues and questions you have – and it’s a great opportunity to make new Blue friends!
The easiest way to join is by filling out our membership form at www.evertonfc.com/club/disabled-fans/membership.
You can also find out more about the EDSA by visiting the group's Twitter page here.