Manchester United have got a worldwide fan base and this includes people across the whole society. This includes able bodied fans, partially sighted, blind, hearing impaired fans, low mobility and those in wheelchairs. United as a club caters for all fans regardless of disability, the fans them self feel so included with the crowd as at Old Trafford they are not separated from other fans.
Manchester United have their own department that looks after disabled fans which is called MUDSA or Manchester United Disabled Supporters Association. These people look after the needs, wellbeing and safety of less able fans before, during and after the games they attend. They also produce a magazine for disabled fans to keep up to date as well arranging outings to enable them to get a network of friends whom are like minded and on occasions they meet the players on arranged visits.
So you’re probably thinking “well I have a disability but I don’t know how to join MUDSA.” Well, that’s simple and here’s how you go about joining. Firstly you must be a member of Manchester United so that you can apply for tickets and so forth, once this is done you ring up MUDSA whereby they will register you as a disabled fan so your needs can be met.
MUDSA have worked tirelessly to ensure all fans feel included and safe when attending Old Trafford and overall I feel that they have achieved this. They cater for both wheelchair fans along with their helpers and there are a total of 120 spaces with the majority of these seats being in the east stand but there are a number in the north stand as well. They also supply a running commentary of the game via a headset for those who cannot watch the game due to sight issues. Finally they have installed some TV’s within the stands which allows fans that are partially sighted the chance to see the game within a distance that would be more appropriate to them. Finally they also have a section of ambient seating available for those with mobility issues that allows them access to the seating areas without any stairs to contend with, simply flat access. Old Trafford has managed to allow all fans the chance to come to the game which I think has been done with true compassion, you don’t feel as if you’re apart from the other fans very much, you feel included and there are some great views available.
Of course there is often a lot of people wanting these seats but MUDSA try to allow people the chance to get to games as best they can, they have recently switched over to a computer based system, the same as able bodied fans, which will work as well if not better than the old phone-in system.
Disabled supporters also have their own section of car parking in E2 which is the largest in the Premier League. The car parking spaces are large and enable people with ramps and so forth easy access to get the disabled fan in and out of the car, they are also wider than other spaces to allow the doors of the car to be fully opened.
Finally we look at the other part at Old Trafford because they don’t just offer a range of seating options for disabled fans, they also provide a safe environment. Disabled fans enter the stadium via a separate entrance which is not a turnstile, instead a person with your names on a list checks you in. The entry point is a wide access door so those in wheelchair’s can enter easily and for those walking but in need of support from someone stood next to them to support can also enter easily. Upon entry you will find the ability suite which is a nice space for fans to sit down, get food and or drink via low counters and sit and chat with other fans in a warm environment. It is separated from the other fans so that disabled fans are not intimidated by the crowds but you can pass through if you wish to see friends whom are also attending the game, which is a nice touch. They also have 3 toilets which are large for wheelchairs and fully fitted out with all the necessary equipment such as grab rails so there is adequate support.
It should also be mentioned that Manchester United have worked tirelessly to enable their fans to attend away matches with other fans by working in co-operation with Eavesway to provide suitable coaches to allow wheelchair users to also participate in away days with other fans, I think the fact the fans travel together makes disabled fans feel so included.
Overall I think you will agree that Manchester United and MUDSA work tirelessly to provide a service to disabled supports and to ensure they feel part of the experience on match day while protecting and complying with safety regulations. As a whole Manchester United should be congratulated for their hard work and ongoing support for MUDSA and the disabled fan base. Of course the co-founder of MUDSA should be mentioned and thanked for his ongoing work with MUDSA Phil Downs MBE as should all of the staff that work alongside him.
I recommend reading Andy Mitten’s piece on seeing the game through the eyes of disabled fans.