Additional clamour may bring about overdue change

A pair of doves best described as a whiter shade of grey habitually take up residence in our yard. Usually domiciling themselves atop what was recently rebranded the calf shed. So familiar are they, now, that it’s only when they are not in situ that the norm is considered disturbed. Now read on…

Curiously, the disturbance of normality caused by the absence of our feathered friends recently came to mind whilst perusing an article regarding Croke Park. Reason being that, for a long time, this corner has had reservations concerning disabled viewing facilities at the home of our national games.

Hopes of affecting positive developments in terms of same were considered to be sparse owing to it being felt that mine was something of a loan voice regarding said topic. As far back as 2003, a study of the wheelchair accessibility of several inter-county grounds around the country was undertaken as part of my thesis in college.

Here’s where comparison with the doves comes in. At that time – and for a good while thereafter – these wheels parking up at grounds up and down the country was very much the norm. Now, an alteration in circumstances was a big part of that unfortunately not being as regular as it once was. Something that has caused much curiosity, many questions and more besides.

However, reasons for reluctance to head for GAA HQ are much simpler. What’s the point in going to Croke Park if it’s not a comfortable experience? Moreover, with all the space that exists within the confines of the stadium, that disabled patrons have to park in places like O’Connells CBS or elsewhere and make their own way in is not short of a scandal.

Having read the piece pertaining to Croke Park referred to earlier, hope has increased somewhat that those in a position to do so might be sparked into doing something about it. Additional clamour may bring overdue change. Breath wouldn’t be held on that, mind you.

Nobber man JP O’Brien was the author of the article which appeared on www.thejournal.ie and though I do not know him personally (yet) his story really struck a chord with yours truly. He said: “I couldn’t clearly watch my brother play in Croke Park because I’m in a wheelchair”. Owing to the propensity of spectators to stand up in front of the reserved disabled viewing area.

This despite the fact that – printed on the wall in front of these seats – is a request for people to refrain from standing as the disabled viewing section is behind them. Not much heed is unfortunately paid to these signs. Thus, I would concur with JP’s view that it is in fact on the tickets for that particular part of the ground that strong reference to disabled supporters should be made.

It is a great pity, nay, a disgrace, that what should be the bastion of Irish sports stadia is in fact the worst offender in this subject area. Elsewhere around the country, ejections have been witnessed because of the view of disabled fans being infringed. No, this is not something I or anybody wants to see but there is a need for the GAA to do something about this situation.

Doubtless, those in the corridors of power – whoever they are – would point to the fact that there are big screens in the wheelchair area. But if watching a match on a screen was the ambition the homestead wouldn’t be vacated. That’s what’s been happening a lot lately but, trust me, it’s not the desired outcome.

At this juncture it should be stated that – to some extent – the transport complexities highlighted at the outset have been alleviated since the re-opening of the local railway line. Not everyone has that option, though, and even that is not entirely satisfactory as – on a day Dublin are in action – commuters tend to be packed into carriages like sardines in a trawler’s net. This in spite of the fact that there is – notionally at least – a reserved area on trains as well.

GAA chiefs have endured much flak of late owing to the newly signed deal with Sky. That’s not an argument that’s about to be entered into here, but what will be said is that often the simplest things that may the biggest difference to someone with a disability. So, they would court great favour by putting in a little effort which would make a difference far outweighing what was required to be about that improvement.

Were your columnist to make it back to Jones’ Road at some point this year, it would mark 24 consecutive seasons of so doing. That one of the nights of the Garth Brooks concerts would be liable to be more comfortable than the occasion of a major match isn’t the greatest incentive though, is it?

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