Spotlight on making spectator sport more inclusive for people with sight loss
Watching live sport brings people from all walks of life together and fosters a sense of belonging. Even if you don’t watch general team games throughout the year, there’s undoubtedly a draw to big matches and events. The Women's Euros, Commonwealth Games and World Blind Games in 2023 are just a few of the major international sporting competitions being hosted by the UK to look forward to. As the excitement builds, British Blind Sport (BBS) is focusing on making spectator sport more inclusive for people with sight loss and is putting a spotlight on those that are leading the way in this area.
EE, the lead partner of England Teams and Wembley Stadium, has recently announced a number of initiatives to support the growth of disability football and make the game as inclusive as possible for fans and spectators with disabilities. This includes a three-year commitment to broadcast The FA Disability Cup live on BT Sport, with features such as enhanced Audio Description from expert commentators from St. George's Park. We hope that this exposure will inspire even more players to return to or take their first steps on their disability football journey and challenge public perception of disability sport.
Working towards its goal of building a culture of everyday inclusion within tennis in Britain, The LTA has partnered with the BBC and design and innovation company AKQA to launch ‘Action Audio’, an enhanced audio experience for blind and partially sighted tennis fans. The service debuted during the final weekend of the cinch Championships, which took place from 18th-19th of June, assisting fans at home to follow shots and the placement of the ball on the court. This is the first time this technology has ever been used in any sport in the UK and builds on the success ‘Audio Action’ had at the Australian Open earlier this year.
BBS caught up with Goalball UK following the 2022 Goalfix Cup, which provided one of the most inclusive and accessible spectator experiences the UK has seen. For the first time, spectators could access in-house commentary through an audio description service provided by Alan March Sport, who has provided commentary for international goalball for nearly 10 years and provided audio description at Tokyo 2020. Goalball UK innovatively used UK Sport funding to provide attendees with headsets linked to the commentary. The event was also live-streamed (with commentary), another first for a Goalball UK competition.
Goalball UK said: "The reaction from users has been positive and we feel that the commentary contributed significantly to the event's atmosphere. For example, one particularly tense match between Winchester Kings and Croysutt Warriors was made even more exciting and tense by the crowd's cheering and reactions because they could follow the score and the passing of time through the commentary and understood the significance of late goals scored in the context of the game.”
There are almost 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK. Of these, around 360,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted. Research conducted in 2021 through BBS’s See Sport Differently project, in partnership with RNIB, has shown that people with sight loss are half as likely to attend a live sporting event as their sighted peers. Only 15% of blind and partially sighted people attend live sporting events, a low figure when 71% engage with sport through TV and radio.
Audio description commentary has significantly enhanced the experience of blind and partially sighted sports fans from around the world. We are proud to be working with these NGBs who are helping introduce more blind and partially sighted people to sport and are excited to see such commitment to making major sporting events more accessible. We recognise that there is still work to be done across the sector and will work collaboratively over the next three years to increase opportunities for blind and partially sighted people to participate in sport, as well as improve accessibility across sport venues and broadcast coverage.
For more information on the See Sport Differently project, visit: https://britishblindsport.org.uk/see-sport-differently/