The ‘brilliant’ disabled facilities at the Proact have made football fully accessible to everyone.
And what’s on offer at Chesterfield FC makes them an example for other clubs, according to local charity Accessible Derbyshire.
That’s a view backed up by one of the club’s most well known supporters, Zoe Edge.
The Paralympic silver medal winner says the facilities make it possible for her and her family to take full part on match days, like any other fan.
She was born with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy and uses a powered wheelchair, but that’s no barrier to following the Spireites.
She said: “The disabled parking, areas for people in wheelchairs to watch the game, disabled toilets, low serving areas, lifts, stewards being friendly and helpful – the Proact is great and is one of best stadiums for this.
“It’s helpful to know you have those facilities because you know that every match day will be an enjoyable experience.”
And she doesn’t just benefit from the facilities on match days.
“Chesterfield Football Club facilities for disabled people are brilliant because everywhere is accessible, everyone is friendly and always willing to help.
“The swimming pool in the Hub is great, they have a changing room with a changing bed and hoist, so anyone can go for a swim – the water is warm which is really good for me because most pools are too cold for me. “The hospitality is fantastic too, I had my 40th birthday party there.”
For Gillian Scotford at Accessible Derbyshire, other football clubs and major venues could learn a lot from what is offered by the Proact, including their Changing Places toilet which caters for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, as well as those with other physical disabilities.
She said: “From our point of view we love the Proact stadium.
“We feel it’s such a great example to show other clubs how to create an accessible environment.
“They’re not people to shout about it, but they’ve got such special facilities and so much to show other clubs.
“The fact that they have a Changing Places toilet, people may think it’s just a toilet, but it’s opened up the venue for absolutely everyone.
“There are 250,000 families who can’t go out without use of a toilet like that, so football matches and concerts and wedding events have become accessible.”
And unlike some disabled football fans, Spireites don’t have to sit apart from their families.
“They have great viewing platforms for matches,” said Gillian.
“At some clubs family members get separated because there’s not enough space but at the Proact they have platforms in three areas, with some of the best views of the pitch.”
Chesterfield FC Community Trust, based at The Hub at the Proact, have also played a big part in the lives of local disabled people, Spireites or otherwise.
Gillian explained: “The Hub is used by lots of local groups because of the facilities, the hydro-therapy pool, the accessible gym, Chester’s Play Den, the cafe and disabled parking.
“Groups like Leonard Cheshire Disability, MacIntyre and disability sports groups use it, and if you go down during the week you see so many people with access needs just loving life because they can go and enjoy the facilities.
“The whole place is fully accessible and John Croot the CEO at the Trust is so willing to listen and help.”
Accessible Derbyshire will partner with Chesterfield FC, the Trust and local firm Rompa to cater for supporters affected by autism, when Northampton visit the Proact this month.
The Spireites will invite a number of fans to try out a sensory room during the game on Saturday 17th September.
A current hospitality suite in the Community Stand will be installed with multi-sensory equipment, to offer a therapeutic experience for people with sensory impairment.
Gillian said it’s a cause close to her heart.
“We want to raise awareness that people with autism in their family often have to live separate lives,” she said.
“Mums or dads have to stay at home on match days because of the noise and chaos of the crowd, so we wanted to create a sensory room.
“My son Sam wouldn’t be able to tolerate the noise of the match.
“So we’ll be doing a pop up room which will be sheltered from the noise and filled with sensory equipment from Rompa.
“It’s created a lot of interest and we already have two young men who love football coming along, and a family of five booked in.”
For information about the sensory room email Gillian or Jane via firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Gillian on 01246 419377.