Catering for the Disabled

Written by Sebastien on 06 March 2013. Posted in World Cup Blog

In September 2012 the Brazilian Ministry of Sports declared that at least 1% of the seats at stadiums hosting during the 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup should cater to disabled people. The Arena Castelão in Fortaleza was the first to confirm its allocation of seats for this purpose, declaring in October that they had put aside 1,675 seats for people designated as disabled under Brazilian law.

The implementation of this policy has been brought to focus again this week with the emergence of images of the special seats for people with obesity problems. 120 of these double width seats have been installed in the Arena Castelão and will be available to those willing to pay twice the value of a regular-sized seat. While normal seats start at a price of €22, the obese seats begin at €44.

This price and approach remains consistent across each of the four stadiums to be used during the Confederations Cup. Essentially, occupiers of the obese seats pay double the price of the cheapest category of tickets, labelled Category 4, the same price non-disabled people pay for Category 3 tickets. The most expensive tickets available to any Brazilian resident are those in Category 1, which retail at €89.

This pricing model mirrors the approach increasingly taken by airline companies, who often require people who will take up more than the space of one person to purchase a second seat before boarding. It is true that people should not be disadvantaged by sitting next to an overweight person and by charging double the price, the stadium owners and FIFA can ensure the same profit without comprimising on spectator comfort.

The existence of these seats was treated with an characteristic lack of tact by the British tabloid newspaper The Sun, who described them as ‘XL seats for fatso fans’ as part of an article entitled ‘Wobbly Stadium’. They did, of course, fail to mention that these seats make up less than 10% of those allocated to disabled people, or indeed, that the Ministry of Sports’ decree will ensure a legacy of better access to sports facilities for people with disabilities.

The 1,675 seats at the Arena Castelão have been distributed as follows: 1,220 for people with reduced mobility, 335 for people in wheelchairs and 120 seats for people with obesity problems. Elevators had been installed to help disabled people reach their seats, while warning mechanisms will assist blind people in navigating the stadium safely.

Installations of this nature are commonplace in modern European stadiums, but those in Brazil and the rest of South America are generally older, or at least less recently renovated, and were not designed or built with such considerations in mind. Concerns have been raised about the difficult of access for police and stewards, let alone people with disabilities, and Brazil can be proud that it will lead the way for the rest of the continent in this regard.

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