I am a loyal fan of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. I’ve painted my room green and gold and even my wheelchair is green. I watch or listen to just about every game. I am a season ticket holder and attend at least 20 games a year. I have lots of pictures with Stomper, the official mascot. I have been a fan in the years that the team played well as well as in years that they didn’t do well.
Even in years when the team is doing great, it’s been hard to be an Oakland fan– mainly because of problems with the stadium’s accessibility and the disability awareness of the staff.
As a season ticket holder, I usually sit right off the first base line. The problem is that when the game gets exciting and everyone gets up to cheer, all I can see from my great seat is people’s butts!
It also takes a long time to get to and from my seat as there is only one elevator that goes to that level. The path to the elevator is not always clear of people and there can be a line to get to the elevator.
I presented my issues to the coliseum board and my family and I met with coliseum staff to discuss the issues I raised. At our meeting we met with Dave Renett, the Athletics Director of Facilities, and with representatives from the AEG, the firm that manages the coliseum complex.
While there are some very nice people working at the stadium, many of whom have given me baseball cards and pins, the culture of the staff is not educated about disability. One day when leaving the stadium to go to our van parked quite far away, we saw a limo with no placard or special license plate occupying two handicapped spaces– and the stadium staff seemed unconcerned about this.
Another time a staff person would not give me the give away special for that day, a Coco Crisp Chia Pet– because I came through the entrance for people with disabilities and did not have to stand in the long line to wait to get in.
The staff member explained to me that it would be unfair to give me the Chia Pet, as there were only a limited number and other people had waited longer. It was only when we complained to the management of the Athletics that I got a Chia Pet. The staff did not understand that the Chia Pet was not the point, it was the discriminatory nature of the practice.
As a result of our meeting, the Athletics will now place seats along the lines at the entry gate of the coliseum, so that seniors and individuals with mobility issues can sit while waiting in line. Also, the season ticket holder entrance is now wheelchair accessible. The Athletics organization has agreed to meet with the disabled community to continue the discussion on access to all areas of the stadium. This meeting has yet to occur.
So, it’s hard to be an Oakland Athletics fan if you use a wheelchair. It’s hard to get to the seats for people with disabilities. The Athletics also need to work on making sure that people with mobility challenges can see the game from these seats. Some of the staff need education of disability awareness. So Oakland Athletics, as you think about building a new stadium– remember fans like me. And I am glad to volunteer to serve on an advisory board to make sure you do better next time. Go Athletics!