Stadium access difficult for disabled

The ramp outside the Ferguson Center helps students with disabilities enter the building. / CW | Megan Smith

A sea of red and houndstooth, smiles of cheerleaders, intense faces of football players and thousands of people fill Bryant-Denny Stadium on game day. Navigating this chaos can overwhelm all fans and students but poses even more of a problem for students who must maneuver the crowds in a wheelchair.

The first obstacle many students with disabilities face is getting to the stadium. Vehicle parking is available on a first come, first served basis in the Solomon’s lot, located at the intersection of Wallace Wade Avenue and University Boulevard and in the College of Communications lot. The location of these lots can be viewed on a parking map provided by the Athletic Ticket Office. Shuttles are available to take fans from these lots to the stadium, but parking spaces are limited.

After finding parking, disabled students have the option of taking a golf cart shuttle running in Gates 28 or 38 or an elevator, according to the online stadium information guide. However, shuttles run two hours before the game and 45 minutes afterward, and the elevators are available to everyone—not just students with disabilities.

With less than 1,000 wheelchair-accessible seats, disabled students and fans have limited seating areas. Accessible seating in the North 400 level can be accessed by the elevator located at Gate 3, and seating in the East level can be accessed through Gate 32A or the public elevator at Gate 37, as stated in the stadium information guide. Additional seating is located in the lower North Endzone N level (Gate 4), South sections S-7, S-8, A (Gate 13-16) and student sections AA, S-1 (Gate 30).

Students who use wheelchairs also face issues with viewing the games.

“We’re only allowed to have one friend sit with us at games, which limits our fan experience and really isolates us from other friends,” said Brad Baugh, a senior and a member of the men’s wheelchair basketball team. “Also, for the Penn State game, the entire row directly in front of us was filled, and my friends and I had a horrible experience trying to watch the game through the back of some random guy’s head.”

Buying concessions can also be an ordeal, Baugh said. The concession lane with the lowest window, accessible to students in wheelchairs, doubles as one of the lanes for students paying with Bama Cash.

“I’m really glad our stadium has this lane, and I think it’s a very accessible means to buying concessions,” Baugh said. “The problem is that the first two home games we’ve had this year, there’s been a lot of cutting in line.”

Overall, though, Baugh said he and his friends have found the stadium accessible for people in wheelchairs.

“The biggest obstacle that I face on game day is pushing up the ramp to get to the student section,” he said. “Once I’ve pushed up one level the hardest part is pretty much complete.”

  • Jessica

    I was so glad to read this article bringing to attention the difficulties of football games for disabled students. I myself have encountered friendly but stingy service when attending any game in Bryant-Denny. Not only are the seating sections regulated to one companion per handicapped person (I understand the reasoning, but it’s still a huge detraction from enjoying the game with my friends), but the students who make it a habit to stand on the benches often end up standing straight in front of those who can’t. Rude? Yes. But have you ever tried asking a Greek at a football game to sit down? They don’t take kindly to your request, and some flat out deny.

    On top of that, I get so much resistance when asked to be seated in the handicapped section. I’m not in a wheelchair, but I can’t stand up for four hours perched on a bench. It’s not possible. I have a designated handicap placard, I qualify under the ADA, and it’s humiliating to have to explain in a hushed voice to a new security guard five times in a row that yes, I am handicapped, and yes, can I please just sit down? It’s irritating, receiving dirty looks from students who think I’m lying, getting sidelong glances from people just itching to throw me out if I seem to be the least bit able-bodied. I feel vilified for getting a better vantage point than most students, but it’s not all cake for me either.

    For disabled students, getting into a football game is a battle. Am I willing to fight for it whenever the Tide is in T-Town? When faced with limited allowances, walls of Greeks, and dirty looks, not quite.