Barrier-free environment for fans at the 2018 FIFA World Cup™

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Accessible stadiums will be a key feature of the World Cup, ensuring that disabled people and people with limited mobility can fully enjoy the FIFA World Cup. [2018 FIFA World Cup™ Local Organising Committee]

With just a few weeks to go before the kick-off in Russia on 14 June, everything is set for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ to be a truly inclusive event for everyone.

Accessible stadiums will be a key feature of the tournament that will ensure that disabled people and people with limited mobility, as well as hard of hearing and deaf people can fully enjoy the FIFA World Cup.

Best-practice solutions for stadium accessibility have been developed by FIFA and the Local Organising Committee in close collaboration with the Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE) and a wide range of stakeholders, including Russian non-governmental organisations specialising in accessibility-related issues.

Advanced infrastructure solutions like dedicated parking areas and entrances, access routes, seating, toilets and rest areas will be available in each stadium, as well as a range of special services including a Spectators’ Accessibility Guide, an electric cart transportation service, wheelchair lending services, and live audio-descriptive commentary.

In order to pull this off, hundreds of stadium volunteers and workforce, such as food & beverage staff, have been trained to provide adequate information and support to fans in need of assistance, and each stadium will have dedicated info points.

FIFA also offers a dedicated allocation of special access tickets and hundreds of seats for different necessities in four special ticketing categories, including wheelchair user places, easy-access seats, and easy access amenity seats. For the 64 matches, thousands of special access tickets have been sold and, for each, a complimentary ticket is set aside for a companion to assist them if needed before, during and after the match.

With the aim of enhancing the experience for partially-sighted and blind fans attending matches, live audio-descriptive match commentary services will be provided in Russian at all stadiums, and in English in Saint Petersburg as well as at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

The commentary is similar to radio commentary, only with a greater emphasis on describing the atmosphere and action all around the stadium. 200 sets of equipment and headphones will be freely available for blind and partially-sighted football spectators at each stadium so that they can sit with all other spectators and enjoy the same experience.

Last but not least, up to four international sign videos for hard of hearing and deaf people will be produced daily, including the highlights video reports from all 64 matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. The videos will be broadcast on, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, which are the most popular social media platforms for the deaf community.

“What marks this year’s FIFA World Cup out is that there has been a shift in mentality. The diversity of football fans has been reflected in our planning since day one – not just in the stadiums, but also in our online offering – to make sure everyone can enjoy the same match experience, whether attending the matches in Russia or following elsewhere in the world,” said FIFA Chief Communication Officer, Fabrice Jouhaud.

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