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‘Chelmsford City Racecourse delivers but Wembley Stadium fails when it comes to being accessible for me’

Recently I was lucky enough to see Harry at Wembley (that's Styles not Kane) and racing at Chelmsford (that's horse, not egg and spoon).

I need two things to attempt to manage Parkinson's disease (PD) when I am out and about - medication and organisation. Medication attempts to normalise me and help me move. I also rely on the organisation of the venue to normalise my visit.

However, if a venue promises to be accessible, it must deliver. Otherwise it can at best be frustrating and at worst hazardous. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect VIP treatment, merely assistance and facilities to help me enjoy the experience like everyone else.

First, a disclaimer. These are my experiences and my opinions. Others might have had very different experiences at the same places.

Wembley Stadium

My daughter accompanied me with a carer’s ticket to see Harry Styles at Wembley Stadium recently. The stadium website promised a minibus would transport those with limited mobility from tube station to stadium and back again. The website then offered wheelchair service from minibus to seat and return.

Both of which would mean I wouldn't have to worry about my erratic mobility affecting our day. Accessibility appeared well-organised on the website. However, appearances were deceptive.

My first concern was that we were unable to pre-book the minibus or a wheelchair. The stadium would therefore have no idea how many people with mobility issues they would be helping. They were fortunate that they did not have a visit by the Long John Silver convention that day.

On arrival at the tube station there was no minibus to transport us to the stadium and the underground staff had no information. As we really wanted to see Wet Leg - a support band, not an affliction - we had no choice but to walk. Anyone who saw me walking to the stadium with my unsteady gait could be forgiven for thinking that I was practising my new dance moves with my one step forward, two steps to the side walk.

On arrival at Wembley, the stadium staff were incredibly apologetic that there was no minibus. So to avoid a repeat of the problems on the return, they suggested a wheelchair escort from our stadium seat to the minibus, which we were able to pre-book for 10pm, just before the encore.

Our seats were great and the disabled toilet was accessible. However, at 10pm we had to wait over half an hour for a wheelchair. When it finally arrived, the stadium had started to empty and so I ended up amongst the crowds which I had hoped to avoid. The elusive minibus appeared, but it was also late. By the time we arrived at the station we had a very stressful journey home on a packed tube train.

The concert was great, but the lack of organisation made it extremely stressful for me and my daughter.

Horse racing at Chelmsford

The Wise(ish) Man and I recently went to Chelmsford City Racecourse. Like Wembley, we were able to pre-book carer’s tickets through the website, however this was where the similarity ended. In a nutshell, like Wembley, the Chelmsford racing website promised an accessible venue, but, unlike Wembley, they actually delivered.

We parked in disabled parking, which was right by the gate. It was a long walk from the gate to the entrance, but a golf buggy was waiting for us and efficiently whizzed us down to the main building where there was a choice of steps or a ramp to get into the building.

There was an assistance seating area, where seats were reserved by the window overlooking the finishing post. The disabled toilets were nearby.

Julie Walker and her partner Andy Johnson - AKA The Wise(ish) Man - were made very welcome at Chelmsford City Racecourse
Julie Walker and her partner Andy Johnson - AKA The Wise(ish) Man - were made very welcome at Chelmsford City Racecourse

At the end of the evening, staff directed us to the golf buggy which was waiting by the doors for the return journey to the gate.

The Wise(ish) Man, myself and our companions had a brilliant evening at the races, with a couple of winners and several losers.

I have written to Wembley Stadium with my comments. Disappointingly I have had no reply. I have also written to Chelmsford racecourse complimenting them on their service and had a lovely email back.

Before you all dash to be my companion on a discounted carer’s ticket, I am becoming more and more needy. You might have to miss the first race to find the disabled loos or miss the encore to avoid the crowds.

P.S. Thank you to everyone who supported me at my first market stall the other week. There is no market in August, but I hope to be back in September.

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