REHACARE.com spoke with deputy chairperson Nina Schweppe about the "Sehhunde" match reporting for the blind and the obstacles that still need to be overcome before full inclusion in stadiums becomes a reality.
Ms. Schweppe, how has match reporting for the blind changed over the past few years?
Nina Schweppe: In 1999, when Leverkusen first wanted to set up seats with match reporting for the blind, the challenge for all of us was that there was no way to broadcast a 90-minute report to visitor’s headphones. What’s more, it became obvious even then that all radio coverage et cetera is created for people, who are outside of the stadium. That’s why we made a virtue out of necessity and created a special coverage version. It was and is designed to focus on everything that happens to the ball. Its primary goal is not to entertain the listeners but to reflect what’s actually happening on the field in exactly the same way spectators see the game in the stadium.
We deliberated who would be suitable for this task because they are already used to explaining soccer to people. We decided to use youth soccer coaches. This has proven successful in Leverkusen for quite some time now. These days, there is a large variety of reporters for the blind. They range from coaches, amateur soccer players all the way to journalists.
To maintain and keep a certain standard, in 2007, the "Fanclub Sehhunde" created the nationwide reporter seminar, which today continues as the "Blindenreportage (match reporting for the blind) Expert Forum".
How much does it take to convince smaller and financially weaker clubs in levels below the first and second division to also provide seats for persons with visual impairments and to ensure match reporting for the blind?
Schweppe: Even though more and more clubs in the lower divisions offer match reporting for the blind, there are still many that have a hard time with this. What’s more, unlike designated wheelchair accessible seating areas, these services are not mandatory measures.
A great help in this case is the AWO Kompetenzzentrum Blindenreportage im Sport (English: National Workers Welfare Association Competence Center for Media Coverage of Sports for the Blind), which along with the DFB (German Football Association) and the DFL (German Football League) makes it possible for clubs to utilize this collaboration and obtain the necessary technical equipment from a vendor, who already equipped several stadiums at a manageable cost. The willingness to provide this type of accommodation varies greatly. While some primarily worry as to who will finance this technology, other clubs still believe that they don’t have any fans with visual impairments in their respective stadiums.