Derbyshire’s Disability Liaison Officer Lily Smith talks about her role at the club and her recent appointment to the ECB’s Disabled Employee Network.
“I’ve been with the club since August last year and, as Disability Liaison Officer, I see my role as providing a port of call for supporters, somewhere which is like a safe haven where they can get that extra little bit of support.
“I’m here for people who might need a bit more help whether it’s with mobility issues or mental health ones because disability is very complex and you are dealing with different people every day and different disabilities.
“It’s that central approach which allows us to adjust to the people who come to the club rather than treating everybody as one because they might have very different needs.
“What we are trying to do is put something in place where everyone who comes here feels they are heard, they are listened to and that we are changing for the better for everybody.
“So far we have put in wheelchair viewing bays at the back of the stands which can be booked for games which gives the best view possible and means no one can block those spaces and stand in front of them but importantly they are within the stands so they are not away from the people they’ve come to the game with because there’s nothing worse than going somewhere as a wheelchair user and being told you’re here but the rest of your party is over there.
“We have also hugely improved the parking situation so there is now designated, bookable parking for blue badge holders that is in the main car park and provides the most accessible parking possible.
“That is done through a channel that comes directly to me which ensures the booking process is as smooth as possible and when they arrive at the ground they know exactly where they are going.
“We have set up a direct chain of contact page on the website that provides information about what I do, what adjustments we’ve made so far and that has already helped people who go to the email address that is attached. I think it gives that personable approach and allows us to build a trust and rapport with supporters because we are here to help them.
“There are other longer-term goals we are looking to bring in and as a club we are still learning what the best approach is so we are implementing things slowly and carefully to make sure it’s right for everybody and we help as many people as we can for as long as possible.
“We want to provide for all kinds of disabilities, whether it’s learning difficulties, mobility problems; the entire spectrum. We are trying to take an approach where we say ‘tell us what you need and we will adjust to suit you.’
“It’s definitely a learning process and something we are working towards because we want to make this a safe and enjoyable environment for everybody, regardless of what the disability is.
“It has allowed us to add that extra level of contact with the supporters, I am more than happy to sit down with anyone who wants to come and talk about what they need from us and work out solutions we can given them.
“I do think the personal approach is so important because if people know exactly who they need to speak to and where they can find them, it helps them so much to have a really smooth and a really great experience and that’s something we want to create for everybody.
“In terms of the ground facilities, I think we have improved massively compared to a year ago. There is a new toilet block which has a changing places toilet and we are looking to introduce a sensory room.
“That will give anyone from children to adults a place where they can go and chill out. It’s something I’m really pushing for because those with ADHD and Autism can have a lot of sensory overload issues so a sensory room provides a space which is calm where they can stay for ten minutes until they are fine to go again or if they want to stay for two hours while watching the cricket, that’s fine as well.
“It’s another way in which we can adjust to people’s needs and I know other counties have sensory rooms in place so it’s something we would love to have at the ground.
“I was recently appointed Joint Chair of the ECB’s Disabled Employee Network which is in line with the Women in Cricket and Race in Cricket networks. Richard Hill (the ECB’s disability cricket competitions manager) is an absolutely brilliant person to work with because he’s got so much knowledge and has so much experience in this area.
“This will give me a whole other level and enable me to make an impact for people who work in cricket and people who support cricket. This is making sure disabled employees can come and work in first-class county grounds and within the ECB and be supported and looked after.
“It gives me a really good opportunity to see it from every side and bring it all together because we want this to be safe for everybody whether you work here or come to support, we want this at every club and that’s something we are looking to put in place for the network. We want to be able to make an impact because that is what’s most important, if we can make a difference then we have done our job right.”
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