Two hockey fans want to change the way the NHL approaches accessibility

Like many people in the disabled community, Jill Murphy and Boston hockey fans, Jill Murphy and Chanel Keenan, met her on Twitter. They immediately realized that they not only support the Boston Bruins, but also face similar hurdles at the rink. Both have difficulty accessing franchise platforms and often need to ask others to get things for them; They cannot buy tickets online and instead use the phone reservation system to get easily accessible seats. Both are also concerned about high ticket prices – a problem for many but one of particular concern to disabled fans, who may have less money to spend at leisure.

As their friendship blossomed, the two suspected other disabled hockey fans were going through the same thing they were, so they decided to ask. The duo launched a survey on accessibility within the NHL, with the goal of gathering hard and cold data to enable change at the league level.

“We were frustrated and wanted to see how best we could potentially influence the change going forward,” Murphy said. “Thus, we figured the best way would be to create a survey that might touch on how other people are affected by attending the game.”

Keenan, who works part-time as a multi-pronged consultant at Seattle Kraken, said pandemic-induced restrictions on personal advocacy meant collecting digital data was the next logical step.

“I was feeling pretty stagnant as to what I could do to make some kind of an impact,” she said. “And I think at the time, too, I was trying to figure out, you know, how do I change something in hockey that’s so absent as to focus and accentuate inaccessibility?”

After a digital meeting between the two in June 2020, Murphy began composing survey questions. The goal was to focus on long answers and qualitative experiences rather than data that point to a problem without acknowledging the complexities of access concerns. The survey asks for some demographic information and then dives into questions about location, type of disability, tickets, game day experience, resources, accommodations respondents would like to see, and bathroom accessibility, among other things. Most questions include rating scales from 1 to 5 along with space for people to respond with their personal stories.

The survey is not only about disabled fans themselves, but also their parents, friends and companions – a community term for people who come along with disabled fans to support them in any way they need to.

Kinan chirp One survey answer refers to the experience of some disabled fans.

“she [the fan] It doesn’t feel appreciated by the NHL or our local team. Why should you pay hundreds of dollars to deal with her and make her feel less valued than others and have a bad experience? I’m just appalled that her condition slowly got worse, it also robbed her of one of her favorite experiences: attending an NHL game and forgetting life’s problems for a few hours.”

An initial run of the survey got 16 answers, but the duo re-promoted them last fall to try to get more feedback — in part because Keenan gained more following after she started with the NHL’s recent expansion team. They have currently received a total of 45 responses. Much of the comments reflect the issues Kenan and Murphy themselves face when they want to attend a local match: getting tickets, the cost, and finding a successful daily routine for the game. Murphy said these ongoing issues require urgent action by the NHL.

“The constant theme is that we are not alone and that there are challenges that people face. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be much that is being done to address these issues in the NHL, despite this whole campaign of ‘hockey for all’. It seems that individuals with disabilities have always They are late and never included in any of these marketing campaigns.”

Keenan has met Kim Davis — the NHL’s executive vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs — but has concerns that NHL-wide associations are only interested in offering solutions if the number affected is in the thousands.

In an email response, the NHL representative did not comment on the level of participation required for a survey of this nature to elicit a reaction, instead focusing on the local jurisdictions in which each team operates: “As it relates to building accessibility and seating, which are based on laws and local regulations.

The league also noted a number of skate hockey-related initiatives, sensory-friendly work being done in Detroit and Nashville, and a Philadelphia-area program aimed at sharing hockey among military veterans.

Both Keenan and Murray said it’s not about whether or not there is a be Access issues, but rather an issue of size. Neither feel that they currently have the platform to receive thousands of responses, which in turn limits how seriously large-scale organizations take the concerns of the disabled community. As Keenan noted, many NHL yards are also used by NBA teams. This correlation points to a problem across professional sports.

In fact, the National Hockey League isn’t the only league where accessibility concerns have been identified. The latest edition of an annual survey distributed by UK charity Level Play Field found that 32 percent of the 1,408 British responses – most of whom were based on their experiences as football fans – listed physical access as a barrier. Ticket availability and cost, two of Kennan and Murphy’s main concerns, came in at 17 and 19 percent, respectively, in the British survey.

Keenan and Murphy survey respondents are looking for more financial accessibility, an easier ticket access system, and more accessible NHL seats. It’s the reactions that Murphy said can only come from a fan who’s been eliminated.

“I think you really need to have an admired viewpoint in order to really take on the challenges,” Murphy said. “You can’t expect someone who is physically able to understand what we’re going through because they literally don’t go through the same experiences we do.”