Wheelchair-bound boy, 6, left stuck behind fence at Commonwealth Games

·4-min read
Wheelchair
The mum of a wheelchair-bound boy has hit out at Commonwealth Games organisers for not making them accessible. (SWNS)

The mum of a wheelchair-bound boy who was left unable to see his Commonwealth Games heroes because he was stuck behind a barrier has hit out at organisers for failing to make the event properly accessible.

Bobby Sproston, six, was left craning his neck to try to catch a glimpse of basketball matches at Birmingham 2022 because the perimeter fences around the court were too high, despite his mum booking an accessible seat.

The only solution provided at the city's Smithfield venue on Monday (1 August) was for the young basketball fan, who suffered a spinal cord injury during birth and is unable to use the lower half of his body, to sit on two foam hands, so instead he ended up sitting on mum Amy's lap for three hours.

The six-year-old was left straining to see over barriers. (SWNS)
The six-year-old was left straining to see over barriers. (SWNS)

She said they often encounter similar issues but had expected more from an accessible games, which includes Paralympic sports.

The 37-year-old, from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, said: "Unfortunately, this is a normal thing but you'd expect more from a games boasting they are so accessible.

"The games are a great thing, he’s seeing able-bodied and wheelchair users, but the accessibility for wheelchair users is not.

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"We booked accessible seats but even when we got there, the stewardess told us we were up in the stalls.

"She then offered us two foam hands to sit on, they couldn't do anything else really, but they were only about an inch thick.

"He was left straining his neck to look over and see what was going on. It was cruel, but we sort of get used to it.

"I had to have him on my lap for the duration of the three hours, it wasn’t really comfortable."

Bobby (left) was with mum Amy Sproston, 37, dad Robert Sproston, 41 and brother Leo, seven, who is also wheelchair bound. (SWNS)
Bobby (left) was with mum Amy Sproston, 37, dad Robert Sproston, 41 and brother Leo, seven, who is also wheelchair bound. (SWNS)

Bobby, who is part of the Warwickshire Bears wheelchair basketball group, and his mum were with dad Robert, 41, and seven-year-old brother Leo, who is also wheelchair-bound.

His mum added: "I checked that my tickets were for accessibility seating, because you often have to do that to know it's going to be alright.

"But I couldn't really get through to anyone on the phone to check and I thought it was a big event, it can't go wrong, but it did.

"They need to be consulting wheelchair users, and parents of wheelchair users, on what is required. But in this case, it was simple, there should be lower barriers for shorter wheelchair users.

"It's not easy to go out with two disabled children and it's disheartening to think my children are going to face this for the rest of their lives."

The situation attracted the attention of Helene Raynsford.
The situation attracted the attention of ex-Paralympian Helene Raynsford, chair of the Paralympics GB Athletes’ Commission. (Twitter/Helene Raynsford)

The family's experience attracted the attention of ex-Paralympian Helene Raynsford, who is chair of the Paralympics GB Athletes’ Commission.

She wrote online: "How can we improve events planning and solutions for disabled spectators to avoid this?

"This young lad couldn’t see over the barrier and branding. Next generation turned up to watch their heroes but unable to see! I experience this myself often.

“This isn’t just a Commonwealth Games/Birmingham 2022 issue so please don’t pile on and shout at them… let’s be constructive and make change!”

Bobby ended up sitting on mum Amy's lap for three hours so he could see the action. (SWNS)
Bobby ended up sitting on mum Amy's lap for three hours so he could see the action. (SWNS)

A spokesperson for Birmingham 2022 said: "Our Games is the first to have a dedicated accessibility team and we have also worked with our Accessibility Advisory Forum to provide feedback to us in planning.

"We work with our venues to continually improve the experience for everyone, and we would encourage spectators to speak to our team to see how we can enhance their visit."