Arsenal FC have become the first Premier League club to provide a permanent British Sign Language (BSL) service, in conjunction with Level Playing Field’s #UniteForAccess campaign.
The initiative was launched with the help of Gunners midfielder Jorginho earlier this month when Arsenal claimed a dramatic 3-2 comeback win over AFC Bournemouth.
All Arsenal’s home matches, including the club’s pre-match and half-time live broadcasts, now have full BSL integration, while all club content within the stadium has an embedded BSL interpreter.
“Our mission is to ensure everyone feels welcome at Arsenal,” said Arsenal CEO Vinai Venkatesham.
“The introduction of BSL at Emirates Stadium has been enabled by lots of hard work from supporters and colleagues, and we’ll keep pushing to ensure all our supporters, whatever their background, can experience Arsenal in an equal way.”
The use of interpreters pitch-side and “Goal!!” handshapes has followed work from the Arsenal Disability Liaison Team and Arsenal Disabled Supporters Association (ADSA).
Arsenal trialled BSL during a handful of home matches, including against Newcastle United and Manchester United, much to the delight of Arsenal Disability Access Manager Jon Dyster.
“This is a significant step forward in our drive to make our matchdays more accessible,” said Dyster. “We know from our conversations with supporters that these improvements have such a positive impact on their matchday experience.”
Long-term Arsenal fan and season ticket-holder Christopher Clelland worked closely with the Disability Liaison Team and ADSA and believes the BSL initiative will transform the matchday experience for many.
“I am profoundly deaf and British Sign Language is my first language,” said Clelland. “This is a huge step for Arsenal and Deaf fans, who can now enjoy the same access to information as other fans and be included in any pre-match discussions, interviews and special events, by having these interpreted into BSL live on screen.”
“The reaction of supporters like Chris to developments like this show just how important they are,” added Owain Davies, Level Playing Field chief executive.
“Initiatives like this epitomise the spirit behind our Unite For Access campaign.”