In the first of a series, Blind Hammer reports on Accessibility at West Ham
It is not only on the pitch that West Ham have shown improvement this season. Over the close season, I will try to show some of the hard work that is progressing behind the scenes.
West Ham have pioneered support for blind and visually impaired supporters both at Upton Park and now the London Stadium.
Central to this support is the Insightful Irons Commentary service.
The service has its roots in the genius of an idea from James Datsun. James attended Upton Park many years ago with his visually impaired brother. His brother incidentally has a variant of the same eye condition I have. James provided his brother with an individualised commentary support whilst sitting next to him.
This support from James was immortalised in a Pepsi Cola advert which showed James commentating/celebrating a West Ham goal.
This exposure sparked interest from West Ham. The obvious question was whether the commentary support provided by James to his brother could be provided to other blind and visually impaired supporters.
After much hard work by James and the accessibility team, and crucially investment by West Ham in headset technology, the Insightful Irons service was born.
Nowadays James provides commentary not only for his brother, who travels up from Weymouth to take up his season ticket but also to over 50 other blind and visually impaired supporters using the in-stadium headsets service.
You do not have to be blind to use the service. Supporters who have other eyesight issues which nevertheless interfere with viewing the game can also apply. Famous centenarian supporter Mabel Arnold was a user of the service before sadly passing away.
West Ham is a leader in providing this level of support. To provide comparison one other Blind Supporter at a rival club told me that she was simply provided with an old radio Walkman with an invitation to tune into a local radio station to try and find a commentary.
The West Ham service is light years better. A local radio station does not provide any guarantee that a West Ham match is a featured commentary. Even if the commentary is available this is often on digital platforms involving significant broadcast delays. You will, for example, hear commentary on a goal from 5 to 30 seconds after it has happened. This is useless for live engagement.
The West Ham Insightful Irons service is not only guaranteed and live; it is tailored to visually impaired supporters. It is audio descriptive. It does not assume, like Radio, that the listener can look at players and stadium via other media.
For example, James provided a detailed audio description of the new pitch surrounding carpet at the London Stadium at its recent opening.
The service is about to undergo a refresh with the club about to commit to the purchase of new headsets which have served faithfully for over 10 years now.
This is a service which all supporters should be proud of.
For season ticket holders the Headsets are available on a season-long loan. Supporters wanting to arrange use of a headset for an individual game should contact West Ham Accessibility on 0333 030 0174 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.