By Joshunda Sanders
Sports fans with disabilities in recent years started to call DDCE Associate Vice President Linda Millstone, the University of Texas at Austin ADA/504 campus coordinator, about the distance between their parking spots and the football stadium. In the 2010-2011 academic year, Lauren Lichterman, an administrative associate with Texas Athletics started what was formerly called the Customer Relations Program.
During the academic year, Texas Athletics hires student assistants to drive golf carts through campus streets in the stadium block by ADA parking spaces to take fans with disabilities to and from designated drop-off points. “It’s kind of like a bus system,” Lichterman said. “We sometimes drop people off at their cars or a designated stopping point. All of the routes are designed to access or serve ADA parking areas as opposed to any general parking spot.”
While the program started as a service for football games, it has broadened to include baseball, volleyball and softball.
“We’ve also started a stadium tour program and have created information tables at different events for fans that have general questions or specific questions about Texas Athletic Fan Services,” Lichterman said. Students at the information tables are trained to help sports fans who are physically impaired navigate big sporting venues like the football stadium, since the “the most obvious way to get around may not be the most efficient.”
Texas Athletics pays for radios from its game operations budget and athletics rents additional golf carts to help escort fans to UT’s athletic venues.
The University of Texas at Austin and Ohio State University are the only colleges in the nation with programs to help disabled fans in the way that Texas Athletic Fan Services does. Millstone praised Lichterman for her leadership. “Lauren’s amazing. She created an incredible model,” Millstone said.
“We want people to spend their energy cheering for the team, not getting to and from the stadium,” Lichterman said. “We saw a need for it and we did it.”