While both facilities in Ohio are more accessible than the average NFL stadium, the home of the Cleveland Browns holds the state’s title over the interstate Cincinnati Bengals.
NFL stadium accessibility features encompass a broad range of services, from mobility assistance to sensory kits to captioning services. Overall, Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium and Cleveland Browns Stadium offer many standard accommodations for those with disabilities, including sensory disabilities.
Cleveland Browns Stadium does a slightly better job at accommodating guests with disabilities than Paycor. The Browns do a marginally better job at accommodating guests with disabilities than the Bengals’ stadium. The differences are minor; for instance, adding a sensory room at Paycor to match the one already available at Cleveland.
A recent Gaming Today survey of fans who require these services found that 46% of fans with disabilities or who brought guests with disabilities did not feel NFL stadiums understood their or their guest’s disability. Stadium employees often accommodate fans’ needs, even if those employees don’t understand everything that guests require.
The survey also found nearly 66% of respondents said NFL stadium accessibility was good, very good or excellent. It paints a complicated picture of stadiums that do a good job of accommodation overall, but a significant segment of NFL fans still find important faults with stadium accessibility in general.
Accessibility features at the Ohio NFL stadiums have in common
The Ohio stadiums do an excellent job of accommodating guests with mobility disabilities. They offer designated drop-off and pick-up areas. However, both stadiums would benefit by providing shuttle services for guests who require mobility assistance. All entrances are ADA-accessible in both stadiums, too.
Both arenas also offer accessible seating in different areas of their stadiums instead of confining guests with disabilities to small areas.
Trained and certified service animals are welcome in both stadiums — as is standard across NFL stadiums — which doesn’t include emotional support animals.
Browns a more wheelchair-friendly stadium
Features like elevators, escalators and accessible restrooms are standard accessibility features at NFL stadiums as well. The finer accommodation details are where certain NFL stadiums set themselves apart or need to catch up. For instance, Cleveland Browns Stadium outdoes the Bengals’ stadium with the approach to wheelchair accessibility.
When Paycor Stadium hosted a Taylor Swift concert this summer for the Eras Tour, a veteran couldn’t bring his wheelchair into the stadium because he hadn’t purchased accessible seating. There are a small number of accessible seats and many guests who use wheelchairs.
Further, in a story Cosmopolitan reported about Ticketmaster’s botched Eras Tour sales, a guest who bought accessible seating tickets didn’t know he was buying accessible tickets until “the final screen of his purchase.” That guest later sold his accessible tickets to someone else who needed wheelchair-accessible seating.
In contrast, the Browns’ stadium ranked in WSR Solution’s top 10 stadiums for wheelchair accessibility in 2016. WSR Solutions provides in-home repair and installation for mobility devices. The Browns’ stadium also has a limited number of mobility assistance professionals who will transport guests around the stadium. While the Browns’ stadium doesn’t have wheelchair storage, it offers a competitive suite of mobility accommodations it can build on.
Sensory accommodation and the growing number of sensory rooms
While the lack of parking lot shuttles is the most noticeable shortcoming in the Browns’ and Bengals’ stadiums, the differences in sensory accommodations are more subtle.
Sensory kits are becoming the gold standard to help overstimulated guests take a break from the noise and hustle of the game. Both stadiums offer sensory kits, which include noise-canceling headphones, weighted blankets and fidget spinners.
The most significant difference between the Browns’ and the Bengals’ stadiums is the availability of sensory rooms. The Browns’ stadium includes three small rooms for nursing mothers and guests who need a quiet space. These aren’t sensory rooms designed for guests with autism, but they are refuges for people who need a few minutes away from the chaotic stadium to recenter.
Paycor Stadium offers sensory kits but no sensory rooms. If it wanted a cutting edge accommodation, the Bengals could look to the Philadelphia Eagles, the first franchise to build sensory rooms in their NFL stadium. The sensory room allows guests to take a moment away from the game without running afoul of “no reentry” rules. Today, at least nine stadiums have sensory rooms available during NFL games.
Cleveland Browns Stadium also has live captioning on the ribbon boards along the stadium bowl. Guests can also access captions through an app in-game. The Bengals offer no such service for guests who are hard of hearing.
Those with sensory disabilities have only recently begun to be accommodated on a larger scale.
Any NFL stadium that wants to count itself among the most modern will have to accommodate sensory disabilities with the same attention as mobility disabilities have been given.
The Ohio NFL teams are on the right path, with the Browns edging out their rivals for now.