VIA Client Receives Unanticipated Hospitality from Buffalo Bills

Samantha Burfiend
Marketing & Communications Manager
sburfiend@viawny.org

Buffalo, NYDreams came true on August 4, 2021, when Angela Wiggins, a VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement client, was given the VIP treatment by the staff of the Buffalo Bills.

Angela was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that can slowly affect the retina and cause vision loss. Since her diagnosis, Angela has strived to enjoy her Buffalo community and thrive day-to-day.

Angela is a true-blue Bills fan and anticipated attending multiple Bills games in the 2021-22 season.

Practice Makes Perfect: Touring the Buffalo Bills Stadium

Three women in Buffalo Bills apparel sitting in the stands smiling. One woman (right) has a long cane and Buffalo Bills purse.
Angela, her family member, and Linda sitting in the stands of the Buffalo Bills Stadium.

Linda Wiecek, Angela’s Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist and Certified Vision Rehabilitation Specialist (COMS/CVRS) at VIA said Angela shared some concerns about navigating the Bills stadium. When she reached out to the team, she was impressed by the response from the Bills’ customer relations staff.

“I thought I would ask permission [for us] to come in advance and learn [the] basic layout of the area,” Linda said. Linda and Angela did not expect a complete VIP treatment to learn about stadium seating, stairwells, food courts, restrooms, and staff who would assist her during the game. Angela even brought a family member to bond in the experience.

“Our guide Ken Kern (Guest Services) was amazing, and Erika Siegel (Coordinator of Customer Service) was the person who responded and set up the experience. They were an outstanding crew and receptive to [Angela’s] needs,” Linda said.

Angela said although the day was fantastic, she did have concerns. The stairs that go down to the seating had no visibility markers to allow Angela the mobility to navigate to and from her seat on her own.

“The stairs almost look like a ramp,” Angela said. “I never realized that the stairs looked like a ramp or that you’re going down a slide. I’ve been to several games–rain, snow, whatever. But since my eyes have gotten worse, I needed to take this into consideration.”

Thanks to the helpful nature of the Bills’ customer relations, Angela practiced the stairs, told Ken about the need, and shared her exciting and emotional experience with the Bills Mafia Facebook page.

The staff at VIA are thankful for the hospitality of the Buffalo Bills and hope to see more action by athletic stadium management for accessibility.

Easy Ways to Make Stairs More Accessible

Here are a few tips on how to make stairs more accessible in your community:

  • Mark the leading edge of the first and last steps with bright paint or light-reflecting tape that contrasts with the background color of the flooring. 
  • Cover the landing areas at the top and bottom of the stairs with carpeting that contrasts the stair treads’ texture. 
  • Paint staircase handrails in a bright color that contrasts with the walls and flooring. 
  • Place a tactual mark, such as a piece of masking tape or a rubber band, on the handrail at the top and bottom of the staircase to warn of steps or stairs. 
  • Use solid, brightly colored, and textured hallway runners to define walking spaces clearly.

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About VIA – There is no denying a diagnosis with vision changes or visual loss can present challenges. However, it does not change who you are, what you believe or, what you want to accomplish.

For over 100 years, VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement has provided rehabilitation and social services to individuals in Western New York who are visually impaired. We pride ourselves on being a comprehensive resource for people experiencing vision loss or who are legally blind to help them adapt to new ways of independence. Our team of vision professionals will customize services to help you manage vision loss at any age.

To learn more, visit viawny.org.

 

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