Eagle Eye at the Linc

Growing up in South Philadelphia, you are typically born into being a Philadelphia Eagles fan. It was very different for me because my dad was a Washington fan. My experiences and love for the birds were completely on my own. As a child, I never went to an Eagles game because my dad was always working, and he did not like the Eagles. My first real game for the Eagles that I ever went to was the very first game at the Linc.

In pre-season action against the Ravens. I showed up to the stadium only to be sent away because they had canceled the game due to the field. Later, I had the pleasure of going to an Eagles game with a friend for my birthday. The experience of a live football game is amazing, especially for a visually impaired person like myself. I took every moment to enjoy the sight that I had because I did not know how long it would last with my eye disease. So when I went to that Eagles game, I absorbed the atmosphere. I was able to have an “Eagle Eye” at the Linc with my disability.

Being able to have the pleasure of talking sports on a podcast is amazing. Especially when you have the great sports minds in this city. As someone who has dealt with low vision all my life, I have to be detail-oriented when critiquing sports. If I am not, I will surely miss something important. So, I remember being very diligent with watching highlight reels over and over again. I also recorded on a VCR the games when I was younger to analize the game.

Low Vision to No Vision

About two years ago, I lost my sight completely due to the combination of my eye disease and scar tissue from over 15 eye surgeries. Losing my sight was devastating, but losing my ability to enjoy sports like I once did was more devastating. But I cope and try to fight on. Everyone who has listened to me in the last two years has not laughed me off the airwaves. But just like the experience of watching a game at home, there is also a great experience to be had when going to the stadium and enjoying the roar of the crowd.

So the big question was how or if I could get any of that back in my life now. Living without sight changes everything when you are watching everything. I rely on the commentary to inform me on what is happening on the field. But How do you get that commentary and possibly enjoy a live game?

About a week ago, my Orientation and Mobility instructor reached out to the Linc and the Philadelphia Eagles to see if we could do a mobility lesson at the Linc. Also, wanted to see what types of accessibility the Linc would have for someone like me during a game. Surprisingly, someone got back to us quickly and allowed us to meet up with them for a private tour and discussion. I was very impressed with the amount of accommodations that Linc offers. The Linc has 30 different ADA platforms around the stadium. These platforms are meant for people with any kind of mobility disability. For me it’s a safety issue if I am going up and down stairs.

The Linc Offering Options for Visually Impaired

So, we began the tour by visiting one of these ADA platforms. The tour guide and my O &M instructor both guided me through audible queues.  In order to get the opportunity to sit on one of these platforms, I must purchase a ticket. Then on the day of the game go to the ticket office and request to transfer my ticket to the closest ADA platform to those ticketed seats. Ticketmaster is another company that works with the Linc. So that I could just go onto that site and purchase the tickets for the ADA platform. So, how would I get to the platform on my own in that big stadium?

Well, the Linc also helps with that, with specific ADA staff members that can assist me to my seat. So I have exchanged my tickets for ADA seating, I have gotten to my seat, but how would I be able to enjoy the game without sound.? Well, the Linc has a solution for that as well. The Linc. Offers a headset that feeds right into the commentary at the stadium so that I would be hearing everything live. I can go to pick-up these headsets at guest services, or I can simply open my phone to the Philadelphia Eagles app and listen live. No offense to the app, but if I can hear the game live from the sound system at the stadium, I would prefer that over an app that could cut in and out with Wifi.

So I am at my seat and listening to the game, but what do I do if nature calls? The ushers at each section can guide me to the men’s restroom door. Ok, they have covered a lot of the things that are very important to me when going to a game independently. What would I do if I got hungry or thirsty? Either the ADA staff member can help me get something to eat or drink before they take me to my seat, or the section usher in my section can assist me in getting those things during the game.

Lincoln Financial Field Makes Strides for the Future

All of what the Linc offers for a person like myself and others who share a physical disability is nothing short of amazing. But the Linc. And the Eagles know that they still have a lot of work to do to make the live experience at the Linc. Completely accessible to all people. I am going to be assisting the Linc. In some of these accessible options. One of those situations I hope to help them with is making more events at the Linc. More accessible audibly. The only events that have any audible accommodation are the Philadelphia Eagles. It is my personal mission to be able to get back to the Linc. And cheer on the Eagles. But most of all, plenty of young kids don’t have sight, and it is unfair that they may never really be able to enjoy a non-Eagles event at the Linc.

This experience, from beginning to end, has been amazing and hopeful for me to start to get myself back to a normal lifestyle. Sports bring people together, and that community is the one that I have missed being a part of. With time and understanding, it should be closer to happening. I have higher aspirations to continue to break glass ceilings for those people with low vision and those who are blind. I have been told that we live in a visual world. You begin to miss those visual concepts when you have seen that visual world and now can’t. As you read this I hope that this article enlightens anyone who is an Eagles fan and has a physical disability.  Get back out there and start screaming E-A-G-L-E-S! 

Joe Marks
Joe Marks