How Three Supporters in Madison are Paving the Way for More Accessibility in Soccer

When you watch a match at Breese Stevens Field in Madison, you may not notice every detail.

A ramp to the Forward Madison merchandise store; an ASL translator for the national anthem; a wheelchair-accessible capo stand; to name a few. 

But the details are there. And they’re in place thanks to the efforts of three diehard Forward Madison supporters.

When they’re not cheering atop the capo stand at Breese Stevens Field, Tyler Engel, Brian Messman, and Bill Schultz are putting in the work as the founders of the AccessiMingos.

AccessiMingos, the first of its kind in the U.S., is a supporters group focused on creating a more accessible matchday experience and celebrating each person’s abilities. 

The idea came to them after spending time together in the “Flock End” of Madison’s downtown stadium in 2019. 

“I still remember going to my first Forward Madison match in 2019 – the Snowpener,” shared Brian. “I went in not knowing anyone and by the end of that game, I had met so many people.”

Two of those people were Tyler and Bill. During that inaugural year in USL League One, the three would regularly sit next to one another at home matches and over time, they formed a bond through the new soccer team in town. 

By the end of the season, the three were already talking about starting up their own supporters group. They wanted a way to show other soccer fans and residents in Madison exactly what they had experienced in that first year – that The Flock community was a place for everyone. 

Enter, the AccessiMingos.

In addition to giving their energy to the matchday experience in Madison, the AccessiMingos are committed to promoting and supporting the involvement of disabled members across the family of Forward Madison supporter groups, as well as advocating for and ensuring accessibility for all fans, whether at home in Breese Stevens Field or on away trips. 

Since day one, the front office of Forward Madison and their fellow Flock supporters have embraced the group’s efforts. Together, they made immediate changes to the stadium and the word quickly spread. 

“We had no idea what good would come from this,” noted Tyler. “We started this because we wanted to have fun and make Breese Stevens more accessible but the reach we’ve gotten nationally and internationally has been incredible.” 

Soon after launching AccesiMingos in March 2021, supporters and clubs from around the world contacted Tyler, Brian, and Bill. Everyone from Major League Soccer to the English Premier League wanted to learn more and find ways to replicate the success of AccessiMingos. So far, Minnesota United already has an AccessiMingos equivalent, aptly named the AccessiLoons, and Charlotte’s Accessi-Blues are ready to start cheering on their new expansion team in 2022. 

Said Bill, “I love that we have been able to set the bar for other groups. To see the supporters of MLS teams replicate what we’re doing is awesome.” 

AccessiMingos

In just one season, the club’s front office and AccessiMingos have already installed a host of changes to make the matchday experience more welcoming, and the group is now looking at other ways to grow its impact. 

As Bill shared, “Like any other supporter group, what we were doing in the beginning was just what we knew. But now it’s important that we branch out and continue to do more.” 

Brian added, “The three of us are wheelchair bound, but we all have different accessibility needs and know that others do too. We are always looking for new ideas and new people to partner with.”

On top of finding ways to make Breese Stevens Field more wheelchair accessible, the AccessiMingos are exploring opportunities to help additional fans with individual needs, such as those with ADHD, hearing impairments, and sight impairments.

For the three founders, this work is all part of the inclusive culture of The Flock and Madison’s broader soccer community. 

“Not only is the atmosphere on matchdays amazing, but the people in The Flock are overwhelmingly inviting,” explained Tyler. “They have been by our side the whole time and it’s that sense of community here in Madison that we lean on to make all this possible.”