BLOG: A Fair Chance at Tickets?

Posted on 06.01.2017

BLOG: A Fair Chance at Tickets?

Guest blogger Emma discusses the frustrations of booking accessible gig tickets as a wheelchair user, and how venues and ticketing agencies could improve.

I am writing this having failed to secure tickets to see one of my favourite artists.  I am disappointed I didn't manage to get some as I have been waiting, almost literally, years for them to tour again in the UK – but I can at least say to myself 'I tried', and I am sure that I am not the only fan to be gutted when the sold-out banners started.

Two points, just to be clear:

1. My disappointment is NOT worse than anyone's else's just because I have a severe, degenerative disability.

2. I should NOT receive 'special treatment' just because I am a wheelchair user and require a carer to assist me.

However, the wider question to be addressed is do I have a fair chance of attending concerts and/or getting to see my favourite musicians perform live?

Sadly, I think that the answer is no.

I do believe in equality. For everyone regardless of ability, gender, race, sexuality...the list goes on…but in reality, this is not a realistic ideal.  The definition of promoting equality means treating everybody in exactly the same manner and is a lovely ideal but is just not practical. 

Everyone is different and these differences must be considered (without prejudice) to ensure that every individual has the same chance.  This is called equity and in this case, would mean providing a few more facilities to ensure that a wheelchair user has the same likelihood of being able to buy tickets to attend a concert as their non-disabled friends.

My point is not to throw my toys out of my pram and sulk but to simply illustrate that, in the words of George Orwell, ‘some are more equal than others’.

If you need to use a wheelchair, attending a gig is not an equal game. Often, the amount of seats for non-disabled bods versus the amount of space that can accommodate wheelchair users seems terribly unfair. Isn't it kind of pointless to have a 'dedicated access booking line' if you don't have adequate 'space' to accommodate the people who have these requirements?

There have been many improvements in accessibility to popular venues – for all abilities, not just wheelchair users – in the last 20 or so years that I have been going to see my favourite pop acts (Boyzone, 3T, Take That, Girls Aloud, NKOTB, Backstreet Boys...shut up my taste is very refined!).

By law certain efforts for total inclusion must be made and there are so many forms of ability that it must be so difficult to take every individual into account. 

There are now free PA tickets, bigger and better toilet facilities (still smelly, poorly equipped and kind of gross, but hey, at least there is one!), and designated areas for wheelchair users that mean that views of the stage are not obstructed even if people in front of you stand.

Despite all the positive changes there is an awful long way to go before the world of music entertainment is a level playing field.  Luckily us wheelchair users are here to help things improve and offer advice.

Among other points to improve:

  • Toilets need better equipping and preferably designing by someone who knows to put the hand rail next to the toilet and not uselessly opposite it.
  • Some large venues that offer only a limited number of wheelchair designated spaces. We need more venues to provide enough space to accommodate demand and reflect the number of music fans who have access requirements for accessible seating.
  • Wheelchair platforms are usually not space allocated so it is a matter of showing up early to be first in the queue and then speeding and fighting tooth and nail to get a good spot. Surely if you are booking accessible seating, every spot should be good!?

All the above, of course, only applies if you are lucky enough to have bought a ticket!

Surely in the 21st century we can make (decent sized) lifts that visit every floor and provide (again decent) ramps to ensure step free access for all?

Surely in the 21st century venues can install seats that can be used when needed, but removed when there is a person who comes with their own seating arrangement?

We can.  Why don't we then?