BLOG: Access Done Right
Posted on 06.07.2018
The Arcade Fire performing at Wembely Arena. Photo by the author.
Our 2018 State of Access Report found that Deaf and disabled music fans still face a range of avoidable barriers when trying to book tickets for live music events – over 80% of our survey respondents had experienced problems during the booking process, and three quarters felt discriminated against.
To increase awareness of these barriers and how they can be overcome, we are sharing a series of blogs from disabled fans, whose experiences demonstrate the need for change – and how to get things right.
Over the last month I’ve made it to four gigs, ranging in size from a tiny 500 person venue to arenas holding tens of thousands of people. The experience I’m going to share is my trip to Wembley Arena to see Arcade Fire.
I’m able to walk short distances and can manage stairs but standing is particularly painful. One of things I struggle with is I don’t ‘look’ disabled, so often at gigs my first experience is having to explain, and re-explain, to various members of staff what support I need and often show either my blue badge or Access Card for back-up.
We chose to arrive at Wembley Arena about 20 minutes before the main show (partly because the support act wasn’t our cup of tea) as we hoped the majority of people would be in and this would minimise any time standing. On the walk up to the venue, we rapidly realised we’d misjudged the situation as we spied a queue of at least 100 people leading towards the entrance.
At this point, we were approached by a friendly member of security staff who asked if we had standing or seated tickets. I explained that I had seated disabled tickets and asked if there was any dedicated entrance. He immediately proceeded to take us to the front of the queue and around the barrier, and explained to the supervisor what the situation was. Much to our relief, the supervisor quickly took us through security and pointed in the direction of our block of seats.
Whilst weaving through the crowd, I was struck by the enormous toilet queue and I was hopeful that there was an accessible toilet somewhere, and although I did find someone to ask and they said yes, they weren’t sure where they were located. We continued to our seats and I was thrilled to discover the accessible toilets were right next to the entrance to our area (and also thrilled I’d remembered my radar key). The toilets were great; spotlessly clean and fresh, a thoroughly pleasant experience!
The seats themselves were great; close to the door and easy to access, based on the front row of an elevated section with a great view of the show in the centre of the arena. I have been to several gigs at Wembley Arena and it seems there have been some changes since I was last there with a new seated ‘VIP’ section, which is located just below the elevated section, where I believe wheelchair users used to be located.
My only slight frustration with this is there were several people in the new section that, when standing, blocked my view and could’ve potentially ruined my experience. Luckily though, the standing people were suitably scattered so I had clear line-of-sight most of the time.
All-in-all a great experience thanks to the considerate security team on entry, it started the night off fantastically – keep up the good work Wembley Arena!