BLOG: Access Really Does Start Online

Posted on 09.11.2015

BLOG: Access Really Does Start Online

By Hanley Quintrell

In 2009 I was a Cribs fanboy frantic for a chance to see them live, and so was extremely excited when they announced their first live dates with new member Johnny Marr. Not going wasn’t an option.

Never a fan of The Smiths (I know, yet I’m not sorry), the allure of Marr wasn’t there for me, but I was desperate to see those boys and soak up an atmosphere which would leave me with other people’s sweat cascading down my back.

I was on the venue’s website before tickets were released, a quick check to ensure my access needs would be accounted for, just as they had been at other places. It never entered my mind that there would be anything more than a potentially awkward phone call as I established if I’d need to pay for a Personal Assistant ticket, aka convince the attending friend to do so as I could only afford myself.

The website had nothing, and at the time I couldn’t understand it; the internet was invented before I was, and not having adequate information online seemed a really strange idea. So I emailed instead, explaining requirements which amounted to ‘if you have nothing, I can lean on the barrier if let in early,’ as I had in my pre-diagnosed teens.

I watched the clock waiting for a reply; I had to go, I had to. And then it came – short, sharp, and horrible: we do not accommodate people like you; go see them somewhere else.

That day I learnt that if venues are accessible they’ll tell you online. If they’re not and you dare to ask anyway, words won’t be able to describe the unique mixture of anger and sadness when you receive a rude response.

Since that incident, I have never been to a gig unless access information is supplied online. I’m too scared of having that horrible feeling again, so I won’t email to ask if it’s not displayed. Several times I’ve found out after an event that I could have gone to that venue, but just turning up isn’t worth the risk. I’ve only once paid for a festival for the same thinking, and I’ve shut down on how much I’ve missed because I refuse to let venues and festivals blame me for their own inaccessibility.

I do have a great time when I get to go, though, as the upside of this is that when venues do have this information online it means you can trust that at least you’ll be able to get in the door, which is still a depressingly rare thing when it comes to accessing culture.

It’s actually kind of funny how much of my money would have gone towards venues if only they’d had a page on their website; it’s not just me missing out, but the venue loses the money of my ticket, my friends tickets, all the drinks we would have brought, and the band misses out on my desire to remember the evening by spending on the merch stall. There’s actually a pretty big impact when, due to lack of access information, all those things go unsold. So it’s really in all our interests for a venue to spend a little time updating their website; especially when you add in that once I know a venue works for me I’m definitely going back again and again.

The venue mentioned above still don’t have any information online; just a form to fill in to ask about wheelchair accessibility. I don’t require a wheelchair, and nor do I fancy receiving a similar reply. You’ve lost a customer for life.

Oh – and I did get to see The Cribs the following year, quilted in the accessible safety of Reading Festival. It was one of the best days of my life.