BLOG: The Impact of Access Information

Posted on 26.02.2016

BLOG: The Impact of Access Information

The great thing about the State of Access Report is that the statistics are based on the experiences of Deaf and disabled people who volunteer as Mystery Shoppers for Attitude is Everything, evaluating accessibility from disabled people’s perspective.

One of the conclusions of the State of Access Report 2016 is the need for access information to be both detailed and easily available online. Accessibility goes beyond the physical limitations of the venue, and access information needs to not only detail the location of the accessible loo but also how to get there, where to park, and how to book tickets.

When my friends buy tickets to a gig it’s all done with a few simple clicks, even allowing them to choose where they want to sit. If I want to book disabled tickets I have to ring a long telephone number which is only open for a few hours and often charges me. I wait through half a dozen robots, go through several extensions numbers and sometimes wrong lines... often to find out the venue isn’t suitable for my party’s needs, or to find out accessible seating has reached capacity; 30 accessible slots compared to several thousand slots for those without access requirements.

I recently booked tickets to go to a gig with two friends – we were a wheelchair user, a disabled person with restricted mobility, and a non-disabled person. We rang the line and spent around 30 minutes on the phone to get our tickets. A week later we discovered that the seating and accessibility arrangements were different to the last time we visited, and as there was little information online I rang back to check that the arrangements would still suit my needs.

I spent four hours on the phone. Nine separate phone calls to various numbers, trying various extension combinations and speaking at several robots. Booking tickets online is rarely possible when you also need to book access arrangements, and it’s a problem with all live events; because we hadn’t booked online we didn’t have a reference number, so many of the operators I spoke to (and believe me, there were many!) couldn’t help. I followed up with three tweets and an email and still haven’t heard from them; I’m going to just have to hope for the best.

The Access Starts Online campaign, extended to all UK venues and festivals this week, also raises the issue of having accessibility information available online. If the venue above had detailed the specifics of their access arrangements online (Where is it situated? How do I get there from the main door? Do they provide chairs for disabled people? Will I have to go through crowds?) it would have both solved some of my issues and cut down calls to their busy lines.

I’ve often experienced venue websites which only state access information for wheelchair users. I don’t require this, but I do have a feeding tube which has been pulled out in crowds or the drip containing my feed has burst. When I approach a venue enquiring if they can make arrangements for me (away from crowds and able to sit) I’ve had a range of responses and attitudes. In November 2015 I went to a gig and had to explain myself to eight different people before they made adjustments. I was asked if I ‘really needed’ to take my feed bag in and was later challenged and told that my seat was ‘only for disabled people’.

Imagine my bemusement at this when just a month earlier I saw The Wombats at Liverpool Guild of Students. I explained my access requirements to a steward outside the venue and he wrapped a band round my wrist and my friends and we went up to sit on the balcony out of the crowd; I didn’t have to explain myself again. The experience really boosted my confidence because like many I struggle with explaining myself and trying to justify my ‘unconventional’ disability.

The State of Access Report is an important tool in improving accessibility to live music. At the 2016 Grammy Awards, Attitude is Everything supporting artist Stevie Wonder said ‘We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability’. The State of Access Report is fuelled by that very ethos. It aims to expose the real accessibility issues that matter to disabled music fans, reinforcing that it will not be acceptable until every Deaf and Disabled person can experience music without barriers.