BLOG: The state of accessing venues

Posted on 24.03.2016

BLOG: The state of accessing venues

Guest blogger Emma Muldoon considers the State of Access Report 2016 and reflects on her personal experiences with access at venues.

Access isn’t just a necessity for myself and other Deaf and disabled live music fans. It’s a major deciding factor whether we can attend an event or have to miss out completely on seeing our favourite bands.

That’s why it’s extremely important to have full exposure to all aspects of access information. This means the accessibility of the festival/venue and its facilities as well as their customer service; good access is dependent on the whole experience and not just physical access.

I’ve had my fair share of good and bad experiences of accessing live music. In recent years they’ve been good more often, which I think is due to better awareness from venues and staff and the work of charities like Attitude is Everything.

As a massive gig-goer, I’m always checking the latest gig listings to see who has just announced a tour. But the initial excitement of discovering a great band’s touring can sometimes turn to uncertainty, especially if it’s a venue I’ve never been to or somewhere I’ve previously experienced access issues.

I recently contacted a venue to ask about wheelchair access after there wasn’t any information online. I was told they didn’t necessarily have wheelchair access as the venue itself was down a flight of stairs. There was no option of a lift inside the venue, but they did offer to carry me in my wheelchair down the stairs. Considering the combined weight of myself and my powered wheelchair is over 30 stone I didn’t see this as a very safe alternative. However, they did tell me they’ve carried people in wheelchairs in the past.

In the end I choose not to put myself or the staff in danger and as a result missed out on the gig. This has been the case for several older and smaller venues I want to go to, but will never be able to unless they make changes. 

Providing good access is also reliant on the awareness and attitudes of staff, which can either make or break both experiences and any future custom, as highlighted in the State of Access Report.

Last year I went to a gig at a venue I’d never been to before. I was so excited to see the band in this cool renovated church, but everything from the difficult ticket booking process to the staff attitudes towards me created a tainted impression of the venue – so much so that I refuse to return until their staff receive some sort of disability awareness training.

Thankfully though, I’ve had lots of good experiences of access at various venues across the UK. My favourite are the Academy Music Group venues; particularly the O2 Academy Glasgow and O2 ABC Glasgow where I go often. They always have great access information online, which is important as that’s usually where most people look first. They also have a hassle-free booking process that allows me to book a standard ticket online, instead of phoning a dedicated accessible ticket line, and I then just email the venue to arrange my access requirements.

They also have viewing platforms with amazing views of the stage, and I’ve always been impressed by their customer service as they’re always happy to help and make themselves visible in case of any issues during or after the gig. This makes me want to return time and time again.

However, sometimes venues and festivals aren’t aware that they’re not fully meeting the needs of deaf and disabled music fans, but giving them some guidance may be all that’s needed to make a big difference. A few months ago, after being told a venue had steps at the main entrance, meaning I couldn’t attend the gig, I decided to ask why they didn’t have a portable ramp.

I was pleasantly surprised when they responded by asking me to suggest one which would be best, and before I could reply they’d already looked online and found two ramps they planned to purchase, after realising that it wouldn’t only aid disabled customers but also make it easier to load in the band’s gear. This is a great attitude for a business to have and I hope more catch on to it. 

Emma also writes Simply Emma, her own blog, which can be found here.