SOAR 2016: Access covers the basics

Posted on 29.02.2016

SOAR 2016: Access covers the basics

Ensuring Deaf and Disabled people can access live music is a case of covering the basics; the topics which affect the live music experience for the majority of disabled people:

PA ticket schemes

85% of festivals shopped offered PA tickets, and 72% of venues.

PA ticket schemes are essential to enable people who might require the support of another person (or more than one person) in order to attend a gig or festival; they have been recently ruled as being a non-negotiable means for providing an equal service according to the Equality Act.  

Travel and arrival

Only 31% of mystery shoppers received additional access information after booking access facilities. There is no reason why venues or festivals of any size cannot signpost customers to the nearest Blue Badge parking locations, even if there is no dedicated parking available.

67% of the venues visited had step-free main entrances. Use of alternative entrances is always an option; coupled with well-briefed staff, consideration of access routes, and prior warning in access information, this zero-cost solution can work very well for customers.

The option to pre-arrange early entry to a venue for access reasons was reported at 19% of venues. Again, this is a policy that can be implemented at any venue, and can significantly improve the experience of some disabled customers.

Box office and wristband exchange

Mystery shoppers found that 84% of venues and 94% of festivals surveyed offered step-free access to any box office or wristband exchange; physical barriers can be easily overcome by tweaks to customer service, such as briefing staff to leave a cabin to provide a face-to-face service.

47% of venues were reported as providing a hearing loop at the box office, a large increase on the 20% of venues logged as having a box office loop in the previous State of Access Report. 19% of festivals provided a hearing loop at their wristband exchanges.


The presence of an accessible toilet was advertised by 61% of venues, whilst mystery shoppers reported that 88% of venues had one or more available on the night. This disparity shows how important it is for venues to provide comprehensive access information that shows off what they have to offer.

The presence of accessible toilets was advertised by 70% of festivals. However, only 52% of festivals surveyed had accessible toilets at all toilet blocks. Lack of adequate coverage at outdoor events can pose such a major issue for customers that it can ruin a person’s experience.

An accessible toilet is only an accessible toilet if its size, fixtures and fittings are fit for purpose. Whilst there are fantastic examples to be found, we regularly find toilets with inaccessible and missing fittings that render them unfit for purpose.

Food, drink and merchandise

38% of venues visited by mystery shoppers featured a lowered bar, compared to 22% in the previous State of Access Report. This is one example of the type of access improvement that can be achieved simply by looking again at a space with accessibility in mind and implementing a policy.

Beyond physically making lowered bars, customer service provided by staff can also be integral to providing an inclusive and equal experience.

Accessible camping

If a festival features camping, it is reasonable for the public to expect the provision of accessible facilities that considers customer arrivals, the layout of the site, and proximity to stages.

67% of the festivals surveyed for this report featured camping. Of these festivals, 78% provided a dedicated section of public camping for disabled customers.

However, despite many festivals claiming to have accessible campsites, as we find in other areas, these might not always be fit for purpose. For example, whilst 80% of ‘accessible’ campsites featured dedicated stewards, only 64% featured power charging for wheelchair and scooter batteries or medical equipment and 40% did not provide accessible shower units.

Viewing platforms and areas

63% of venues surveyed featured a viewing platform or area. Of these venues, 28% featured a built viewing platform, whilst the majority (72%) had a dedicated viewing area in an elevated position, such as a balcony.  This means that only 18% of all venues surveyed by mystery shoppers featured a dedicated viewing platform.

65% of festivals shopped featured a dedicated viewing platform or area. Of these, 89% of these festivals featured viewing platforms at their main stage, with the remaining 11% reported as having viewing areas at ground level.

In many cases viewing platforms or areas, whilst present, may be not fit for purpose due to their physical build and location, and/or poor staffing. Indeed, 10% of venue and 5% of festival viewing platforms and areas tested by mystery shoppers provided a poor view. In addition, 86% of venues and 84% of festivals with a viewing platform or area provided dedicated staff at those locations, an action we strongly advocate.

For a further, in-depth breakdown, you can read the full findings in the State of Access Report 2016.