We’ve put together a short guide for venues and festivals interested in improving access for Deaf and hard of hearing customers. You might be wondering why they should – well, while it’s a common misconception that Deaf people wouldn’t be interested in live music, this couldn’t be further from the truth. What’s more, 11 million people in the UK experience some degree of hearing loss – that’s 1 in 6 of us! No venue or festival, no matter its size, should be providing a sub-par service to a sixth of its customers. Here’s what you can do:
Ensure equal access to booking tickets
Our research has shown that venues and festivals not providing accessible booking systems is one of the largest barriers Deaf and disabled people face when seeking to access live music. This is easily remedied by providing a variety of different means to book tickets and discuss access requirements – i.e. online, via email, over the phone, and face-to-face – allowing people with differing communication needs access the service.
Additionally, many deaf people use Next Generation Text Relay, a service designed to enable deaf people to communicate over the phone, with an operator acting as an intermediary between someone using a text phone and someone using a telephone. On your contacts page you can state that you welcome calls from people using Typetalk to demonstrate your awareness. All customer service staff should be briefed on the etiquette of using this system.
Provide a flexible personal assistant ticket scheme
Deaf and disabled people should be able to apply for an extra ticket, free of charge, if they would be unable to attend a gig or outdoor event without the active support of another person, ensuring that they do not face additional costs in meeting their access needs. Some Deaf or hard of hearing customers may require, for example, a communication support worker whose job it is to enable Deaf people who use British Sign Language or another communication method to communicate with hearing people.
If you’re not sure how to validate requests for personal assistant tickets, check out our guide to evidencing disability.
Update your box office or wristband exchange
Having an accessible box office or wristband exchange makes a great difference to the customer experience. Have your box office or wristband exchange fitted with hearing loops (these enable people who use hearing aids to pick up an amplified audio feed), and provide your staff with disability equality training.
Improve access to the performance itself
There are a variety of adjustments that can be made to improve the experience of a live music event for someone with a hearing impairment:
- Hearing Loops and Infared Systems can give hearing aid users a better auditory experience.
- Captioning of lyrics and speech – find out more about Attitude is Everything's experience of live captioning and what it can add to live music performances.
- British Sign Language interpretation of lyrics and speech – see for yourself what sign language interpretation can add to a performance:
If you can offer any of these options, shout about it! List them on your website and contact local deaf organisations to promote what is on offer.
Welcome assistance dogs
Make sure your staff are aware
Regardless of what adjustments have been made to facilities, lack of staff awareness leads to bad customer service and can ruin the experience of a gig or festival. Ensuring that members of staff are fully trained in what access provision is in place, what it’s for, how this works and what policies or processes are used can make all the difference to a customer's experience.
Join our Charter of Best Practice
If this has piqued your interest and you’d like to find out more about improving the accessibility of your venue, festival or event, please get in touch – we offer practical guidance on improving all areas of access and recognise achievements through the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels of our Charter of Best Practice.