As accessibility at live music events improves, policies and facilities specifically for Deaf and disabled music fans are becoming more commonplace.
In some cases music venues and festivals may feel that there is a necessity to ask for evidence of disability, where it is felt that not doing so encourages or enables fraudulent or unnecessary access to reasonable adjustments, such as free Personal Assistant tickets. Anecdotal evidence from providers suggests that having a system of evidencing in place reduces fraudulent access and increases the actual capacity for disabled customers.
It is a potentially sensitive subject which should be handled delicately whilst allowing your customers to retain as much privacy and dignity as possible and should be done proportionally to the service being offered. For example, asking for detailed medical reports from a wheelchair user booking in person at a box office would be seen as disproportionate.
There are a number of things you are able to ask for from disabled people which most (but not necessarily all) will have readily available. Each has their own pros and cons:
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) / Attendance Allowance (AA)
Asking for a copy of DLA entitlement is the most common form of evidence requested and produced. It is a good guide that a person meets the definition of disabled as laid out in the Equality Act but it doesn’t readily translate into the types of support a person might need.
It is split into two components - care and mobility, of which a customer can be entitled to either or both at different levels. It would not be unreasonable to expect that an individual in receipt of any level of the care or the mobility component would require support from another person.
Personal Independence Payments (PIPs)
A major drawback to DLA and AA is their eventual replacement by PIPs in the coming years. Awards at the enhanced rate of either component would most likely indicate the need for a Personal Assistant, but could equally be required for recipients of the standard rates in a live music setting.
Blue Badges are simply an entitlement to park in designated parking bays and are awarded to people for a wide variety of impairments and needs and the entitlement can be interpreted differently between local authorities.
The Access Card
The Access Card has been developed by Nimbus as a consistent and reliable way of both evidencing disability and reporting the specific needs of disabled people. It’s an optional choice which disabled people sign up for and is accepted at venues and festivals across the UK, including Download, Glastonbury and all of AMG’s Academy venues. There is also the option for the provider to gain access to online verification in order to complete bookings over the phone and online booking systems are being introduced.
The Access Card allows both the customer and the provider to place the emphasis on improved customer service over the need for evidencing.
There are all kinds of other pieces of information people might be able and willing to produce in support of their access requirements. Deaf People may have prescriptions for hearing aid battery replacements; Blind People may have registration cards from their local authorities or assistance dog ID.
There are a whole range of discount travel cards, loyalty cards and so on porting from an original submission of a DLA letter, but each reports less about the users need beyond the actual purpose of the individual card.
We would not suggest that you explicitly ask for a doctor’s letter for automatic eligibility, as this can involve an additional cost to the disabled person.
The real key to approaching this subject is how you word your policies; this should be contained within the main body of your access statement and information. We’d recommend that you detail what proof you will accept for automatic eligibility, as well as adding a statement suggesting that you will review an application without the recommended evidence on a case-by-case basis.
The focus should be given to explaining why you are asking for information and that you stress that it is for the benefit of disabled customers in the long run.
Clear concise information should be given about the types of evidence you will consider for each element of access you are looking to provide. For example a Blue Badge would entitle a disabled customer to use accessible parking spaces but not be adequate for a free Personal Assistant ticket.
Aside from the Access Card, most proof documents don’t translate directly to the reasonable adjustments that are required, so it is worth considering that a narrative of the individuals needs is collected at the same time in the form of a short registration form.
Once this information has been provided, we would recommend that this be securely summarised and added to an Access Address book which would remove the requirement for customers to repeat themselves at each booking.
For more detail on Evidencing Disability and The Access Card, a range of training services are available in conjunction with Attitude is Everything.
For more information on bringing the Access Card into your organisation please see: www.nimbusdisability.com/quality-mark/the-access-card/