26 June 2013 Booking and isolated seating lets down disabled music fans
Young disabled music fans are being forced to wait hours on hold on premium rate telephone lines to buy accessible tickets to see their favourite artists, are isolated from friends and family at venues owing to a cap on companion seats, and are even missing out on concerts all together when venues delay accepting 'proof of disability', our new report has found.
The study was sparked after young people told of experiencing difficulties enjoying a trip to a gig, concert or festival. Trailblazers' members described being asked to vacate venues before the performer had finished to 'avoid disruption' for other customers and finding it impossible to access refreshments and toilets owing to poorly located seating. Trailblazers, also criticised major ticketing websites for failing to offer the option to book accessible tickets online.
The Trailblazers' Access All Areas study reveals:
- seventy-seven percent of young disabled people believe that booking tickets for a live music event puts them at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled friends
- one in two young disabled people has either missed out on tickets or had a stressful experience booking them
- half of young disabled people say that facilities provided at venues, like toilets, bars and food stalls, are not suitable to their needs
- ninety-four percent of young disabled people say that last minute ticketing websites do not cater for disabled people.
With the festival season already underway and Glastonbury just around the corner, Trailblazers is calling on the live music industry to level the playing field for disabled music fans to make sure they can enjoy the same experience as their non-disabled peers, and will today meet with MPs, representatives from the live music industry and will be working to ensure that accessing live music is as inclusive as it can be.
Catherine Alexander from the Wirral has been forced to sit away from her friends, owing to a lack of seating choice available at her local arena. She said:
The seating arrangements at the local arena are set up so that the wheelchair spaces are positioned behind the companion seats. When I went to go and see Kelly Clarkson it was hardly a sociable experience, we had to resort to texting each other. I felt really isolated, as if I had gone to the gig on my own. I don't go to this arena anymore because of this issue, but thankfully I'm lucky to live near to another arena which has much better provision for wheelchair seating.
James Lee from East London has found the process of booking tickets to be one of the biggest obstacles in accessing live music. Most recently, he missed out on tickets to go and see Radiohead. He said:
With events that are highly in demand, the submission of proof of disability - whether that's a copy of your Disability Living Allowance certificate or a medical note - has often meant that I've missed out on tickets to live music events all together. Although there is usually an allocation of accessible tickets, the numbers are usually very small. It is so rare to be able to book tickets online and there is often only one telephone booking line for disabled fans, which is oversubscribed, expensive and time-consuming. Being able to book online, like my non-disabled peers, would be much more convenient and take out the unnecessary stress that goes hand-in-hand with buying tickets.
Zoe Hallam from Bristol has found that poor venue design has prevented her from being able to move freely around the venue. She said:
Recently I went to go and see one of my favourite bands, Sigur Rós perform. Shortly after finding my seat at the venue, I realised I would be stuck there until the concert was over. Crowds and poor access routes to bars and toilets mean it is impossible for me to move around the venue once the gig has started. Venues which have separate seating areas for disabled patrons should have a disabled toilet located near or within that area. Having to fight through a crowd in darkness just so I can get to the toilet is not fun, and potentially not very safe. Some venues advertise themselves as being accessible, but really all this means is 'flat'. When gigs are standing room only it's impossible for a wheelchair user to see anything going on unless they are right at the front.
The limited availability of accessible seating was also found to be problematic, with many missing the opportunity to see their favourite artist perform live.
Trailblazers want promoters, venues and ticketing companies to give disabled people the option to buy tickets online and to strive towards achieving the highest standards possible.
Bobby Ancil, Project Manager of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign Trailblazers, said:
For many, going to concerts, gigs and festivals is a fundamental part of being young. The live music scene in the UK is burgeoning, however if you are disabled, accessing live music can be far from straightforward. We have heard from many young disabled people who describe their experience of getting tickets to see their favourite band or artist perform live as 'an absolute nightmare' because of drawn-out, costly booking processes and company policies that separate disabled music lovers from their friends and family at a show as 'inflexible'.
There is no doubt that many venues have made significant headway in improving their facilities for disabled customers. However, we want to see the creation of an online booking option for all disabled music fans at live venues and more inclusive venue designs to ensure that disabled people can sit with more than one friend or assistant without compromising the view of the stage or their ability to enjoy a performance.
Read the Access all areas? report.