Guest blog: Excluding disabled customers

We usually focus on issues around employment in these blogs, but of course it is just as important that our organisations are accessible to disabled customers. Emily Buchanan looks at one particular industry below:

Music Concerts Are Not Access All Areas, New Study Finds

A new study has shown that disabled fans are being let down by the current ticket booking system for gigs in the UK and, indeed, the rest of the world. The study, which was conducted by Muscular Dystrophy campaign Trailblazers, was prompted when a number of young members raised concerns over their treatment at and prior to gigs and festivals.

“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,” write Trailblazers in their recap of the report, “[they] 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’”.

The study goes on to reveal that 77 per cent of young disabled people believe that booking tickets for a live music event puts them at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled friends, whilst one in two have missed out on tickets due to their disability – a case that was particularly prominent in smaller venues. Indeed, almost all of those who took part in the study (94 per cent) said that last minute ticketing websites do not cater for the needs of disabled people.

“When I went to see Sigur Rós at the Brixton Academy in March, the disabled loo was on the other side of the hall. If I needed to go to the toilet I had to ask the steward to plough through the crowd with me behind her,” said Zoe Hallam, from Bristol, who suffers from muscular dystrophy. Over half of those who took part in the study echoed Zoe’s concerns, saying that inaccessible toilets were a major issue when going to see live music.

Another Trailblazer, James Lee from London, said that the need to prove his disability in order to secure accessible tickets was the real hindrance. “With events that are highly in demand, the submission of evidence which is required for booking accessible tickets has meant that I’ve missed out on live music events in the past.” Unfortunately, in the rush to get tickets, gig-goers have been known to exploit the limited disability ticket allowance by purchasing them when they do not have a disability. This is why many venues require a copy of the disabled person’s wheelchair insurance bill (or similar) to prove their condition. This timely process often means that tickets sell out before proof has been verified.

Live music fan Sulaiman Khantold Trailblazers that the “disabled cage,” is an issue for some people. Referring to the raised platform where space is allocated for wheelchair users, Khan asked why “[wheelchair users] are all supposed to sit together like one big happy family,” when they probably want to sit with their friends.

However, since the implementation of the Equality Act 2010 (a legislation that was initially passed in 1995), it has been illegal for service providers, including permanent and temporary venues, to treat disabled people less favourably than any other customers. With Seatwave and Ticketmaster both shirking the blame, it’s now over to individual venues to protect their accessibility credentials. Accordingly, Trailblazers and its members are calling for promoters, venues and ticketing companies to give disabled people the option to buy tickets online and to strive towards achieving “the highest standards possible” for their disabled patrons.

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