Disabled access at gigs is 'getting better' for music fans

By Steve Holden
Newsbeat music reporter

image copyrightThinkstock

Access to live music for disabled people is improving, according to the head of a leading disability charity.

In 2016, Attitude Is Everything found a third of live music events had "no access information" on their websites for deaf and disabled people.

Since then, CEO Suzanne Bull MBE says that 40 festivals and venues now have dedicated pages online.

"Most disabled people are going to want to make an informed choice about where they're going to spend their money.

"What is the point of buying a ticket if you don't already know if you're going to get into that venue."

image copyrightMel Barber
image captionMel is a massive music fan and tries to go to four small gigs a month

21-year-old Mel Barber is a massive live music fan who tries to go to around four small gigs a month.

"I have cerebral palsy which affects the mobility in my legs so sometimes I use a wheelchair to get around for long distances.

"I need to pre-plan my gigs. When I asked a security guard if they had an accessible toilet it was shown to me straight away.

"General positive experiences like that make you want to come back to a particular venue again so there's an economic aspect that if a venue is seen to be accessible then it keeps that customer coming back again and again."

image copyrightGoogle Maps
image captionBand On The Wall is one of Manchester's oldest musical venues

Band On The Wall is a venue in Manchester which was awarded Attitude Is Everything's gold status, which the charity uses as an example of somewhere which provides excellent disabled access.

Gawain Forster, Projects and Facilities Manager at the venue, says the changes mean they often get repeat customers.

"Customers with access needs come here regularly and often. If you make it easy for someone to attend and they have a good time, they keep coming back.

"That is the basic principle of business."

image copyrightMel Barber
image captionMel's favourite gig was seeing Arcade Fire at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool

Under the Equality Act 2010, venues have a legal requirement to improve access for disabled people but it is open to interpretation as to how much and what exactly needs to be done.

At Band On The Wall there are measures in place like ramps, seating near the stage and access information on the venue's website.

Gwaine Forster says changes don't have to be expensive. He recently did something to help those with visual impairments.

"If you've got a toilet painted all white, it actually becomes very difficult for elements like sinks to be picked out.

"We painted the walls bold colours so that you can see where the sink is, where the handrail is. It costs a tin of paint."

Despite Attitude Is Everything seeing an improvement in access, Suzanne Bell says she now wants a focus on customer service.

"I do feel that you could do all this work in making your music festival or venue really accessible but if the staff treat you really badly then you're not going to want to go there because your experience is ruined."

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