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UK music venues ‘still excluding disabled fans’

Less than one in five UK festivals and venues provide good access information for disabled people, reveals Attitude is Everything's third State of Access Report

By IQ on 22 Feb 2016

Dominique Frazer, Suzanne Bull, The Boileroom, Attitude is Everything

The Boileroom signs the Charter of Best Practice in 2014. Dominique Frazer (left) and Suzanne Bull

image © Attitude is Everything

One in three British music venues and festivals are failing to provide adequate information on access for people with disabilities, and 60 per cent of disabled people have been put off buying tickets as a result, according to a new study by Attitude is Everything (AIE).

The charity’s third State of Access Report – backed by Arts Council England, law firm Irwin Mitchell, Glastonbury Festival, the Association of Independent Festivals, Colston Hall in Bristol and Independent Venue Week, and launching today at the Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush, west London – finds that the lack of access information is particularly pronounced at independent venues, with two thirds of disabled fans unable to find the information they need online.

Less than one in five festival and venue websites surveyed provide access information rated by AIE as ‘good’.

The report’s findings and conclusions are based on 280 mystery shopping reports by deaf and disabled people; a survey of 386 venue and festival websites; and case studies drawn from hundreds of venues and festivals with which the charity works.

It also found that tickets for disabled people’s personal assistants were not offered free of charge by 15 per cent of festivals and 28 per cent of venues; accessible parking was advertised by 86 per cent of large venues, 56 per cent of medium-sized venues and 33 per cent of small venues; one in five camping festivals do not have an accessible campsite; four out of five venues do not have a viewing platform for those with dwarfism; only 61 per cent of venues advertised the presence of accessible toilets (although, when visited, 88 per cent had one available on the night); and 38 per cent of venues visited featured a lowered bar: a significant increase on the 22 per cent reported in the State of Access Report 2014.

In response to the report, AIE is calling on everyone working in the UK’s live music sector to back its Access Starts Online campaign, which helps event organisers to add a comprehensive access information page to their websites via an easy-to-use online template.

“A lack of decent online access information has become a constant source of frustration to millions of disabled fans. Evidence suggests that many will not risk attending an event if they are unsure about access facilities”

“Digital has revolutionised the live sector and how music lovers buy tickets, find information and share their experiences,” says Attitude is Everything’s chief executive, Suzanne Bull, MBE. “However, as highlighted in the State of Access Report, a lack of decent online access information has become a constant source of frustration to millions of disabled fans. Evidence suggests that many will not risk attending an event if they are unsure about access facilities. We should not be letting these online failures hold back the tide of progress, especially when they are so easy to fix.

“Signing up to Attitude is Everything’s Access Starts Online initiative is something all live music businesses can do. Not only does it cost nothing, but it represents a vital first step towards greater inclusivity and improved customer service that help these venues and festivals to reach new audiences. Working together, we can make the UK’s live music sector the most accessible in the world.”

Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis, who wrote the State of Access Report’s foreword, adds: “Glastonbury Festival has always prided itself on being an event that is open and inclusive. In 2005, we realised that we needed help to improve our offering to deaf and disabled customers to ensure that this was the case, so we reached out to Attitude is Everything for advice and guidance. In the first two years of our partnership, fewer than 100 Glastonbury-goers registered to use the festival’s access facilities. A decade on, we now welcome more than 600 deaf and disabled customers to each festival, alongside having over 100 deaf and disabled crew members working on the event itself. We are also very proud to have become the first camping festival in the UK to be awarded the gold standard of the Charter of Best Practice.

“It is vital that all festivalgoers can easily access clear information about how to buy tickets, what facilities are available onsite and how they can arrange for the necessary support in order to be able to attend. We’re very pleased to be continuing our work with Attitude is Everything to ensure this.”

According to the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s most recent Taking Part survey, deaf and disabled people comprise an estimated 15 per cent of all live music attendees in the UK. Approximately one in five of the British population are considered disabled, with a household income (the “purple pound”) of around £212 billon a year.

The State of Access Report 2016 can be read in full at www.attitudeiseverything.org.uk/soar.