Disabled fans eager to return to live events
A new ‘audience snapshot’ by music and event industry charity Attitude is Everything indicates that a majority of Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people want to return to live events – as long as accessible safety precautions are in place.
The poll of 289 individuals with a history of attending live events found that respondents went to more than 5,000 indoor and more than 1,200 outdoor live events in 2019 – from gigs and festivals to football matches and book launches.
Following the UK’s relaxation of restrictions on 19 July, 50% of respondents say they would feel comfortable attending an indoor live event and 73% said they would feel comfortable attending an outdoor live event, as long as they are confident that as many accessible measures as possible have been put in place to increase safety.
Almost three-quarters (74%) have additional access requirements in order to attend live events, such as companion tickets, accessible seating, step-free access and accessible toilets.
The results underscore the need for event organisers to ensure that access and Covid-safety measures are at the forefront of reopening plans.
Just over two-thirds (67%) of respondents considered themselves to be at heightened risk if they were to contract Covid-19, with 46% having shielded in 2020, and 27% feeling it necessary to return to shielding now rules have been lifted.
“More than ever before, it’s time to recognise that the disabled community are part of the life-blood of culture in the UK”
Furthermore, 42% didn’t see how a live venue could be a safe environment for them at the time they completed the survey (19 July– 1 August), with 24% feeling that they won’t be able to get to an indoor live event until next year at the earliest.
Eighty-three per cent said they would attend a venue or event that requires the NHS Covid Pass to gain entry, with 67% stating they would actively choose a venue that requires an NHS Covid Pass to gain entry over one that doesn’t.
Almost all (96%) of all respondents said it is important that venues and events engage with disabled people who don’t feel safe to return just yet, with 78% thinking venues and events should maintain online streaming as an option.
“In 2019, disabled people were big consumers of live events. In fact, in the years before the pandemic, the economic spend from disabled people attending live music grew from £3.4 million in 2013 to £9.3 million in 2019, so there was always going to be a huge demand from the disabled community to return to live events,” says Suzanne Bull MBE, founder of Attitude is Everything.
“Understandably, disabled people have real and deep-seated fears about how safe live events will be after the pandemic. I urge the live events sector to address concerns and make demonstratable efforts to welcome those with access requirements back to their venues and events, and for artists to become actively involved in this welcome.
“Over the past 18 months, disabled people have been loyal in donating to venues and campaigns to support musicians, and bought music, art and books to help creatives to sustain themselves. So more than ever before, it’s time to recognise that the disabled community are part of the life-blood of culture in the UK.”
Following the survey, Attitude is Everything calls on event organisers to check their post-19 July Covid-safety information and practices against its list of reopening measures supported by respondents.
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Attitude is Everything appoints Vick Bain
Attitude is Everything, a charity that connects deaf and disabled people with live music and event industries, has hired Vick Bain to the role of interim director of strategy, effective immediately.
Bain’s role will involve “scoping out new opportunities for partnerships and business development in this new Covid-impacted era for the charity and the music and event industries”.
Alongside her new role, Bain is also an industry consultant; a campaigner of diversity and inclusion in the music industry; a director of the board of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and music tech start-up Delic; and a trustee of the Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA).
“We are delighted to announce that Vick Bain will be working with Attitude is Everything. Her experience and standing in the music industry will be invaluable in these challenging times. We are excited to be working with Vick and to have the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge she brings to the team,” says Ailsa McWilliam, director of operations for Attitude is Everything.
“I will be ensuring that equal access remains at the top of the agenda for all venues and festivals when we re-open”
Vick Bain says: “I have long supported and admired the work of Attitude is Everything, who have done incredible work over the years ensuring people living with disabilities have the same opportunities of access to live music as everyone else.
“This year has been an incredibly challenging one for the entire music industry, and therefore I am deeply honoured to be working with Attitude over the coming months at this crucial time, ensuring that equal access remains at the top of the agenda for all venues and festivals when we move towards re-opening.”
During her 25-year career in the sector, Bain has held positions such as CEO of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors (now the Ivors Academy).
For her campaigning work, Bain was enrolled into the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Music Industry Powerlist 2018.
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Key deaf and disabled organisations form alliance
Twelve audience accessibility organisations and networks, along with two government sector champions, have come together to form a new informal group, Audience Access Alliance (AAA).
Founding members of the AAA include live music and event industries charity Attitude is Everything, alongside Performance Interpreting, Disability Collaborative Network, Transport for All, VocalEyes and more.
Andrew Miller, appointed by the government as a disability champion for the arts and culture sector, has also joined the AAA.
Today, the AAA published an open letter – marking the 10th anniversary of the Equalities Act – to urge the cultural, sports, heritage and tourism sectors to continue consulting with deaf and disabled audiences – even despite Covid.
The letter notes that despite deaf and disabled people being among the most impacted by Covid, not every disabled person is medically “vulnerable” to the virus and there remains a strong desire among many to participate in inclusive online events and return to in-person activities such as gigs as soon as rules allow.
“We can enable you to consult with deaf and disabled audiences, ensure that the gains we have jointly made are not lost, and help secure the widest possible audiences to support you in the difficult times ahead,” the letter reads.
“We can enable you to consult with deaf and disabled and help secure the widest possible audiences”
Jacob Adams, head of campaigns, Attitude is Everything added: “We are delighted to be joined by like-minded colleagues in forging this unprecedented Audience Access Alliance, extending a message of solidarity to the sectors we are proud to support.
“The need for cross-sector collaboration and conversation has never felt more vital, with unprecedented pressures on the industries we support, and so many parallels regarding the conversations we are having to support accessible reopening.
“Collectively, we champion the importance of deaf, disabled and neurodivergent audiences to the UK economy, and the role they can play in aiding the industries they love in the months and years ahead.”
Andrew Miller, UK government disability champion for arts & culture said, “Disabled people’s continued participation in live events and culture has been severely threatened by this pandemic.
“So I fully endorse the Audience Access Alliance call to the industry to ‘build back better’ and ensure that essential access is not only maintained but enhanced, making the recovery fully inclusive of disabled audiences in all settings“.
Since the Equalities Act came into force, participation by disabled people across the cultural and creative sectors has increased significantly.
In 2019/20, 76% of deaf and disabled people engaged with the arts (vs 77% of non-disabled people), closing the estimated 9% gap in engagement recorded in 2008/09.
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Beyond the Music helps deaf and disabled into industry
Attitude is Everything, the UK’s leading authority on live music accessibility, is launching a three-year programme that aims to boost employment opportunities for deaf and disabled people in the commercial music sector.
Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, Beyond the Music will provide the necessary skills, experience, resources and guidance for deaf and disabled people and also for music businesses, in order to plug the employment gap and create inclusive work environments.
“Attitude is Everything believes it is crucial that deaf and disabled people have full and equal access to any employment opportunities on offer,” says head of volunteering and skills development for Attitude is Everything, Paul Hawkins.
“Beyond The Music will allow us to try and identify why deaf and disabled workers are so underrepresented in the sector, and to take positive action to implement change. The first step towards that goal is the survey we are launching today. We are enormously grateful to the National Lottery for funding this project, and also for support we’ve received from venues and others in the business. More will be needed on the road ahead as we strive for equality and inclusivity.”
“Beyond The Music will allow us to try and identify why deaf and disabled workers are so underrepresented in the sector”
Beyond the Music’s accompanying survey will collect responses from deaf or disabled people, who work or aspire to work in the industry, which will help to shape the programme.
Attitude is Everything has also shared a number of objectives it hopes to achieve during the time period, including building a Beyond the Music Network, creating an Accessible Employment and Volunteering Toolkit and organising Accessible Creative Environments training.
“For a number of years UK Music has been a proud supporter of Attitude is Everything’s great work to improve access to music and the music industry for deaf and disabled people,” says UK Music acting CEO, Tom Kiehl. “Beyond The Music is an exciting new initiative that everyone must now get behind. We look forward to working with Attitude is Everything on this and welcoming them to the UK Music Diversity Taskforce.”
The initiative launched after findings from Arts Council England showed that just 1.8% of staff at music industry organisations consider themselves to be disabled, though 19% of working adults in the UK’s general population are considered disabled under the Equality Act.
Last year, Attitude is Everything revealed that its own research found that 70% of disabled musicians hid details of their impairment for fear of losing opportunities and that two-thirds had compromised their health to perform in inaccessible conditions.
BST, Latitude, Standon Calling praised for accessibility
The UK minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, has called on festival sites to continue improving accessibility, noting efforts by British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park and Latitude festival.
Poor access, unsuitable camping arrangement, restricted visibility and a lack of representation both on and off the stage are the most common issues facing disabled people at live music events, says Tomlinson.
AEG Presents’ BST Hyde Park (65,000-cap.) is one festival leading the way in terms of accessibility, recently receiving Attitude is Everything’s (AIE) gold status for best practice for inclusivity. BST offers accessible viewing platforms, sign language interpreters and hearing induction loops.
BST 2019 took place over two consecutive weekends from 5 to 14 July, with performances from Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand and more.
Latitude festival (35,000-cap.), which took place in Suffolk from 16 to 19 July, provides additional tickets free of charge for personal assistants, fridges to store medication and an accessible campsite, complete with accessible showers and charging points for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
“Everyone should be able to experience the joy of attending one of Britain’s world-famous music festivals, no matter their circumstances”
Embarking on its second day today (26 July), Standon Calling (15,000-cap.) has a dedicated team to support customers in its accessible campsite, as well as sign language interpreters across the site.
“Everyone should be able to experience the joy of attending one of Britain’s world-famous music festivals, no matter their circumstances,” says Tomlinson.
“Disabled fans are spending more than ever on live music, but it’s clear there is still more to do to improve festival access and facilities.”
According to AIE, disabled people spent £8.3 million on live music last year, up £3.4m from 2013.
The government’s disability champion for live music, Suzanne Bull, says these figures shows that “UK festivals have made great strides in improving access”.
However, says Bull, “there is much more to do beyond just audience provision. We need to plan for disabled artists and disabled employees to be working throughout all levels of the industry.”
Survey reveals “hidden barriers” for disabled artists
A nationwide survey conducted by music charity Attitude is Everything (AIE) has indicated that artists with access requirements and long-term health conditions are facing multiple career-damaging obstacles.
The findings of the AIE survey will be presented in full today (9 May) at the Great Escape, with a panel discussion featuring Blaine Harrison (Mystery Jets), Ruth Patterson (Holy Moly & The Crackers), DJ Laura Jones, Roxanne de Bastion (Featured Artists Coalition) and Rich Legate from the band Childcare.
The survey was launched as part of the charity’s Next Stage initiative, which aims to gain a greater understanding of the challenges facing disabled artists in the UK, supported by the Arts Council England.
The research reveals that 70% of deaf or disabled artists surveyed have withheld details of their condition or impairment due to worries it will cause problems and impact relationships with promoters, venues or festivals.
79 of the 96 respondents have played live shows. Of these, half are disabled by physical barriers at most gigs and one in five have had to cancel a show due to physical access issues.
Two-thirds of respondents performing live reported they had compromised their health or wellbeing in order to perform.
Access remains a concern for many disabled artists, with 50% of respondents encountering access-related barriers when seeking to rehearse in a studio or space outside of their home. For 38%, the nearest rehearsal space is inaccessible.
“These findings provide a snapshot of the challenges faced by a great number of artists and music makers”
AIE states that discussion around artists with access requirements has been limited, with many respondents reporting that access requirements were ignored or not taken seriously.
Almost all respondents (96%) think that the industry could become more inclusive for artists with access requirements, if they were granted more visibility and opportunities to speak out about their experiences.
“Consider the difficulties any musician or artist has in promoting themselves and their work,” says one survey respondent. “Now add access requirements and think of the determination it takes to deal with the same obstacles.”
“These findings provide a snapshot of the challenges faced by a great number of artists and music makers,” says AIE chief executive, Suzanne Bull, MBE.
“They will make uncomfortable reading for many in the UK music industry, but our respondents clearly raise some fundamental issues with rehearsing, recording and performing that need to be addressed. Disability cannot be treated as a taboo.”
In the future, Next Stage will focus on five specific areas. In addition to artists, these will include work with funders, rehearsal and recording spaces, venues and festivals and promoters.
The panel takes place at 11 a.m., Jury’s Inn Waterfront, Conference Room 2.
AiE to boost disabled artists’ careers with Next Stage
In a departure from its usual work improving accessibility for disabled concert- and festivalgoers, UK music charity Attitude is Everything has launched Next Stage, an initiative aimed at boosting the careers of British artists with impairments or long-term health conditions.
Its goal is twofold:
1) To overcome the “knowledge gap” surrounding disabled musicians
“Deaf and disabled artists have made and continue to make a significant contribution to British music,” explains the charity. “But there is an overall lack of information about their work and livelihoods. For instance, what challenges do individuals with impairments face in studios and at venues? How comfortable are artists with sharing their experiences and needs? What development opportunities need to be more inclusive?”
To tackle this “knowledge gap”, as part of Next Stage Attitude is Everything has created a survey seeking views on issues ranging from access requirements at live shows to studio recording and arts funding applications. Submissions are encouraged from artists, musicians, songwriters, DJs and music creators of all backgrounds and across all genres.
The survey findings will be presented and discussed at the Great Escape in May 2019.
“Next Stage is an ambitious departure for Attitude is Everything”
2) To boost talent development and create more accessible music industry
“UK Music, the industry’s umbrella organisation, has identified a number of challenges that might thwart the future success of UK artists and imperil the UK’s ‘talent pipeline’,” says Attitude is Everything. “It is imperative that disabled musicians are involved in this conversation.
“Talented individuals cannot be allowed to fall through the cracks, and it is vital those with physical or mental impairments receive sufficient support to help develop their art and creativity.”
Drawn from the survey findings, Next Stage’s secondary phase will be to develop a comprehensive artist network, connecting the aforementioned individuals with access requirements to showcase, as well as funding opportunities, breaking down barriers to live performance.
The campaign is also being supported by a number deaf and disabled musicians, including Blaine Harrison of the Mystery Jets, rapper Signkid, Rob Maddison of Revenge of Calculon and Kris ‘Winter of ’82’ Halpin.
“I believe we can build a thriving network of talent”
Suzanne Bull MBE, CEO of Attitude is Everything, comments: “Next Stage is an ambitious departure for Attitude is Everything. We have spent almost 20 years working for disabled audiences and now, with support from Arts Council England, we want to improve accessibility for disabled artists.
“This process will not be easy. The challenges facing deaf and disabled people are often hidden, and rarely discussed publicly. There are a range of stigmas and sensibilities. So our first goal is to collect information through a comprehensive and wide-reaching survey.
“By paying attention to artists’ voices, I believe we can build a thriving network of talent that will enhance British music and benefit all in the wider music community.”
“This project brought music to life – in my language,” adds Signkid.
To take the Next Stage survey, click here.
UK industry backs Ticketing Without Barriers
A new industry taskforce backed by leading promoters, ticketing companies, venue operators and associations, the Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition, today launches in the UK with the mission of improving the ticket-buying experience for disabled and deaf audiences.
The coalition will launch at the Roundhouse in London in tandem with the publication of music charity Attitude is Everything’s fourth State of Access Report, which reveals more than 80% of deaf or disabled concertgoers have experienced problems when booking tickets. According to the charity, 70% of the 349 fans surveyed felt they had been discriminated against – and while 37% said accessible booking had improved over the past four years, one in ten had considered legal action.
Based on the results of the report, Attitude is Everything has identified five focus areas where it says event promoters can improve the experience for disabled customers:
A simple and universal system for evidencing access requirements
Fans need a single proof-of-disability system that is uniformly recognised and accepted across the UK, and a single evidence policy adopted by the whole music industry
Accurate and disability aware information and customer service
Fans need all venues and events to provide quality access information online, including uniform terminology for access booking and disability awareness and inclusive communication training for all frontline sales staff
Choice and flexibility when booking tickets
Fans need to be able to book key access provisions online. Access booking systems should integrate online, email and telephone processes, and be flexible enough to incorporate whole party booking
To be able to trust that access requirements will be met
Fans need access bookings to be managed in-house where possible, to be dealt with by dedicated staff contactable by phone and email and for accessible bookings to go live as soon as tickets go on sale
Equal access to everything
Fans need to be able to book access for presales, VIP and meet-and-greet tickets, and with entertainment gift cards, as well as the ability to resell accessible seating. Access booking lines need to use freephone numbers. PA tickets need to be bookable by any deaf or disabled person who requires one. Fans need pre-registration systems to better manage anticipated sell-out sales
In order to deliver these changes, the charity has announced the formation of Ticketing Without Barriers, which comprises more than 35 trade bodies, ticket agencies, promoters and venues. The new pan-industry group will meet imminently at UK Music to establish a programme of delivery, before updating on progress at the Ticketing Professionals Conference in March 2019.
“It feels that everyone’s on the same page, up for the challenge and committed to working towards a positive result”
A full list of members, which includes Live Nation, Ticketmaster, AEG, Broadwick Live, NEC Group, See Tickets, National Arenas Association, Eventim UK and Kilimanjaro Live, can be viewed here.
Suzanne Bull MBE, CEO of Attitude is Everything and disability sector champion for music, says: “With our fourth State of Access Report we wanted to return to probably the single-most important issue that impacts all deaf and disabled music fans: the process of booking tickets. Although there has been much progress in making the ticketing process accessible and inclusive, and certain venues and companies are definitely getting this right for their deaf and disabled customers, we felt that only a comprehensive and truly unified approach would be able to drive through the real and lasting changes that we need.
“In 2018, every large-scale music event should be all-inclusive. Disabled customers should be able to buy a ticket online, they should be encouraged to attend shows with their friends and not have to jump through undignified hoops when things go wrong. As a disabled music fan myself, I’d urge ticket sellers, venues and festivals to understand that all disabled people must enjoy the same experiences as any other fan. The wider music business has the power to fix this, and I’ve been delighted at the response from all who’ve agreed to join the Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition.
“It feels that everyone’s on the same page, up for the challenge and committed to working towards a positive result on this. We now look forward to getting to work, and delivering some results.”
Sarah Newton, UK minister for disabled people, health and work, adds: “Going to a gig or festival is an experience that everyone should be able to enjoy. It’s therefore incredibly important that disabled people have the right access when booking tickets for live music events, which is why I’m really pleased to see leading businesses from across the music industry coming together to improve accessibility.
“We know that disabled people and their households have a combined spending power of £249 billion a year, proving that being inclusive isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.”
The last State of Access report can be read here.
Symphotech rolls out live music signing solutions
UK event safety company Symphotech has introduced two new signing solutions to help concert promoters comply with equality legislation.
The launch of the two technologies, produced in collaboration with TV production company Blue Multimedia, follows a recent lawsuit filed against LHG Live after the promoter failed to provide an interpreter for support acts for a September Little Mix show. It is a requirement under the Equality Act 2010 for companies to ensure disabled people’s experiences are as close as possible to those without disabilities.
Symphotech’s first method involves using an autocue operator to overlay live text onto video screens for the song lyrics. The second uses a live signing presenter, situated off-stage in front of a green screen, whose signing is ‘floated’ over the live show and placed into the corner of the video screens. This option provides the presenter with a live feed of the performance and lyrics sheets to enable them to be reactive throughout the show.
“We’re proud to offer these services to help ensure everyone is able to enjoy the pleasure of live music under the guidance of the 2010 Equality Act”
After consulting with disability support organisations, Symphotech says the live signing method has been identified as the preferred option.
Symphotech’s Will Hodgson says: “At Symphotech, we’re committed to ensuring everyone can attend safe and inclusive events. It’s vital that organisers take measures to ensure all attendees are offered the best possible experience while making certain their events are compliant with the disability access legislation.
“We’re proud to offer these services to help ensure everyone is able to enjoy the pleasure of live music under the guidance of the 2010 Equality Act.”
Pepsi Center agrees to open captioning for concerts
Pepsi Center, the Denver arena sued last year over its lack of scoreboard captions for the hard of hearing, has agreed to demands to provide open captioning of all aural content at sports matches and concerts.
In a proposed consent decree submitted to the US district court for Colorado, arena owner/operator Kroenke Arena Company agreed to provide open – or always-on – captioning for all content spoken over the arena’s PA system, whether live or pre-recorded.
The class-action lawsuit’s lead plaintiff, deaf woman Kirstin Kurlander, claims the lack of captioning on the 18,000-cap. Pepsi Center’s scoreboards is not in compliance with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“Arena operators can be reasonably certain that the settlement will prompt deaf fans at other venues to request more open captioning”
According to Ogletree Deakins disability lawyer David Raizman, the consent degree, which is still awaiting final approval, requires the arena to provide open captioning for “all aural (spoken or heard) content at games played and concerts held at the arena”.
Writing on the Ogletree website, Raizman says that while “the idea that aural content must be effectively communicated to arena fans is not new, “the novelty in this proposed consent decree is that it requires open captioning (in four locations in the corners of the arena) as a required means of providing such communication, and that it covers all aural content, including, for example, lyrics to prerecorded songs.”
The agreement could potential set a precedent for other US arenas who do not provide open captioning, writes Raizman. “[A]rena operators can be reasonably certain that the settlement will prompt deaf fans at other venues to request more open captioning, and perhaps even a few legal claims for the failure to provide such open captioning,” he says.