Ticketing? I imagine most people would cheerfully add it to the list of reasons why modern life is rubbish. Particularly for hot shows. Why? Well, it frequently involves a descent into internet hell.
OK, I’m 258th in the queue but it’s a big venue. I should get in... shouldn’t I? Only, it’s not that simple. Let’s say your tech doesn’t collapse on you and you get past that, securing your seats. You have 10 minutes to pay up and the countdown is ticking.
Your best hope is that the bank’s two-factor authentification is working today. Then, a new set of fun and games come in when you’re informed about the rip-off booking fee, together with the offers of insurance and other “partners” endlessly trying to sell you stuff.
First world problem? Maybe. But it doesn’t feel that way when you’re on the receiving end. Now, imagine a whole new set of hurdles being added to that lot.
Welcome to disabled access hell; featuring a nightmarish set of confusing, contradictory and sometimes bureaucratically tortuous extra fences you have to clear before – maybe – getting to see your favourite band, sports team or show.
“We only have two suitable spaces and they all went within about 35 seconds to the people who knew the right hack to get hold of the tickets at the venue.” This, sadly, is the rule, not the exception, as the 2022 Euan’s Guide access survey, conducted with the support of Motability Operations, found.
Some 7,500 mostly disabled (98 per cent) people took part in the exercise. According to the survey, information that is confusing, contradictory and difficult to find (unless you have a PhD in navigating clunky websites) is excluding disabled people from the kinds of activities most people are able to participate in as a matter of course.
Dealing with ticketing companies is sometimes on a par with having dental surgery. Now: imagine it being carried out without painkillers. Too often, that is the disabled experience.
The AXS site for the O2 is, for the disabled buyer, for example, horribly complicated. I usually end up calling the venue’s access line. Its staff are great, no complaints there. But it is irksome being told by a canned voice that you can buy tickets online when trying to do so involves a descent into tech hell, even before you’ve dealt with the issue of “proof of disability”.
(Word to the wise, have your documents handy on a PDF.)
Once inside the O2, it’s plain sailing. Not all venues are. The Garage in Islington is one of those legendary venues where bands play when they’re on the way up.... but you’re not going to be able to see much, especially when it’s busy.
At a recent Mogwai show there, I found myself constantly buffeted, and at one point slammed into by a drunken gig goer. She barely managed a limp “sorry”, undermined by her giggling at it.
There was nothing funny from my perspective. I spent the next 20 minutes barely taking in the music as I tried to calm my shattered nerves.
Some smaller places just shrug. I recently wrote about a trip to Brighton – which some like to portray as “inclusion city” – but where finding a useable bathroom seems to be harder than finding someone willing to sell a Taylor Swift ticket at less than the headline price.
Yet it is possible to do it well. Camden’s Roundhouse would be an example. They send you an email asking if you need assistance after you’ve purchased your ticket.
Cambridge’s Corn Exchange was similarly impressive when I called up, and then on my first visit (to another Mogwai show) where the viewing could scarcely have been better. Good golly, I thought. Have I found myself in crip heaven? Or is it just because this venue has, you know, got the basics right?
Because here’s the thing: it’s not that hard. It just requires a little thought. Why is that so rare? The former Paralympian-turned-peer Tanni Grey-Thompson has recently been looking into the issue. I’ll be interested to see what she comes up with.
In the meantime, I’m sadly not alone: according to the Euan’s Guide survey, some 74 per cent of respondents said they had experienced a “disappointing trip” or had had to change plans due to poor accessibility.
I’ve mostly found that venues do try to make things work once I get there, whether it’s live music or a cafe. Some things can be irritating – such as people who aren’t disabled offering too much help where it’s not needed, and too little where it is.
But my experience is, if the survey is right, atypical. (And, full disclosure, I have the ability to use a pair of crutches, although I’m wobbly on them.)
These findings are shameful. It appears these issues are not being addressed – even though the results aren’t much different to last year’s exercise. Some 36 per cent of the respondents this year even feel like things are getting worse.
The existence of an organisation like Euan’s Place, which gives reviews of places with disabled access, is helpful. It is useful to be able to call upon the experience of other disabled people, whether you’re looking to go to Wembley Stadium for a sporting event or mega-show, or just looking for a local hall in which to hold a party. Sometimes, they can point to hacks which can make life a little easier.
But it is clear there is still much work to be done by venues. Particularly when it’s all so obvious: accessible parking (80 per cent) and accessible toilets (76 per cent) are among the top complaints.
This is basic stuff. Denial of access because of things you have no control over – like a disability – is discrimination. The lack of awareness, concern and (sometimes) overt prejudice people seem to have is immensely frustrating.
Disabled people should not be faced with being confined to their homes, but it appears that there are still people who think that’s acceptable.
Venue managers should remember this: Britain’s disabled community is the one minority group anyone can join. All you need to do is to try crossing the road at the wrong time. It could happen to you one day, at which point you might think very differently about how you get around.