Music Task Force Launched in UK to Improve Disability Access to Concerts

Jena Ardell/Getty Images
           

"In 2018, every large-scale music event should be all-inclusive," said Suzanne Bull, CEO of British music charity Attitude is Everything.

A new music task force has been launched in the United Kingdom to make it easier for deaf and disabled audiences to book tickets to live concerts. 

Going by the name Ticketing Without Barriers, the initiative is supported by some of the U.K.'s leading ticketing agencies, promoters, venues and trade bodies, including Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Eventim, AEG Presents, Kilimanjaro, Festival Republic, London's O2 Arena and PRS for Music.

"In 2018, every large-scale music event should be all-inclusive," said Suzanne Bull, CEO of the British music charity Attitude is Everything that will oversee the coalition. 

"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," continued Bull, who said the music business has "power to fix this." 

The launch of the Ticketing Without Barriers coalition coincides with the publication of Attitude is Everything's fourth 'State of Access Report,' which examines the barriers faced by deaf and disabled music fans attending live music events. Just under 350 people took part in its latest survey with over 80 percent reporting that that they had experienced problems when booking tickets to shows. 

In the report, 79 percent said they had been put off buying gig tickets due to problems booking the necessary access requirements, while over 70 percent said that they had felt discriminated against. One in 10 respondents said that they had considered legal action as a result. 

Three quarters of respondents did, however, believe that the situation had either improved or at least stayed the same over the past four years. 

The report also highlights the value of deaf and disabled music fans to the live industry with the 349 people surveyed attending an average of nine gigs a year with an average ticket price of £48 ($68) and additional merchandise and food cost of £30 ($42) per show. That totals around £250,000 ($350,000) per year from just a small cross section of gig goers. According to government data, an estimated 3.3 million disabled adults attend at least one live music event each year in the United Kingdom. 

Common requirements for deaf and disabled concert goers include booking a ticket for a personal assistant, a wheel-chair accessible space, step-free seat and accessible toilet and, in some instances, sign language interpretation.    

To better improve the experience for deaf and disabled audiences when booking tickets for live music events, Attitude is Everything highlights five key areas to grow inclusion. They include: A simple and universally recognized system for evidencing access requirements, adopted by the whole music industry; Accurate and disability-aware information and customer service; Greater choice and flexibility when booking tickets, including the ability to book key access provisions online and whole party booking; To be able to trust that access requirements will be met; And equal access to everything, including pre-sale, VIP and meet and greet ticketing options, as well as the ability to resell accessible seating. 

"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," said Sarah Newton, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work in a statement welcoming the announcement. 

Noting that disabled people and their households have an estimated combined spending power of £249 billion ($350 billion) a year, Newton said that "being inclusive isn't just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense."

"We are proud to have supported the publication of this report and encourage the whole of the live music industry to follow those who have already played their part in making sure their venues and events are open to everyone," added Michael Dugher, chief executive of umbrella organization UK Music. "We should not rest until we can ensure equal access for everyone," he stated. 

The U.K. Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), which formed its own Accessible Ticketing Group in the wake of 2014's 'State of Access Report' and has produced a best practice guide on meeting the needs of disabled customers, also welcomed the launch of a new task force dedicated to the issue. 

"There is still much to be done," said STAR chief executive Jonathan Brown, "and we therefore welcome the Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition to help bring about further significant and necessary improvements."