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30th January 2020

Ableist music venues: an ongoing discrimination crisis in music

Concert venues are not providing sufficient support for disabled audience members, Jasmine Taylor shares her experiences
Ableist music venues: an ongoing discrimination crisis in music
concert venues photo: Boga Rín @UnSplash

This year has seen a wealth of band reunion tours announced; among them the likes of Mötley Crüe, Rage Against the Machine and, most recently, My Chemical Romance. Unsurprisingly fans old and new are gearing to snap up tickets to see them live. However, one demographic has been consistently left out.

The disabled community faces countless prejudices daily, and even in 2020 very little appears to have changed when it comes to entertainment. Ticket release sites may occasionally provide an access line for events – a separate booking line dedicated to issuing disabled customers with appropriate tickets – but this in itself is frequently inaccessible, and staff bolster near-medieval attitudes towards disabled patrons.

As a disabled person, I suffer from dissociative seizures and several chronic conditions, and my personal experience with concert accessibility has been abhorrent. Festivals have denied me access to disabled toilets and neglected to meet appropriate safety measures, and venues have told me that they don’t cater for my disability, or that my attendance would be “inappropriate.” Whilst calling the access line I’ve even been told that they couldn’t admit me and my carer because I was not a wheelchair user.

On the 24th of January, I tried to secure tickets for both my carer and myself to see my all-time favourite band, My Chemical Romance. We were worried the event would be inaccessible and called days ahead to ease our minds. The venue reassured us that all staff would be fully briefed and that we could relax, yet we were among hundreds who were let down the day ticket sales were opened. The dedicated phone line didn’t work, repeatedly hanging up on customers who then expressed their distress online. Evidently, non-disabled fans were not faced with the same barriers as a couple of hours after a near-instant sell-out, resale sites such as Stubhub had several tickets listed for prices exceeding £1,500. It illustrated that ticket providers had once again neglected disabled patrons in favour of the profit generated from these scalpers.

We spoke to fan Lisa Delin, who detailed her exhaustive efforts to secure accessible tickets. Rejected from the queue 193 times, and spending almost 7 hours on the phone, she said “ things need to change – it’s stressful enough having to live with a disability, let alone going through [this] ordeal that thousands of us have to.”

Facebook user Lyndal Hay was also among those left unsupported by the organisers. Commenting under a concert announcement, she said that herself and the two other wheelchair users in her party had tried for hours. “[I] would be gutted if [there were] no tickets, but to be held in a queue, thrown out [in] endless loops 68 times now? I gave up.”

Society is slowly adopting a social model of disability, one where we view society as the barrier for disabilities, hence demanding that society changes. Under the Equality Act of 2010, organisations have the responsibility to make reasonable accommodations for disabled people. Unfortunately there is little regulation that actually enforces this and disabled people continually face frustrating discrimination. And, when it comes to venues, there is no excuse. Providing a ramp and lift access should be granted, but even these low standards are rarely met. Other basic measures such as accessible toilets, booking systems, and limited ticket options are rarely provided.

The message seems to be that disabled people shouldn’t be able to enjoy concerts like everyone else. Society often confines us to ‘wheelchair areas’, expecting us to not drink alcohol or not allowing us to buy standing tickets. These outdated stigmas are widespread, and deeply affecting to those exhausted by the constant struggle of a disabling society; it’s time to change.

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