National media reports about difficulties encountered by disabled fans who tried to book tickets for Peter Kay’s tour merely highlight some of the ways in which the world of entertainment could do better.
The particular problem they faced was with the telephone booking system which used a premium rate number and which also diverted callers to a different option to order tickets for disabled fans.
The comedian has now cancelled the tour for personal reasons, but the concerns remain valid – disabled people should be able to use the same booking system as anyone else.
Event organisers and promoters should consider the needs of disabled people at every stage of the process, starting with the research a customer can be expected to carry out in advance.
People will look at a venue and they will want to see good, accurate information about how accessible it is. One of the first things a disabled visitor will do is consult the website to find out if the environment will allow them to physically use the facilities, whether it’s a music event, a play or some other performance.
We work with major entertainment venues of all sizes and we assess the information provided on the websites. We consider whether it is comprehensive enough to help disabled people make an informed choice about how to plan their visit, and even whether to go ahead with their visit.
For example, not all wheelchair users need carers but many people who are not wheelchair-users do need carers. What is the policy with assistance dogs? Is there an audio description option for people who have a visual impairment?
Does a venue have a relaxed performance which is suitable for people with autism? You would raise the lighting levels slightly or even significantly, you would not have as many bangs and clatters as in the main performance, and you would advertise the details of the relaxed performance so that people who want to attend are aware of its availability.
It helps to ensure that more people can enjoy the show, in the same way as you would promote a signed performance or a captioned performance, where the actors’ words appear on screens, placed next to the stage or in the set, at the same time as they are spoken or sung. Captions can also include additional information such as speaker names, sound effects and offstage noises.
Amateur dramatic companies will not usually have the same resources or standard of facilities but the organisers should still give some thought to accommodating disabled people who want to attend.