The Cure, Franz Ferdinand, Alt-J and Mystery Jets are among artists supporting an online campaign to encourage UK venues and festivals to work with Attitude Is Everything to improve access for music fans with disabilities.
The charity’s Charter of Best Practice, which currently endorses more than 90 participants at three levels, involves adopting best practice standards and allowing volunteer deaf or disabled “mystery shoppers” to supply detailed feedback on practical accessibility issues. Gold standard accreditations currently include the O2 Arena and Glastonbury, while Latitude and Download have joined this year at Silver level.
The campaign follows publication earlier this year by Attitude Is Everything, whose patrons include Robert Wyatt and Alan McGee, of a UK State Of Access Report based around mystery shopper reports on 228 venues and festivals between 2011 and 2013. A shocking 95% of mystery shoppers reported experience of unequal booking systems. A follow-up survey of the country’s ten leading venues found just two allowing online booking by gig-goers with disabilities, with the rest supplying only a telephone number with limited opening hours. 88% felt discriminated against and 83% had been put off going to the event.
While 66% of venues had a step-free entrance, just 44% had all three key components of physical accessibility: a step-free entrance, step-free routes to all areas and at least one functional accessible toilet. Even more important to gig-goers’ overall accessibility and enjoyment ratings for an event was the provision of a designated viewing platform or area, yet only 42% of venues and 67% of festivals provided this.
The research also revealed a correlation between the size of a venue and its accommodation of visitors with disabilities, with large festivals and venues performing better than smaller in terms of free Personal Assistant tickets and accessible toilets.
The social media campaign, #MusicWithoutBarriers is also supported by the Musicians Union and Featured Artists Coalition and seeks to promote four key messages:
• Improving access to live music doesn’t have to be costly
• There is a strong business case for improving accessibility
• Access information in advance of an event is crucial
• Not all disabled people are wheelchair users
Download promoters Live Nation will now work with Attitude Is Everything toward Gold level Charter accreditation for 2015. Download was praised for its well-equipped and established accessible campsite featuring accessible changing room, showers and toilets with dedicated cleaners plus its own supermarket, information office, lockers and food stall. It has a dedicated entrance, two routes to the arena and plenty of track-way. The Main Stage arena viewing platform has seating, both accessible and standard toilets and power-chair charging, and the festival’s commitment to gathering customer feedback online was described as “a fantastic example”.
The Attitude Is Everything website has a wealth of information for event planners, and you can request Charter accreditation online. Or, if you’re deaf or have a disability, why not sign up as a Mystery Shopper.
What are your experiences, and what’s your favourite festival or venue in terms of accessibility?