What Are London's Music Venues And Festivals Doing For People With Disabilities?

By Londonist Last edited 23 months ago
What Are London's Music Venues And Festivals Doing For People With Disabilities?

Suzanne Bull MBE is CEO of Attitude is Everything, an independent charity working to improve deaf and disabled people's access to live music. Here she writes about the charity's work, and her own experiences of live music in London.

Suzanne at O2 Academy Brixton

When I first started going to gigs and festivals, 20 years ago now, experiencing live music as a wheelchair user was tough.

There was either no access or a little bit of access. And on the occasions where there was a viewing platform, I was either alone on it or I could practically name everyone else there!

Thankfully, things have improved considerably since then. According to government data, an incredible 3.6 million disabled people in the UK currently attend live music events each year.

Indeed, Attitude is Everything, with its mission to improve access to live music, now has more than 100 festivals and venues signed up to our Charter of Best Practice.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, more than a quarter of these are based in London — from likes of The O2, Brixton Academy and Field Day through to relatively small places like The Half Moon in Putney and Camden’s Cecil Sharp House.

Regardless of capacity, all have committed to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to improving accessibility and providing a fair and equal service to their deaf and disabled customers.

As a charity, we have led training sessions in disability awareness for more than 5,000 industry professionals and, increasingly, promoters and venue owners are actively seeking our help in order to meet their customers' needs.

In turn, this is changing recognition that disabled people can’t just be segmented as 'wheelchair users' and that organisers are also required to meet the requirements of those with visual and hearing impairments, mental health conditions, or learning disabilities.

Ironically, despite so much good progress on the ground, much of Attitude is Everything’s current focus is in the digital realm and a lack of good access information online.

This was highlighted by our recently published State of Access Report, that revealed from a survey of 386 festivals and venues, that one in three of them provided zero access information on their website.

In fact, less than one in five provided information we would rate as 'good'.

Given the extent that digital innovation has revolutionised live music, this is a really significant issue to fix.

Evidence suggests that 60% of disabled gig-goers simply won’t buy a ticket if they’re unsure of an event’s facilities. And it’s why we’ve recently launched a campaign called Access Starts Online, offering venues and festivals a ready-made template so they can easily add an access page to their website.

To help us spread the word, we’ve enlisted the help of organisations like the Association of Independent Festivals and Independent Venue Week, as well as MPs — but we need fans to get involved too.

So please, consider this a shout out to the music lovers of London: whether you’re disabled or not, if you notice that your favourite venue or festival is lacking in access information, direct them to the Access Starts Online campaign page and ask them to make use of it.

It should only take an hour, but the impact could be immense, helping towards a major step forward in creating true inclusivity for all.

And isn't that, after all, what a great gig is all about?

Last Updated 10 March 2016