In England many events and venues have a policy that disabled people (or at least those using a wheelchair) can have a carer go free. So you pay just for the ticket for the wheelchair user and the person who is there to assist them has a free ticket.
This is a great way of encouraging wheelchair users to attend events and increases accessibility to culture. Certainly I wouldn’t be able to attend such events without someone to assist me.
The policy of reduced admission, or carer goes free varies from place to place.
At the Birmingham Hippodrome (Christmas 2007) we were offered wheelchair user at half price ticket and carer for free. The wheelchair space in the theatre had a great view of the stage and ample room to get into position. Also with the raked seating a special weighted area where it stopped rogue wheelchair rolling to the front! The staff were brilliant. It was very easy to access the building and everyone was friendly, professional and made eye contact with both me and my husband pushing me. We had our own fire safety talk about procedures for us in case of fire from a member of staff. And the toilets were great – the first disabled toilets marked with a wheelchair symbol and a person with a stick!
For the Lichfield Festival we were offered carer for free and a pass to allow a car to drop off disabled visitors (as parking is strictly controlled near the venue).
At National Trust venues we have been offered carer for free (and I think the admission for me was reduced but I can’t remember). Staff are generally friendly and keen to offer advice about areas suitable (and not suitable) for wheelchairs. At Saltram (2007) they were very helpful and professional. At Shugborough they were friendly but a bit too OTT in the house and we had a lecture about where we couldn’t go in case we damaged anything with the chair. The lady also insisted on speaking to me and me alone even though I was signalling I couldn’t comprehend her instructions. But a lot of them are volunteers so I guess that’s why it varies.
I’ve just booked tickets with the Civic Hall In Wolverhampton who make no concession for wheelchair users or their carers. Full price for everyone. They do have allocated seating although their access directions on their web site sounds like we have to make a special request on the night:
“Access to the Civic Hall is gained through our front doors, which are up a couple of steps, however, if alternative access is needed, there is door with ramped access to the far left of the front doors, where staff will be happy to help you.”
When we went to a gig at The Birmingham Academy last year I wasn’t using a wheelchair when we booked the tickets. By the time the gig was getting cose I was using a chair and I did request a wheelchair space thougg. The email exchange to arrange it was really good. We went to the front of the line and were let in first. The staff were friendly and made eye contact with me. However, the area for wheelchair users is on the balcony and you are basically fenced in with wheelchairs and chairs making a makeshift seated area. It makes getting in and out of the area really difficult because there’s no formality to how the seats are arranged. Also the height of the railings and handrail mean when you’re sitting down you can’t see the stage because the thick handrail blocks your view. Only a few people had pre-booked disabled places but by the time the gig started there was a lot of us – 3 or 4 deep in places. There’s no way everyone could see and being fenced in together it felt kind of uncomfortable.
Then there was The Academy toilet situation! The ladies toilet was close by on the same level but not accessible. The gents toilet was down a flight of stairs. The disabled toilet required asking staff for directions and then having to negotiate a back office just wide enough for a wheelchair with two sets of fire doors. The toilet was radar locked which is fine but we had to hunt for a member of staff to then radio someone else to get a key (I now have my own!). It was, to be honest, a bit of a nightmare.
I know most of this won’t be of much relevance but maybe someone might search about wheelchair access to these venues and this might give them an insight!
Meanwhile I shall continue to sulk (just a little) about having to pay full whack for my Dara O’Briain tickets in October at the Civic Hall – even though usually I feel a bit embarrassed when I get a discount just for not being able to walk through their theatre.