‘Like anyone else’
Those are words I’ve longed to hear for a lifetime. That they should even be considered news in 2019 is unacceptable yet not all that shocking when you’re in my wheels.
Having a disability doesn’t mean I want special treatment, equality is all I ever ask for. More than anything I wish to blend in.
My first thought when reading the headline of this recent BBC News article was ‘is ‘huge step’ a pun?’. My second thought was ‘so what master plan have they come up with now that makes me jump through even more hoops just to buy gig tickets?’
My ticket buying experience as a wheelchair user has never been a smooth one. Dedicated phone lines charged at horrifying rates, open at limited times, that I’ve had to redial over 100 times on many occasions just to get a place in the queue, is my norm when purchasing tickets. That’s if I’m given the correct accessible booking line number in the first place. Some events require an application form to be filled out and disability proof to be sent even before the on sale day and I’ve managed to secure tickets. All this effort when I might not even get tickets?!
Effort, that’s what it is. And research. Having a disability, going through life on wheels involves a lot of ‘extra’ as it is, without the added stress of complicated ticket booking processes.
I’ve become a master planner when it comes to gigs. Checking out venue access, seating arrangements, booking procedure, allocation, proof required, the list goes on. It’s never a last minute thing for me. I just wouldn’t get tickets that way.
Only recently has it been a possibility to book accessible tickets online. Even now that’s not for every event or venue. And rarely in a presale.
I’ve never received gig tickets as a gift, I’d probably be apprehensive if I did. And shocked. You have to be skilled and experienced to book a wheelchair accessible ticket. In the know.
I had an experience recently when booking tickets to the upcoming Green Day Hella Mega tour, however hard I tried I could not secure a companion ticket online. I could purchase my wheelchair accessible ticket, but just that, just me, no other seats with me.
I don’t know about you, but gig going is a sociable thing for me, I want to enjoy the atmosphere with friends or family, my peers. After eventually getting through by phone, while also refreshing online, I asked why I couldn’t book the companion ticket and was told there’s currently a problem with booking those online, but I also couldn’t book my ticket over the phone.
I did eventually book my ticket online and was reassured a companion ticket will be allocated. I won’t feel confident until I turn up on the day and they are seated next to me.
Last year when booking tickets for Muse at London Stadium I struggled to book two wheelchair accessible tickets seated together. Because obviously we shouldn’t be going around in pairs. You can read more of my rant about that here.
So when I read the recent news that Ticketmaster are trialling a new system for booking accessible tickets, you can imagine I got a little flutter of excitement. Maybe my ranting days will be over.
With this new booking procedure a customer with access requirements will set up an account with Ticketmaster that details their needs, wheelchair space, hearing loop, disability proof, companion ticket, etc. This will only need to be done once and will stay on the system. Hopefully meaning that when you log in your needs will be known and therefore be bookable online. Wheelchair areas will be highlighted and clickable, along with seats close to a hearing loop.
It’s not a totally new idea though. I’ve been booking tickets in this way at my local theatre, Norwich Theatre Royal for a few years. Allocated wheelchair and companion seats can be clicked and purchased instantly, just like at many cinemas.
I’ve always wondered why this wasn’t easily transferred to larger venues. I know capacity is higher and layout can vary. But once a seating plan is in place for an event the booking process should be simple.
I’m looking forward to trialling this new booking system when it becomes available for venues closer to me. It could literally be life changing for frequent gig goers like myself, and definitely time saving!
I wonder if it will be possible to book multiple accessible tickets in the same booking, like with my Muse tickets issue? And as for booking as gifts for those with access needs, maybe one day.
It’s progress though, and that’s a promising start.
Just this week I successfully secured tickets to see The Killers in my local city, which is a shocker in itself. I’m going alone though, well I’ll be with my PA, companion, or ‘escort’ as the lady on the phone called them. That’s a new one. That’s because I was only allowed to book the one ticket, plus a complimentary ‘escort’, I don’t count that though, I don’t chose to have a stalker.
So what’s next? Maybe some day I’ll be able to enjoy a gig seated with a group of friends.
An edited version of this post was written for Muscular Dystrophy UK, which you can find here.