Guest post by Samantha (written jointly with PeskyPeople)

UPDATE: 28th May 2012

Hi again, Samantha here. I thought I’d update this post, as the Coldplay concert is this Friday, and we’re no further along in getting accessible seats that actually meet my needs.

My tickets arrived on Friday 27th April, over 5 months after booking tickets. This was the first time I actually knew what seats I had been allocated. My seats are in Block 114, Upper Tier.

This seating plan for the concert from the Seatwave website shows roughly where my seats will be.

Seating plan for the Emirates Stadium, with block 114 circled in red

So, my “accessible” seats are on the highest tier of the stadium, looking completely side on to the stage. Not good seats by anyone’s standards, and I fail to see how these seats consistitute a reasonable adjustment for someone with a visual impairment?!? It is evident that there are a lot of seats much much closer to the stage!

Furthermore, the seats are on the highest level of the stadium, which means A LOT of steps. As I have no depth perception, I find unfamiliar steps quite challenging, I have to take them slowly, as I am liable to misjudge them and slip. So these seats could not be further from ensuring my safety!! Also, because my disability is not immediately apparent to strangers, people tend to get quite stroppy and rude when you’re holding them up by going slowly. I find this really upsetting, humiliating and embarrassing. Thanks Arsenal, I’m really looking forward to that!

Something else struck me, when my brother, far too late, indicated that he would’ve liked to have gone to the concert too. Are disabled people allowed to attend concerts with more than just their PA/carer?? What if I had wanted to attend with more than one other person? As I have been put in the disabled enclave with all the other “ambulant disabled”, presumably, my friends wouldn’t be able to sit with me!?? Or they’d have to put up with rubbish seats too? I dread to think how the medieval booking system would have coped with ordering disabled, carer and standard tickets all in one booking!! Maybe something to try next time…

So, this morning, I actually tried it out a little. I googled tickets for Coldplay’s Manchester dates, and after some digging, I was led to this page on Manchester City FC’s website. It states:

“Tckets are also on sale through:

For Wheelchair enquiries contact 0161 444 1894.

For Disabled Ambulant tickets, please contact 0844 854 1360.”

A quick google shows me that wheelchair users have to contact the stadium, while Ambulant disabled (there’s that lovely term again) have to call a different number. Googling tells me it’s actually gigsandtours’ dedicated Coldplay line, although when you speak to them, they don’t volunteer that it is gigsandtours.

Here’s roughly how that conversation went:

Gigsandtours: Hello, Coldplay ticket line

Me: Hi there, I wonder if you can help me, I’m registered blind and wondered if you had any ambulant disabled tickets for any of Coldplay’s dates? I know it’s a longshot!

Gigsandtours: I don’t think we do them, I think you have to contact the venue.

Me: No, the venue only deal with tickets for wheelchair users, their website says to call this number.

Gigsandtours: *looks on system* no, there are reserved seating tickets, but no disabled….I think you have to contact the venue.

Me: No, the venue’s website gives this number for disabled ambulant tickets.

Gigsandtours: Can you hold while I talk to my supervisor… *hold music* No, sorry, we have totally sold out of those tickets.

Me: Oh well, I knew it was a longshot, thanks anyway.

You’ll know by now that it comes as no surprise that they didn’t know what they were responsible for, or how to book tickets, or even that they tried to fob me off. And I expected them to have sold out, so no surprise there either… but then I got to thinking….

Hang on, why do they still HAVE a dedicated Coldplay ticket line? That must mean some tickets are still available. And he SAID that his computer was showing reserved seating tickets, but no disabled tickets. So, that means. there are tickets left. So if you are able bodied, you can still book tickets for the second, Manchester date that was announced later. But NOT if you have a disablity?!?

Is THAT equality of access?!

Now, I understand that due to Fire Regulations and stuff, there is often a limit on the amount of spaces available for wheelchair users at a venue. But I, and lots of other people with disabilities, don’t need a wheelchair space. I need a regular seat, or standing ticket, but to be accompanied by a PA to enable me to attend. But apparently, there is a limit on the number of tickets they can sell to people with a disability, even if there are tickets left for everyone else!

So, I’m officially adding Gigsandtours to the Rollcall of Shame!

Original post below:

On Friday  18th November 2011, thousands of fans swamped#the online ticket agencies and telephone lines to eagerly snap up tickets for Coldplay’s newly announced June performance dates. They sold out in half an hour.

Disabled fans could not even book a ticket! Not because they didn’t get through quick enough on the phone lines or online booking, but because the system in place to make the booking was so flawed it was impossible. Everyone else just got online and booked.

  • The dedicated number for Disabled fans didn’t open till 9.30pm (some sites saying it was already open) even though all tickets went on sale at 9am across all booking agencies and sold out by 9.30am.
  • The dedicated phone number for info  turned out to be an answer phone message redirecting you to London Emirates (Arsenal Football Club Disabled supporters line). None was answering it despite repeated attempts.
  • Arsenal Football Club website didn’t display the booking information till four hours after tickets sold out.

Only when I finally got through to the booking number:

  • I couldn’t book over the phone they won’t accept phone bookings
  • I couldn’t book by email their server would reject any emails with credit card details in it
  • I had no choice but to print out the form, fill it in, sign it and post it.  
  • The seats I was finally offered took 4 months to arrive (yes it took FOUR MONTHS TO ALLOCATE TICKETS (I got them on 19th March 2012). 
  • The seats are so far back from the main stage I won’t be able to ‘see’ anything even using my low vision aids. I could have ignored the access stuff and offer of free PA ticket and just paid for standing seats like everyone else. 

Coldplay is a big supporter of disability charities  (more about that later) shame this doesn’t extend to the management of gigs and booking options and arrangements for disabled fans.

I’m now completely disappointed and let down. Basically ticket agencies and the venues are operating  a disability apartheid telling disabled fans their custom is not wanted.

Arsenal as a venue (like many others) insists on separate arrangements for disabled people requesting tickets. So why all the hassle? Everyone else books at their own convenience online – why can’t we?

I’ve experienced many hurdles to book tickets for gigs in the past but this was one of the worst.

Ticketmaster and Ticketline WON’T let you book tickets via their websites for any venue if you are disabled and need a carer/PA ticket (which is sometimes offered free with your ticket). You have to contact the venue concerned. WHY?

With no info available I spent ages googling and searching for the right information. You’d need to be an armchair detective to find it all.

Ticketmaster website shows no accessible seating arrangements.

Alison @peskypeople found a link signposted to a page that said Request Accessible Seating tickets- but it was impossible to go further because there was no phone number, opening times or web/email address available to contact them!  She even went via their website and left a message with staff to ring back.

So far, so frustrating, right?

I rang the number from Ticketline only to get a recorded message that said they had no information on accessibility bookings for Coldplay tickets and were not taking bookings!

The message said the information would be posted on their website once available.

 

So the phone line given wasn’t open, both Ticketline, Ticketmaster and Arsenal football club websites had no information and the phone line wouldn’t provide the service. Coldplay was sold out and I was getting no where.

@peskypeople tried to help me out at this point and finally made an audioboo recording of the answerphone message. You have to go to nearly the end (all 29 seconds of it) to find out you can hang on and speak to a real live person!

But most people, like me, will sign off early on in the phone call without discovering this, especially if they do not have internet access, or have already established there’s no information online!

Alison got though and was told that the promoters for Coldplay had not been released the seating plan. Why not? Under the Equalities Act 2010 they have to make reasonable adjustments and anticipate the needs of their customers. It’s not rocket science.

So everyone else who was successful simply phoned up or booked direct via the ticket line agencies’ online systems taking a couple of minutes out of their day. EASY.

If you had access needs you were well and truly stuffed!

Coldplay tickets went on sale at 9am, every website said this in black and white. But these were quickly updated to say “Unfortunately this event has now sold out”. You’d be forgiven, as a customer with access needs, for assuming there was no point continuing to attempt to get tickets at this point. But the truth is, the route to get access tickets hadn’t even started yet.

So it was now over FOUR hours since tickets went on sale on 18th November 2011.

First there was no information from Ticketmaster, Ticketline and Arsenal …

 

Finally although Arsenal released the information four hours later.

You can only book by post – not by telephone, email or online …

 

 

It’s one thing to not be able to book online it is another to be faced with the terms ‘Ambulant Disabled’ (walking difficulties, blind & visually impaired’

But the fact is Arsenal Football Club only published the online booking arrangements for the Coldplay concert … after Pesky People rang them and pointed this out!

Worse still they admitted they didin’t have that information available from the promoters before the tickets were released that morning!

So now you think I’d have the chance to book a ticket, right. Er no  – not quite.  I then realised I had no working printer at the time, so I phoned them again.

Could I email the form back, but give my card details over the phone.? NO! At first they couldn’t answer because their Disability Liaison Officer wasn’t in. After some bemusement and consternation on their part (why would I actually want to know if I’ve got tickets or not?), they got back to me.

Iyour printer isn’t working any tickets bought from Arsenal Football Club involves them sending it to you by post, then you have to return it.  You won’t know if you have got the tickets until they decided to let you know. It took them FOUR months to tell me!!

That was bad enough – but what was the location in the stadium – was I standing or seating?

As an able-bodied customer, you would have some choice about selecting your seat online, or by phone. On Arsenal’s form, as a wheelchair user, you have a choice of upper or lower tier. As “ambulant disabled” (i.e. you can walk- what a lovely turn of phrase that is!), you have a choice of upper tier … or … upper tier!

As someone who is visually impaired, I use low vision aids at concerts and need to get as close to the action as possible to be able to see anything. Being seated on the upper tier doesn’t really meet my access needs AT ALL!

By this point, I’d missed the opportunity to just ignore their access stuff and book my own tickets, where I would have had a choice of location.

Is this not effectively a disability apartheid, telling disabled fans your custom is not wanted? That’s certainly what it felt like!

  • Pesky People once again tried to help. Alison spoke to their Disability Liaison person, who said it would “possibly” be possible to offer me standing general admission tickets, as I wanted.
  • So, I waited four days for them to post the form to me, and completed it. I wrote clearly that I wanted general admission standing tickets, that upper tier tickets did not meet my needs, and explained why.
  • On 6th December, 2011 I got email confirmation saying I had tickets, with no details of their location, pricing etc. No mention was made of my request.
  • On January 18th, I got an email, misspelling my name, confirming my seated tickets in the upper tier, where I won’t be able to see anything! Once again, no mention was made of my request.
  • I immediately replied querying this, but heard nothing. On 10th March, I emailed again.
  •  I finally got a reply on 19th March, four months after trying to book the tickets, which informed me that the Disabled Liaison Team have not been given access to any standing tickets on the pitch. They did however offer to change my tickets to a disabled spectators platform on the pitch for the concert four days later.
  • That might be a nice offer but, unsurprisingly, for a concert booked four months ago, I have already booked time off work, accommodation and travel, so not an offer that is any use to me. Why can’t I decide when is a convenient time to go to see Coldplay, and where I’d like to sit? After all, everyone else can!
  • Of course, an on pitch platform is likely to be nearer the stage than upper tier tickets, but, in my experience, are usually still pretty far back. Once again, they are set up to meet the needs of wheelchair users, not people with visual impairments.
  • I replied, explaining how I had already made travel plans, and how the on pitch platform still is unlikely to meet my needs. Their reply is that they can offer nothing else, but if I call a few days before, they might be able to put me on the viewing platform for the Friday.

I feel massively let down by all the ticket agencies, Arsenal football Club and The Emirates Stadium.

So even though Coldplay/Arsenal/the tour promoter do offer a free ticket for disabled people taking a PA, if I had joined the phone/online queue and paid the full price for two tickets, I would be in the standing area, where I’d be able to use my low vision aids to see Coldplay on stage, without the hassle and hoops I have had to jump through.

This really explains why most of the time, I don’t even bother trying to get access arrangements made, paying full price for a ticket for the person accompanying me through normal channels. You have to jump through so many hoops, you have no choice, and you end up with unsuitable tickets, if you end up with tickets at all.

There is some irony here, because Coldplay are big supporters of MENCAP and Chris Martin  and Jonny Buckland both performed a week after the tickets went on sale (on 24th November 2011), as part of MENCAP’s Little Noise Sessions in London. Clearly they are supporters of charities for people with disabilities.

Unfortunately the venue information on The Little Noise Sessions website also failed to mention any disability access arrangements. You couldn’t make this up, boys and girls!!

It’s astounding that, despite bands like Coldplay supporting disabled people and charities, that the management, promoters, venues hosting gigs and their Disabled Access Teams see fit to bunch all disabled people into one lump group, and decide what they think is the most suitable arrangement in a catch all one size fits all manner.

All disabled and deaf people are different, they have different access needs and aren’t a homogenous group.

So come on Ticketmaster, See Tickets, TicketLine, Promoters, Arsenal (and other venues), get your act together and give customers with disabilities the respect they deserve.

After all, we are worth £80 billion a year economically – don’t you want a slice of it?

Who want’s to read *This event has now sold out* through no fault of their own?