Hello, Samantha here, with a long overdue update on the Doctor Who Celebration Convention access issues I blogged about back in July.
A brief reminder: disabled fans were told, wrongly it seems, that they had to phone the box office when tickets went on sale to get access and carer tickets (apparently it was only the carer tickets that needed to be booked this way, but this was contrary to information given in response to queries to the access email address). This meant disabled people were phoning a premium rate phone line, while others could book for free. The phone line was heavily subscribed, so it took many, many calls to get through, and I, and others, kept getting disconnected whilst in the queue.
While this certainly doesn’t equate to equality of access, the major issue was that, when phoning, we were told you couldn’t book a photo opportunity with Matt Smith over the phone. You could only do this on the website. AFTER buying your tickets. This meant disabled people couldn’t buy a photo opportunity with Matt, without buying further tickets they didn’t need (and the site specified no refunds).
I blogged about the huge numbers of tweets from disabled fans who had had the same problem. All these tweets, along with emails we’d had here at Pesky People from other disabled fans, were passed to the BBC, who promised to provide a satisfactory outcome for everyone.
Sadly, this failed to materialise, for me at least, and, as far as I could tell from tweets and emails from other disabled people, for others too. I blogged in August, about how the BBC had fallen silent and stopped responding to emails. I emailed them that blog post too, as I had with all the others.
As they still didn’t respond, I took the decision to file an Equality Act Prohibited Conduct Questionnaire. This is a legal document that allows you to communicate to a company or service provider that you feel they may have committed disability discrimination by breaking the Equality Act. It allows you to ask for their response, and to request information. They have 8 weeks to respond. They don’t have to respond, but if they don’t answer in 8 weeks, or “answer in an evasive or equivocol way, a court or tribunal may draw an inference from this”. Both the questionnaire and any answers would be looked at by any court or tribunal, if a case is taken further. It’s a hefty document, and takes a fair bit of work to complete.
I sent the questionnaire to the BBC on 5th September, which gave them until 31st October to respond. On 23rd October, 6 weeks and 6 days into the alloted 8 weeks, I recieved an email from BBC Worldwide’s Head of Exhibitions and Events.
Unfortunately, the BBC have refused to give permisson for me to publish their letter here for you to read, however, after checking the legallities, because I never agreed to any confidentiality clause, I am allowed to summarise what they said:
- They acknowledge and regret the difficulties
- They have taken the issues seriously and put measures in place to stop similar situations happening in the future
- They had over 20,000 more calls than anticipated, due to an incorrect presale code being emailed out
- It was not their intention to prevent disabled customers obtaining a photo opportunity
- They offered disabled customers who phoned while photo opportunities were still on sale, and who informed the BBC that they had been unable to do so, a photo opportunity
- They were now able to offer a very limited number of further photo opportunities, and have decided to offer these to disabled customers who phoned during the original ticket sale, and who had informed the BBC that they had been unable to purchase a photo opportunity.
They offered me:
- A photo opportunity with Matt Smith
- The signed photo previously offered
- a complimentary standard entry ticket for the Saturday, plus carer’s ticket
- They said they couldn’t swap my TARDIS/VIP Sunday ticket for a TARDIS Saturday ticket, but would refund my Sunday ticket if I wished.
- They gave me until Monday 28th October to respond
While their offer would’ve been great, if it had come back in July following the incident, I was concerned that although they had made this offer to me, others might not have been offered the same, although it did look like others would be offered a photo opportunity, which I was really pleased about.
After checking out the legalities, I discovered that pursuing it further would still only result in a resolution for me, not others, so I decided to accept their offer, if they were able to address a number of outstanding issues. I emailed back, explaining::
- That I, and our readers here, would be very interested to hear what measures they had put in place to ensure similar situations did not occur in the future.
- That there was still scant information on the official website regarding accessibility arrangements and reasonable adjustments for the event itself, and I would appreciate clarification of these. I gave full details of my access needs and what arrangements would be helpful.
- That the official website remained very inaccessible, doesn’t respond to increasing the text size in Internet Explorer, and has grey text on a brown background on at least one page.
- That I was still awaiting a refund of outstanding expenses relating to providing accessibility recommendations to the Doctor Who Experience in 2011.
- That I had been unable to access the TARDIS set tours during the summer, as the response from their access email address had taken a week, and two emails, by which point, it had sold out.
- That, since I have friends who got tickets in the second ballot, who chose to attend on the Sunday so we could go together, I would opt to go to the convention on both days, rather than accept a refund.
- Finally, I asked permission to publish their response here.
I received a further reply on 31st October, which said:
- They would arrange payment of the outstanding travel expenses and someone would be in touch shortly
- That TARDIS tours were once again being offered, from 25th October until 2nd December
- Further accessibility arrangements will be put on the official website as soon as possible
- The website accessibility is under review
- That they would not allow me to publish their response, as their policy was to respond to complaints on an individual basis
- That they now consider the matter resolved and would therefore not be responding to the Prohibited Conduct Questionnaire.
I’ve booked my TARDIS tour, arranged a PA for the Saturday at the Celebration, and they’ve been in contact to arrange payment of my expenses. The signed photo arrived very promptly. I, and everyone else, are still waiting for the access arrangements to be listed on their website.
I’ve had confirmation from one of the other people who had similar issues to me, that the BBC have indeed been in touch to offer a photo opportunity with Matt Smith, so that’s great news.
We’d love to hear from other people who had the same issue, and hear how their complaint was resolved.