Well hello, this is Samantha blogging once again on disabled access to events tickets.

I love Doctor Who. I mean, really, REALLY.  I want a TARDIS so badly. So you’d think I’d be pleased to have suddenly gone back in time….

This morning, I appear to have been transported back to April 2011.

Some of you might remember my rather disasterous visit to the Doctor Who Experience, with their unusual take on disabled access.  To their credit, BBC Worldwide stepped up, they asked us for advice on how to improve accessibility and invited me and Alison, the original Pesky Person, back to see the new facilities.

In March of this year, an official Doctor Who convention, celebrating the 5oth Anniversary of the show, was announced. I was very excited.  There was no further information until July 4th, at which point it was announced that tickets would go on sale on Monday 8th July, today, at 11am. Those who had signed up for the email updated, me included, could buy tickets from 9am.

The website said that disabled customers were entitled to a free carer/PA ticket. Great, I thought.

But then the website stated that this could only be arranged by phone, not on the website like everyone else. Not really equality of access, but so far, so familiar *rolls eyes*.

As a lot of event organisers seem to assume everyone with a disability is a wheelchair user, and have a seating area allocated to such customers that is not actually at all suitable to someone with a visual impairment, I decided to email before tickets went on sale. I thought I’d ask about seating suitable to my needs, and also sound out whether I could buy my ticket online and then contact them for the PA ticket, as I was worried phonelines would be jammed.

So, on the same day, 4th July, I emailed this:

Hi there,

I’d love to attend the event, I’m registered blind so would need to attend with a carer. I can see that a free carer ticket is being offered if you call, but I expect booking lines to be very busy on Monday. What is the best way to arrange this?

As I use low vision aids, would it be possible to arrange seats as near the front as possible for shows, so I can use these?

Is any information available on the different ticket types?

Thank you,

I got a reply on 6th July:

Hi Samantha, 

 We offer a free ticket to a carer accompanying a disabled person and to arrange this, please book tickets via the event Box Office  on Monday- 0844 6930780 (N.B: The Box Office may ask to see a disabled pass when tickets are redeemed onsite).
There will be seats available at the front of the theatres for those who use low vision aids. 
Please visit the following link for further information on tickets: http://celebration.doctorwho.tv/tickets
Kind regards,
Hmmmm, didn’t really address my point about phonelines being busy… what I really wanted was to be able to book my ticket online, then contact them for the PA ticket. Oh well, I’ll just have to try it and see, I thought.
July 8th dawned, and I woke with laryngitis. Which kind of makes it difficult to phone, what with no voice at all. Offering most customers the option to book online or on the phone, but disabled customers have to phone, is not equality of access, under the Equalities Act 2010. But it’s also just not practical. What if you can’t speak, due to your disability? Have social phobia and can’t manage phonecalls? Are Deaf? How do you book tickets then??
So I wrote all the details of what I wanted down for my PA/Carer to call. We started calling a couple of minutes after 9. It’s an 0844 number, costing up to 12p per minute, plus a connection charge of 12-13p for each call made. It’s not included in inclusive minutes.
We got through, automated message, thanking you for holding. Then, after a few seconds of beeps, it cut off. We tried again. And again, and again, and again, and again. Same thing. We both started tweeting @DWCelebration, while hitting redial. @DWCelebration were doing a grand job of responding to queries, but ignored our tweets completely.
Next, the phone line kept coming up as engaged, time and time again. We finally got through after almost an hour of trying (those 13p connection fees are gonna add up, folks).
I wanted VIP tickets for the Saturday, as one of the Doctors, Tom Baker, is only going to be there on the Saturday. It was sold out, both VIP and regular. I’m not happy, but opt to book for the Sunday.
We then ask about booking for photo opportunities and autogrpahs, which the website says you need to book in advance. We’re told we can’t do this over the phone, only on the website. You know, the one we couldn’t use to book tickets? Yeah, that one!
While payment is being taken, I look at the website. There is NO WAY to book autographs and photo sessions without booking a ticket. My PA tells the woman on the phone, she checks, then agrees, she can’t find how to do it either. She goes to ask someone, but comes back on the line to say no one knows and most people she could ask are on the phone.
While I rage, mostly silently, emitting the odd squeak, my PA calmly explains equality of access. The woman on the phone is apologetic, but can’t help. After some pushing, she agrees to pass the query on, and takes contact details.
The website makes it very clear that photo opportunities are extremely limited. I’m fairly sure this failure of access will mean I miss that, as well as missing Tom Baker.
Did they learn nothing from last time? From the bad press? From all the advice they were given?!
EDIT: When I returned to the Doctor Who Experience to see and advise on their new access arrangements, I was asked to email my thoughts and further ideas for improvements. I never got a reply. Nor did they ever refund the promised travel expenses to me, or to Alison. We’ve been chasing them for that money for 18 months. They don’t reply to our emails or phone messages.
EDIT: it looks from twitter that further tickets for the Saturday will go on sale at 11am. I was not told this, I would’ve tried again.
Shame on you, BBC Worldwide. Shame. I know you know better this time. I told you myself.