Going to a concert is an amazing experience for everyone but for wheelchair users, the process isn’t always as straight forward.
One of the hardest things when it comes to attending concerts is purchasing tickets. Booking online often isn’t an option for people who need accessible seating. Instead, we have to ring up the Accessible Seating Line and often have to wait for hours on end (literally no joke) simply to buy tickets. If you have a companion card too, it can be even harder sometimes. Not only this but then when you come to buy the tickets, wheelchair users aren’t given the luxury of being able to buy in different prices or areas of the venue. This blog post aims to highlight the discrimination that comes when trying to buy tickets on the floor of a concert.
Now I’m very lucky in the fact that my sister has all things advocacy covered when it comes to issues like this, and it’s something that a select few disability advocates are very passionate about. So when it came to booking tickets, she was willing to fight for us.
A little over a year ago, my sister was booking our tickets to Katy Perry’s second show at RAC Arena. We already had seats in the tiers for her first show (haha we’re massive fans so we went to both shows!), but when a second show was announced we decided that we would like to get closer to the action. There were already seats on the floor (not standing GA) so we were like – that’s perfect. However, this is where our drama started.
Firstly, we were told that all the wheelchair seats on the floor had been sold out. Not happy with this response (considering there were still over half of the floor seats available), my sister emailed both RAC Arena, the promoter and the ticketing company. We were then told that wheelchair seats were not available on the floor because we would be a fire hazard! This was an absolute joke! Not only was it discrimination, but if there was a fire, seats on the floor are actually safer because in the tiers we’d have to use the lift to get out (which can’t be used during a fire), while on the floor we can just drive straight out as it’s on the ground floor. We were also told we would be a safety issue, especially if there was an emergency. With emails back and forth, my sister eventually managed to get us floor seats, though they said they couldn’t promise it would happen again (basically saying be thankful we got them). In the end, though everything worked out well for us and it was literally the best night, Katy waved at us twice!
As a result of my sister’s advocating, it does seem like floor seats are available at most concerts now at RAC Arena (well they were for Shawn Mendes when we looked). Options of where to sit are still limited to the very sides in only two spots, but at least it’s a start.
So, when Taylor Swift announced her stadium tour we were like, here we go again! This time we were prepared and had some well-known disability advocates in our corner. Let me tell you, it was like deja vu.
This time, once again, there were no wheelchair seats available on the floor. Optus Stadium is massive, so we wanted to get as close as possible to the stage while not paying ridiculous amounts of money. This time they told us that there were no wheelchair seats on the floor because they thought we wouldn’t be able to see. That’s right, as an adult a decision I should be able to make for myself was taken away! Little did they know that I have a raise function on my wheelchair, so I can elevate to standing height.
It must be noted that Optus Stadium were actually very pleasant to deal with and straight away started fixing the issue. We were giving the option of purchasing tickets in block B6 and whilst we weren’t given a choice, we were lucky that this was right next to one of the little stages, so again we got up nice and close.
Some venues, on the other hand, are very helpful but management just don’t talk to each other, which was the case for Rita Ora.
This has been the only time we’ve been able to buy tickets online and it was so easy. Seeing it was a small venue, we did email ahead about access. They were super helpful and said they had wheelchair access and that we could enter the venue early so we could get a good spot. Excellent we thought. We arrived at the venue over an hour and a half early, to ensure we could get front of the standing section without having to pull the wheelchair card to do so. However, when we entered we were surprised to find (and for those of you who haven’t been to Metro City) that the ground level where the stage was is not actually wheelchair accessible (neither is the bar so we couldn’t purchase drinks ourselves). So while we got there early enough for and were promised front row, we actually ended segregated on the first balcony level.
With this said Metro City have been the best venue to deal with. They were unaware that not having wheelchair access is illegal and they’re working out ways they can fix this, including working with my sister.
With this said, these aren’t the only discrimination stories at concerts. If you’re looking for some really bad ones, look up Marlena May Katene. After buying VIP GA tickets and turning up the venue, she was told she wasn’t allowed in the VIP or GA areas. Her friend Bert stood up for her by asking to see this policy in writing. As a result, he was kicked out of the concert, and she was segregated in the tiers, all because of her power wheelchair.
Along with Marlena, a high-profile person in Dylan Alcott is also working with big companies to make concerts more accessible. Like I say those who know better do better, so hopefully by educating companies they are able to be more accommodating.
So why am I posting this today? Well it’s the morning of the Hugh Jackman concert that my sister and I are going to tonight. We have floor seats that were slightly easier to book because there were actually wheelchair floor seats. But even then, there were issues with securing two wheelchair seats next to each on the floor, with many phone calls made back and forth to sort out! We’ve also got our first VIP GA standing tickets for Little Mix in December, which we are super excited about! I look forward to updating you all with what will hopefully be positive experiences!