If you have a disability, you’ll likely want to make sure that an event or a venue is accessible if you are planning to attend a concert, film, play, or exhibition there. While many venues have made strides in accessibility, everyone’s needs are unique, so it’s good to double-check before attending. This will allow you to fully enjoy the experience without any worries.
In this article, disability journalist Ian Cook shares his insights on how to check the accessibility of an event or venue.
When planning to attend a venue for an event, the best practice is to ensure that you review all the information provided on their website and ask any questions you may have. If you have some unanswered questions, it’s advisable to contact the event organiser directly for clarification. We’ve put together a checklist for you to use and customise to your own needs.
Transportation and arrival at the venue:
- Are there accessible parking options, such as disabled parking bays, within a reasonable distance of the venue space?
- Are there accessible public transportation options to get to the venue?
- If you are travelling by public transportation, do you have a discount card you can use (such as a Disabled Persons Railcard or Disabled Person’s Freedom Pass)?
- Do I need a Blue Badge parking space nearby for my car, and if so, how close is the designated parking area?
- Do I have my Blue Badge ready? You may want to double-check that it is not expired.
This article by Helen Dolphin MBE gives more information about who can qualify for a Blue Badge in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You can also read our parking tips for blue badge holders.
Moving around the venue:
If possible, you’ll need to make sure all pathways are clear of obstacles. You can ask staff to help you with this if needed – but it’s a good idea to let them know before the day, if possible. If you use a wheelchair or scooter, make sure you know its size, so you can check if it can navigate around the venue. Some of the questions you should be asking are:
- Does the venue have ramps and automatic doors?
- Is an elevator available if needed? Will it be big enough for my wheelchair/scooter?
- Are outside entrances and doorways wide enough to allow easy access?
- If you have an assistance dog, what is the venue’s policy?
- Will the place you are visiting be busy? If so, is it possible for you to find out which times are quieter and then attend when it’s less crowded?
Are you planning on attending a concert? Read our tips on the 10 most accessible music venues in the UK.
Availability of resources:
- Is there at least one accessible toilet within a reasonable distance from your seat?
- How do you access the toilets – can you use a RADAR key? If so, do you have one?
- If you need a quiet room (where you can avoid loud noises), will it be provided? Do they have things like ear defenders on request, or will you need to bring your own?
- Are there wheelchairs or mobility scooters available for hire, if you don’t have your own? These are particularly useful for large indoor events such as trade fairs and historic home tours, but also outdoor events like gardens and festivals.
- If required, are visual/flashing fire alarms installed in private spaces like restrooms to alert deaf or hearing-impaired people of a fire?
Are you interested in art? Check out the best accessible art and sculpture around the UK.
Availability of support staff:
- Have the venue staff undergone disability awareness training, and will they be available to assist with any accessibility needs? Some venues will have this listed on their website, but you might need to call and ask specifically.
- If personal assistance is needed for travel, communication, or use of the toilet, will there be a free or discounted Carer/Personal Assistant ticket available?
- Will the event staff know what to do if a guest needs an escort to their seat?
Watching, listening, and enjoying the event:
- Is there accessible seated viewing? The venue you attend should have a designated area for you to sit in and have easy access to the space you need.
- Are there captions or subtitles available throughout the event, for people with hearing impairments?
- Is there any strobe lighting used during performances that you need to be aware of?
How to find the accessible information you need
If you have difficulty finding answers to your questions about accessibility on the venue’s website, consider contacting the event organiser or venue directly via email or phone. Most venues are happy to assist with accessibility and appreciate feedback on how to improve their space and events.
Look for websites, blogs, and accessibility apps that give reviews as well. The greatest thing about searching online, in forums or on apps is how generous people are with sharing information!
And when you attend a venue, why not write a review yourself? It only takes a few minutes to share your thoughts and impressions, and you can help the next event enthusiast have an enjoyable time.
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