Exhibition News October 2018 - Page 21

Access for all FEATURE Jacob Adams, head of research and campaigns at Attitude is Everything, on making events more accessible for deaf and disabled customers A ttitude is Everything improves access to live music for deaf and disabled people. As a charity and Arts Council England Sector Support Organisation, we work with audiences, artists and the music industry to identify the barriers faced by deaf and disabled people when attending live music events, whilst helping to deliver creative and practical solutions to overcome them – whether that’s advice on viewing platforms, BSL interpretation or online communications. The definitions of disability is vast and far-ranging, and so is our work. We want to make live music accessible to all – as do the 160+ music venues and festivals signed up to our Charter of Best Practice. These include outdoor events ranging from large- scale events such as Glastonbury, Reading and Download, to boutique festivals such as Nozstock and End of the Road, and family- orientated gatherings such as Deershed and Just So. A sizeable proportion of UK’s estimated 13.3m disabled people attend (or want to attend) live shows. So, for those promoters and organisers who ‘get it’, there’s actually a strong commercial imperative to providing best practice on access. It simply comes within the realm of providing first-class customer service and understanding that some customers will have specific requirements in order to enjoy a similar experience to others. In recent years, access has improved significantly at the majority of festivals. Access adjustments such as accessible campsites, accessible toilets and viewing platforms are now commonplace. As a result, more disabled customers are buying festival tickets. Since few customers come to events alone, more friends and family members end up buying festival tickets too. Ten tickets sold to disabled customers, might result in a total of 40 or more sales overall. Another important understanding is that many impairments are not visible and less than eight per cent of disabled people are wheelchair users. Of course, physical access matters, but there are a range of other areas to consider. For instance, we would love to see more outdoor events provide respite or ‘chillout’ areas for customers who may become anxious or experience sensory over-stimulation in crowds. We would like to see more ‘High Dependency Units’ – mobile toilets with hoists, changing tables and running water, which are invaluable for customers who cannot use standard accessible portaloos. Over ¼ million people in the UK need this sort of facility available in order to enjoy a day out. We are also keen to develop a model of best practice for the use of British Sign Language and lyric captioning for customers with hearing impairments. Additionally, we are trying to encourage festivals to widen the diversity of their performers by booking more Deaf and disabled artists. For outdoor events that currently have little or no provision in place, all this might sound like a daunting prospect. But this is often the biggest barrier itself! Improving access doesn’t have to be complicated or constraining – it should be straightforward and liberating. Here are five simple things that any event can do in order to get started: 1. Have an access information page on your website. Deaf and disabled people need advance information. It’s that simple. Providing detailed access information is a real ‘welcome flag’ to disabled fans, and allows them to make informed decisions about which events they wish to attend and how to prepare. Attitude is Everything has an Access Starts Online campaign, which gives you the tools to create a great access information page. 2. Provide customers with a telephone number and email address they can contact with any questions. Detailed online access information should help reduce your administrative workload. However, there will always be some customers with specific enquiries – for instance, they may have an impairment which makes it difficult to communicate over the phone. Others may find it a challenge to use email. Offering a number of options gives customers a choice for what’s most comfortable for them. 3. Know who is responsible for the access at your event. One of the most frustrating situations for customers and festival staff alike is when a customer has a conversation with someone prior to the event but there is no record of who they spoke to or what was agreed. Having a nominated staff member working around access reduces these scenarios, and ensures all information is held on one place. 4. Offer an additional ticket for a personal assistant at no extra cost. This should really be standard practice for all events. Many deaf and disabled people require assistance at festivals – be it for getting around the site, communication, carrying out intimate personal care, purchasing food or drink something else entirely. Providing an additional Personal Assistant ticket at no extra cost ensures their needs can be met without having to pay double the price of everyone else. 5. Get feedback from deaf and disabled customers who already come to your event. Attitude is Everything pride ourselves on providing professional expertise. But the really important people are those deaf and disabled customers who already attend your event. Build relationships with them. Seek out their feedback on where improvements could be made. Customers are more likely to feel valued if you seek out their opinion and they may be able to suggest simple steps that could make a big difference. If you have any questions around improving access to your events, you can contact Attitude Is Everything on info@ attitudeiseverything.org.uk or 020 7383 7979. exhibitionnews.co.uk | October 2018 21