Are arenas in the UK accessible for disabled people?
Dec 25, 2022
We have 18 arenas (at the time of writing in 2022) located across the UK, where popular artists, shows and events are held for thousands of people to attend. These types of events can be brilliant to go to as you just can’t replicate that kind of atmosphere anywhere else. But, with 1 in 5 people in the UK being disabled, we wanted to ask - are these events accessible for disabled people? Here’s our thoughts as well as a list of accessible features some arenas offer…
Jennie in her usual pose
Are arenas accessible for disabled people?
To answer this question in short - accessibility covers a wide range of requirements so it’s difficult to say a strong yes to this. Accessibility means different things for so many people. It’s not just about getting into a building, it’s about booking tickets, travelling to a venue, parking, getting seated, sensory accommodations, bringing companions, accessing a toilet - the list is endless! However, over the years the knowledge and access provisions are improving each year and it’s very rare to find an arena that is totally inaccessible. It’s also important to note the current situation around Covid-19 and how this is a huge barrier for a lot of disabled people still. We asked on our instagram and 36% of disabled people still don’t feel safe enough to attend live events. For those who do however, here’s some information that may be helpful when you’re planning to go to a live gig.
What accessible provisions can arenas provide?
As we mentioned, there’s an expectation that all arenas are step free in terms of entering. However, there may not be wheelchair access for each seating section in the arena. In fact, it’s usual that there are dedicated spaces for disabled people and their friends/family members/companions. One downside to this is that it’s very rare that there is more than 1 plus one allowed to accompany a customer who uses a wheelchair. However, in some arenas if you explain that you require 2 people for personal care - this may be provided, venue depending.
We talk a lot here at Sociability about accessible toilets, in fact, we’ve got a whole blog about it here! But accessible toilets are crucial when attending gigs, especially if you’re taking trips to the bar! You tend to find that the bigger the venue, the more chance there is of a decent accessible toilet.
As we know, using public transport as a wheelchair user can be tricky and sometimes even impossible for some disabled people. That’s why driving can be a lifeline for some wheelchair users. Not only do you have more freedom and control but it means that accessible spaces make being able to get to the venue as close as possible. Accessing these spaces can differ depending on the venue, it’s mostly first come first serve or pre-booked with a fee. It’s always advisable to check with the venue beforehand but most large arenas have accessible parking available.
Things to remember
If you’re new to going to gigs when you’re disabled, it’s definitely doable in large arenas, but here are a final few things to remember…
As you can imagine the crowds can get busy, so if you’d rather avoid this on your first time - be sure to either leave a little earlier or hover after the show until the crowd dies down a little.
Don’t forget your radar key! It might save you some time when needing the loo mid-show!
There’s no consistent system to booking accessible tickets. Sometimes you have to “prove” your disability (that debate is for another blog…) or call a specific number. So be sure to research the venue beforehand and what their process is if you’re desperate to catch a particular release!
Jennie and Matt
The lack of consistency in systems means that you need to know your local venue and the provisions they have. And finally, we spoke to Disability Rights UK who we think summed it up perfectly:
”Live events matter. They are where we go to lose ourselves, to find ourselves, to escape, to wonder, to connect with others, and ourselves, on levels we only dare to dream about in day-to-day life. Live events connect us together into a universal whole – to something bigger than us, that only exists when we come together in these spaces. So if these spaces aren’t accessible, a fifth of us are left without all of that wonder, that connection, and that liberation that only live events give to us. The clue’s in the name – live. And without accessibility, we are left with the opposite – a lack of vitality and life.
Venues need to consider our access needs from the off, at the planning stages and continue to talk to us to ensure our access needs are front and centre of their consideration.” - Anna Morell, DR UK Media and Communications Manager.
What gigs have you been to where the access was impressive or are you wanting to go to one in the future? Let us know in the comments!