The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
Sometimes, securing tickets to your favourite event feels like luck of the draw. We have all experienced the fever and anticipation of tickets going on sale – you have all your devices ready to go, you memorise your credit card details, checking your mates have transferred you their share of the ticket cost, you then wait, click and don’t refresh your screen. Whilst this is the experience of most punters, and it doesn’t always feel smooth or fair, let’s add a few accessibility constraints into the mix and it becomes discrimination in its fullest form.
I want to preface by acknowledging that some of the barriers that exist are bigger than ticketing companies. Indeed, the constraints of a somewhat archaic system of companion card regulators makes reform difficult, but not impossible. Additionally, not all venues have the same accessibility and other states may have varying procedures on accessible ticketing.
However, whilst some people may conclude that we are dealing with a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, ticketing companies and venues play a very important role in removing barriers to accessibility. All fans should be entitled at a fair shot to a ticket and entry to see the team, band, show they love. So, companies blaming the system and being complacent is not okay. Ultimately, shouldn’t companies be striving for best practice?
What does the system look like now?
In my experience working on the front line of ticket selling, the barriers to attaining accessible or companion card tickets is enough for twitter to go into one of its catastrophic meltdowns. Indeed, if the barriers placed against attaining accessible seats were also placed on the general public, I have no doubt that there would be an investigation by consumer advocates on why ticketing companies weren’t promoting equal access.
If you need a wheelchair section and/or a companion seat, there are many barriers. Firstly, unlike the rest of the punters, you will need to call in order to make your booking. The anxiety of being on hold for long periods of time only to find out that the limited wheelchair bays are now full is only the beginning of these inconsistencies.
If you are intending to attend the event with a group of people, you will have to choose only one friend or family member to sit with, because most venues place constraints on where a person needing an accessible seat and their companion can sit, so the importance of sharing the event is diminished.
If you are a concert or sports junkie and regularly attend events, the ticketing operator will need you to read out your 12-digit companion card number each time you make a booking. The process in total can take over an hour; for most people that process is exhausting at the best of times, let alone when you are trying to secure tickets to a show that has limited accessible tickets.
Is it just Australia?
There is some hope! America seems to be slightly ahead of us in accessible seat buying. American ticketing companies like Ticketmaster provide customers the option of choosing a wheelchair or companion seat online. So why do these somewhat simple solutions not exist in Australia?
Well firstly, given America’s culture of lawsuits, it was a punter who filed a discrimination suit which saw the removal of some of these accessibility barriers. Secondly, many Australian promoters are overly cautious in introducing ‘opportunities’ which they believe might provide the general public with an opportunity to rort the system and attain companion card tickets at zero-dollar value for themselves. To that I would say, be braver. It shouldn’t take a lawsuit to value accessibility as an imperative part of valuing your customers.
What improvements are being made?
There are some good things to be said of accessibility in the Australian events industry. Trending over the last few years, theatre producers have acknowledged the value Autism and Auslan accessible performances provide for families. Hopefully, the continuation of including these valued customers sees greater accessibility at music and sport events too.
One element of access in venues often forgotten, is accessibility to the stage. This was recently brought to my attention on a night out in Melbourne. An international performance theatre piece of epic proportions was performed with a full orchestra, large set designs, and incredible guest artists. The guest artists, who helped with audience participation and on-stage storytelling were magnificent in their energy. Unbeknown to the audience at the time, there was no access for one of the guest performers in a wheelchair to be get on stage to partake in her role. This issue was raised at a Q&A with the event creator after the show, who said his team had asked the theatre if it was accessible, but acknowledged needing to ask specifically about on-stage accessibility.
I am determined that conversations such as this continue in our society and particularly entertainment spaces. All fans are entitled to have an equal chance at attaining a ticket to their favourite show, to being surrounded by their friends to see their team play, to perform on stage, and to experience the joys of experiencing something bigger than us all. Ticketing companies must be braver and take the lead. We must do better for the fans, for everyone.
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