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News April 10, 2018

Doors open for music fans with disabilities: Ability Fest raises $200k, UK to launch taskforce

Senior Journalist, B2B
Doors open for music fans with disabilities: Ability Fest raises $200k, UK to launch taskforce
Image: Lady Drewniak / Ability Fest Facebook

Two more doors have opened for music fans with disabilities to feel included at festivals and gigs – one in Australia and the other in England.

The inaugural Ability Fest – specifically set up as a festival for music fans with disabilities – was held last Saturday at the Coburg Velodrome in Melbourne drawing 5,000.

Many had not been to a festival before because they were apprehensive they would be made to feel awkward.

Acts included DJs sets from Flight Facilities and Client Liaison with performances from Kingswood, Tkay Maidza, Jack River, Boo Seeka and Harvey Sutherland, who donated their services.

The venue was fitted out with elevated viewing platforms, rubber surfaces and ramps for wheelchairs.

AUSLAN interpreters translated all 10 acts across 9 hours of live music – with a highlight being one keeping up with Maidza’s speedy raps while demonstrating fancy footsteps.

The Australia-first festival was set up by gold medal Paralympian Dylan Alcott, paraplegic since birth from a spinal cord tumour, but who became renowned around the world for crowd-surfing in his wheelchair.

It raised nearly $200,000 to help kids with disabilities across the country with grants, scholarships and mentoring via the Dylan Alcott Foundation.

Alcott has confirmed that Ability Fest will return in 2019 – and hope that other festivals will also make moves to make their audiences more inclusive and to normalise disability.

Meantime in the UK, Music charity Attitude Is Everything yesterday announced it is launching a taskforce to improve the ticketing experience for deaf and disabled concert-goers, which is “ probably the single-most important issue that impacts all deaf and disabled music fans,” says its CEO Suzanne Bull.

The taskforce, called the Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition, is made up of 35 trade bodies, leading ticketing agencies, 130 festivals and venues, and event promoters such as Live Nation, Festival Republic and AEG Events.

It has identified five key areas where changes have to be made:

* a single proof-of-disability system to acquire a complimentary carer’s ticket, to be adopted through the UK;

* change the current booking systems that are  only accessible by phone

* accurate and disability-aware information and customer service,  with special training for staff

* choice and flexibility when booking tickets

* equal access to everything with accessibility requirements integrated into standard online booking systems

Attitude Is Everything yesterday also released its 4th State Of Access Report.

It revealed that 80% of those surveyed faced problems when booking tickets to gigs, 79% have stopped buying tickets as a result, 30% felt discrimination when they were trying to book access, and one in ten had considered legal action over the treatment they received.

Bull said, “Although there has been much progress in making the ticketing process accessible and inclusive, and certain venues and companies are definitely getting this right for their deaf and disabled customers, we felt that only a comprehensive and truly unified approach would be able to drive through the real and lasting changes that we need.”

UK government data says 3.3 million disabled fans attend at least one music event a year.

State Of Access says those surveyed attended an average of nine concerts a year, and spend an estimated £250,000  (A$460,000) on tickets, food, drink and merchandise.

The study’s highlighting disabled fans’ difficulties when accessing tickets across other sectors, has seen moves for another task force bringing together the music, cinema, theatre, heritage and sport sectors.


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