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Failing Disabled Customers – O2’s Unfair Ticket System

Life as a disabled person can often be full of challenges. On the whole, I’ve often relished these opportunities to overcome an obstacle of some kind. After all, that’s why websites like this exist; to challenge the existing barriers facing disabled people, whether they be physical barriers, such as access to a building, or societal barriers, such as the often inaccurate portrayal of disabled people in the media. However, on occasion, you find one barrier that you seem to hit your head against time and time again and for me, that’s access to music concerts.

Being a writer and a creative person who uses songs a lot in my work, I love going to music gigs. Over the years, I’ve been incredibly lucky to see some of the world’s biggest rock bands at the O2 arena. Getting tickets was never a problem.

However, in the last couple of years, that seems to have changed considerably. Out of 6 events that I’ve tried to get tickets for this year, only on 2 occasions have I been successful. And the last straw was my recent attempt to secure tickets for a Green Day concert in February of next year. To understand why this is the straw that broke the camel’s back, I need to give you a little bit of background.

I tried to contact the disabled ticket line dead-on 9am when the O2 Arena website claimed that the line opened. I tried 76 times to get connected, each disconnection another blow to my ever fading optimism. I finally got through, only to be put on hold for 25 minutes. As soon as the other person picked up on the other end of the line, I was informed that the concert tickets had sold out. Needless to say, I was not best pleased considering this isn’t the first time it’s happened this year.

It’s started to really bug me as to why it’s so hard to get disabled tickets in a stadium that has a capacity of 20,000 people. When you do a little more digging the answer is actually quite shocking.

In all of that 20,000 capacity seating, there are only around 70 disabled seats and even that number can vary depending on the stage layout. That’s less than a twenty-fifth of one percent. For context, around two per cent of the population of the UK are wheelchair users. Not great considering it’s the UK’s most popular music venue.

I’ve since found out that non-disabled customers were able to get into a queue online at 8.30am, which again could account for the increased difficulty. Disabled people still can’t book online with AXS. That means that not only did non-disabled customers have thirty minutes earlier access to the tickets, but they also had the ease of being able to just click a button and book online. To me, that speaks volumes about their attitude to disabled concert goers.

When I made an official complaint, the supervisor was completely unhelpful and basically did nothing, but log the complaint and informed me that management would be in contact within 48 hours. I’m still waiting.

Why can’t disabled customers buy tickets online? Other venues, such as cinemas, have had the ability to book tickets online for a wheelchair user for quite some time now. Why can’t the same system be adopted at music and sporting venues? We live in the 21st century where there are laws of equality and yet, ticketing companies seem to get away with having a system that is blatantly discriminatory in its nature, namely AXS and Ticketmaster. There’s no denying that the weekend’s events were unfair. I’ve spoken to so many disabled people that missed out on tickets because of the oversubscribed phone line system. I’m afraid I don’t have the answers as to why it’s this way. In my own opinion, it comes down to money; more wheelchair accessible seating bays means there is likely to be an increased number of carers, which in the current system get a free ticket. More free tickets equals less profit. But even that reason doesn’t explain why disabled people have to jump through hoops just to book tickets, whereas their non-disabled friends can just go to a website.

Either way you look at it, the current system doesn’t work and it’s time for change.

By Anthony Price

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