Disabled Access All Areas? – No Backstage Pass For Me

As a young person with plenty of friends (even if I do say so myself) I like to go out and have a good time. I like a few drinks. I like to play pool. I like to eat something ill-advised on the way home. I like to try and fail hopelessly with men. In short, I like to do the things that most other people in their early twenties like to do. I suppose I am different to many of those people as I have to plan my evenings more carefully than most. As a wheelchair user, the last thing I want is to make my friends choose between entering a venue and staying with me, which is why I believe that disabled access is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by many licensees.

Always in the Corner
I present to you an example from a recent evening out. There was a great local band on at a new venue in our town, although I am a little biased as a good friend of mine is the singer (some may call him the shouter, but that’s what I’m in to!) I gained access to the venue with no problem, purchased a bottle of the finest from the bar which I could reach with few only a few problems. The band was about to start so I headed for the toilets, which again were accommodating. All that was left was for me to do was to enter the room where the band was performing and enjoy the music. However, I was met by a set of cluttered steps up to the room, only three or four, but enough to present an issue. I asked a member of staff if there was alternative disabled access and was told, “only through the fire exit, and that’s even more steps”. So I enjoyed the band, albeit in a muffled way in the bar area rather seeing them in full cry on stage.

Access Regulations
Like I said, the venue was very accommodating for the most part and will definitely secure repeat business from me. I’m sure that it does comply with the latest Equality Act, as I gained access to the venue with ease, the bar was just about manageable and the toilet facilities were great, it just seems that the quality of my experience and others like me could be greatly improved by implementing some pretty simple measures. Providing access to that room for a disabled person would be fairly straightforward I am sure. I feel perhaps I am nit-picking at this venue, as I have been to other places in recent times that are in severe need of an access overhaul. I just feel that in this instance more could have been done to help me. It was a case of so near and yet so far for this venue.

Anyway, I will return to this venue and speak to the manager about some options as generally the quality of my experience was very good. There are other bars, restaurants and nightclubs in the area that are a complete no-go for me and I am forever indebted to my friends for the familiar refrain of “we’ll try the next place” as we seek places to go in unfamiliar towns.  On this occasion, my night wasn’t completely spoiled by the lack of disabled access, just a little marred as the band were, apparently, “completely awesome up close”. I will just have to catch them next time, after the access is improved.

Gem Wilson focuses on encouraging businesses to undertake a DDA survey to see what improvements can be made. Learn more by following @EqualityAct2010 on Twitter.