Last month a hugely significant legal precedent was set for Deaf and disabled music lovers when a man from Wetherby won a landmark case with the York Barbican over 'discriminatory' ticketing policies. The case involved wheelchair user Doug Paulley who, along with seven others, booked tickets to see the comedian Bill Bailey before being informed they would have to purchase additional tickets for their Personal Assistants (PAs). In effect, having to buy two tickets each. This resulted in SMG, the venue owner, changing their policy to allow disabled people to be accompanied by Personal Assistants, free of charge, at all of their events.
Aside from local news coverage, the case went largely unreported.
Which is strange considering the number of Deaf and disabled people for whom this ruling is relevant. In terms of music, according to Government data more than 3m of us with a "limiting disability" attended a live event in 2011/12. If you consider the price of a gig or festival ticket these days, that's a pretty valuable segment of the music-loving population and, arguably, one that should be encouraged to go out and see shows.
Although not directly connected with the case, Attitude is Everything, the charity which I founded 14 years ago to improve access to live music events, is pleased with the result.
We have campaigned for free PA tickets from the off - making it essential criteria for any venue wanting to meet the Bronze level of our Charter of Best Practice. To date, more than 80 venues and festivals have signed up to this Charter which is supported by hundreds of artists, from Alt-J and Elbow to Rizzle Kicks and The Cure. We believe that Deaf and disabled people can be audience members, employees or artists at any live music event of their choice.
PAs are not an extravagance. For disabled fans they are often a lifeline, ensuring they can safely navigate a venue, receive personal care and guarantee access to food, drink and a toilet. They are not only essential for wheelchair users either - people with a learning disability or sensory impairments may also require assistance in a live music environment. And PAs have to have their wages paid. We still find promoters referring to PA tickets as a "2 for 1" offer, implying that this constitutes some sort of concession or promotion.
More than that, the Equality Act, deems it 'unlawful' to pass on any cost to Deaf and disabled people for making a service accessible.
Thankfully, many venues are working with us, and there has been a real shift within the live music sector towards understanding the importance of this issue.
For instance, 55% of the music venues 'mystery shopped' for Attitude is Everything's State of Access Report in 2014 were offering PA tickets at no additional cost. Festivals fared slightly better (76% offered PAs free entry) and we found a clear correlation between the size of an event and the implementation of positive access policies - with 62% of venues with a capacity of less than 500 charging disabled customers the price of two full tickets when accompanied by a PA.
All of which leaves us at something of a tipping point. For while this ruling is a huge step in the right direc-tion and a landmark case in equality law, there is still some way to go before live music is fully accessible.
Certainly, Attitude is Everything's mission continues and we hope that more than 100 festivals and venues will have signed our Charter by the end of 2014. Significantly, those promoters and venue owners who work with us typically see a boost in ticket sales - an annual increase of more than 100% in the case of Reading Festival last year - so it would have a wholly positive impact on the live music sector overall.
But crucially, it would also benefit more than 3 million live music fans in the UK, who want to watch gigs and attend festivals, but often feel prevented from doing so by avoidable obstacles. For all of us that represents a massive opportunity. The best music, after all, is always without barriers.Suggest a correction