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U.K. Accessible Ticketing: Enabling Access Customers to Book Events Online

  • Published: 2016-12-12 (Revised/Updated 2017-04-03) : Cameron Lund (seatplan.com).
  • Synopsis: The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers respond to demand for booking accessible tickets online.

Main Document

Quote: "Only 2 out of 10 UK venues allow online booking for access customers. Fast-forward two years to 2016 and very little progress has been made."

On Friday 9th December 2016, the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) held a unique workshop in London. For the first time, Ticketing industry professionals from across the UK were invited by STAR to attend a session about accessibility requirements for booking tickets online. Led by Martin Austin, Managing Director of disability advice service Nimbus Disability, attendees shared their understanding of accessible requirements in ticketing and outlined what steps need to be taken to improve the online experience for disabled ticket-buyers.

The workshop was organised by STAR in response to a growing demand from disabled consumers. According to Attitude is Everything's State of Access Report 2014, only 2 out of 10 UK venues allow online booking for access customers. Fast-forward two years to 2016 and very little progress has been made. Using the theatre industry as an example, major theatre owners such as Amassador Theatre Group and Nimax are still not offering online booking to customers with accessibility requirements.

This is not very surprising. Many disabled patrons have specialist requirements and it's often important for theatres to understand what these are prior to arrival. This is usually achieved with a phone call where an access expert at the venue can ask all of the necessary questions. This is good practice and extremely valuable to thousands of customers every year.

However, phone booking isn't for everyone. There are many disabled customers who are not able to book events over the phone. To make matters worse, companies like Ambassador Theatre Group and See Tickets charge customers premium rates to make their access bookings on a call. With charges of 7 pence per minute above the standard rate, this equates to an extra £1.05 on top of the ticket cost (assuming an average call duration of 15 minutes). Should access customers have to field these costs just to book their tickets to an event?

The answer is no. Representatives attending STAR's accessible ticketing workshop agreed that there were finances and expertise to offer online booking to access customers, but most organisations had yet to prioritise this work. Despite Attitude is Everything reporting 75% of access customers having a desire to book their tickets online, there has still been little response from the Ticketing industry to fulfil their needs.

Some progress has been made. The hugely popular Download Festival offers a smooth online booking experience, with very clear instructions detailed on this page of their site. The Society of London Theatre has a comprehensive guide to making all types of access bookings with a large number of venues, but not online. Other companies like SeatPlan offer unique interactive accessibility guides for theatres across the country, but cannot offer online booking until the venues provide this functionality to their affiliated ticketing sites.

STAR's accessible ticketing workshop was the first step to propelling the industry to meet the needs of access customers. But if you would like to see equal opportunities for access customers to purchase their tickets online, this can be expedited with your feedback. Next time you're booking an access ticket and cannot complete the process over the internet, ensure that you write to the organisers. A strong public voice will speak loudly amongst the internal voices of employees who are pushing for change on behalf of disabled customers.

If you would like to find out more about accessible ticketing, you can contact STAR here.

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