6 Tips to Make Your Arena/Concert Venue More Accessible

7 August 2017 / RightHear + Life of a Blind Girl

To hear this blog post as an audio file on SoundCloud, click here.

At RightHear, we aren’t just providing an accessibility solution. We’re engaging with our community of users and venues to make accessibility a meaningful part of the conversation. As a result, we’re excited that one of our first posts on the RightHear blog is a collaborative effort! This month, we’re proud to be working with Holly, author and manager of the great blog Life of a Blind Girl. We were inspired by her post about her experience at a concert in the UK, so make sure to check it out. Read on for some of our own tips as well as to hear from Holly herself on the topic of accessible concerts.

“As a blind concert lover myself, accessibility is so important. It adds to the concert experience and also makes you decide whether you’ll return to that specific venue in the future or not. For disabled people, accessibility is often at the forefront of the experience.”

  1. Train your staff to understand and not just accommodate

RH: One of the most important parts of creating an accessible location is ensuring that your staff are on board. Make sure you have staff set aside on event days to help escort visitors to their seats, answer questions, and provide additional support as needed. Training (and hiring) your staff to be patient, proactive and understanding of people’s varied needs isn’t just good for accessibility, but it’s good for business.

Holly: Give your staff visual awareness training so they know how to guide as a sighted person and what that specific environment is like for blind or visually impaired people. This also gives them knowledge on communicating with disabled people and treating each disabled person as an individual. As a blind person myself, it’s really easy to tell which staff have, or haven’t had visual awareness training. Considerate, understanding and patient staff make you feel at ease.

2. Consider orientation needs

RH: Orientation can be tricky for your sighted visitors, especially if your venue is multi-leveled or full of winding halls. For visitors who are blind/visually impaired, it can be exponentially so. Consider providing supports such as Braille, large print signage or maps, the RightHear solution, or an audio guide of the venue.

Holly: Independence is key. If this is not possible, make sure that disabled people are aware of where members of staff are located, should they need any assistance.

3. Make sure you have a specialized window or booking service for visitors with disabilities

RH: If visitors with disabilities know that there is a specialized channel for them to access your arena or venue through, they will be more likely to attend a concert at your location. Providing an organized, central place for visitors with disabilities to meet, purchase tickets, and get information will not only make their experience better, but it will help you organize your accessibility efforts on the business side.

Holly: Make sure that this is easy to access for disabled visitors. Furthermore, information on accessibility of the venue should also be on your website, making it easy for disabled people to access should they wish. Disabled people often have to plan in advance, so this is vital. This information may include: how to book accessible tickets, where disabled seating is located within the venue, contact details for the designated disabled access officer (if appropriate), location of disabled parking and how to book this, location of disabled toilets within the venue, details of assistance for people with guide dogs, wheelchairs, or other mobility aids and any other necessary information.

As I am blind, accessibility information is something that I will always look for on the website, even before booking tickets. I will often contact the venue beforehand to check the best way to book accessible tickets if it is not stated on the website, and see if they are willing to accommodate.

4. Aim for consistent and adequate lighting

RH: While this might not be possible during the concert, where flashing lights and contrast are more up to the artist than the venue, it certainly can be outside of where the actual music is. When planning lighting in your hallways or near concession stands, consider keeping things on the brighter side so that visitors can navigate around the venue when they’re not at their seats.

Holly: It is also important to have coloured contrast railings, tactile markings on floors leading stairs and also easy lift access for those with less vision or other mobility needs.

5. Provide large print, high-contrast, Braille, electronic or audio formats of materials when possible

RH: This includes menus at your concession stands, event programs, or any other literature you may be handing out at your venue. Although reprinting may seem expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Even if it is, providing these materials is a long-term investment that will not only support customers who are blind or visually impaired, but possibly customers that are elderly or just use reading glasses. Accessibility means accessibility and equal opportunities for all, and almost always has benefits to your business outside of the target group you are working with.

6. Have specific, accessible features such as audio description or touch tours

Holly: Audio description is a narration/description of exactly what is going on. Audio description allows blind and visually impaired people to listen to a description through a set of headphones while still being engaged in the show or performance. This promotes accessibility, equality and independence as blind and visually impaired people know what is happening themselves, rather than relying on their companion to tell them. This may not be possible for all shows such as concerts, but it can be implemented for events such as theatre shows, performances or sporting events.

Touch tours are when a blind or visually impaired person gets to go onto the stage before a performance to get a feel for the environment and touch the props and costumes that are being used. This really sets the scene for blind or visually impaired people and can give them a better understanding of the show. Like audio description, this may not be possible for all events, but where possible, this is a worthwhile consideration that promotes equality and accessibility.