Every now and then when I go out I will be confronted with the ugly spectre of wheelchair inaccessibility. Most recently this happened last week. I went to see my favourite band, Kodaline, play live in Rock City, Nottingham.
I had been desperate to see them live ever since I first heard their songs back in early 2013.
I bought tickets back in December before they had even gone on general sale, I was so desperate not to miss out. I had checked with the manager that the venue was wheelchair accessible, and he said it was “fine”. Brilliant I thought!
So, finally the day arrived and we set off excitedly for Nottingham. We went for a meal beforehand in a very classy but quite cheap bar. I wanted to make a night of it.
Afterwards when we arrived at the venue, about half an hour before the doors opened we saw that there were steps going up to the front entrance. “That’s fine”, I thought. “They must have another ramped entrance somewhere”.
So we asked the bouncer and he directed us around the back away from the long queues that were forming at the front. All the while I was looking for something that resembled a ramp, but I couldn’t see one.
Eventually we found the back door, and it had a single step before it. I thought “surely this can’t be the disabled entrance, there’s a step.”
No, it wasn’t the disabled entrance, not the one we needed anyway. The one we were looking for was much worse. Once we had negotiated our way past the many rubbish bins that littered the area, we arrived at the correct entrance.
Looming in front of us were no fewer than EIGHT steps leading up to the door. I thought the other entrance was bad, but this was just ridiculous.
“You can’t be serious!”, I thought, “Is this really the disabled entrance?!”
Well, no. It’s not the disabled entrance, because they don’t have a disabled entrance.
I was shocked. This was a nightclub. It’s a public venue. Its 2015. The 21st century. The manager had told me it was fine. Surely they had to have wheelchair access, right? Wrong. Very wrong.
So, here I was at the event that I had been looking forward to for months, facing the prospect of not even being able to get in.
There was only one solution: physically lift me and my chair up the steps. That is EIGHT steps remember. Luckily, there were three guys available: my carer, my brother and the bouncer. So, between them they were able to physically lift my chair (with me in it) up the steps so I could get in. Not an easy task.
So once we had reached the summit we could get inside. There was a ramp up to main dance floor, however there were no special wheelchair viewing platforms. This meant that when the place filled up I was at risk of not being able to see anything, apart from people’s backs. Luckily we were the first ones in the room so we took up a place right at the front so I got a reasonably good view.
The next major problem was there was no disabled toilet. Well, there was but it was down a flight of stairs. Which, kind of defeats the object doesn’t it. So, if I needed a pee I would need to go in a corner and hope no one was watching. With this in mind I didn’t drink anything the whole night. I didn’t fancy the prospect of peeing in a room filled with hundreds of people. I’m not much of an exhibitionist.
So, once we were finally in there we could enjoy the bands. Kodaline were A – MAZE – ING! They were brilliant! I loved every minute of it. All the aggravation of getting in was forgotten once they started playing. It was totally worth it. Even the support bands were good. Especially a band called The Mispers. I can’t wait to go and see them again! Just not here. ANYWHERE but here.
But of course we had to get out again once it was finished. Once again my brother, my carer and the bouncer had to lift my chair down the steps. All the while I was just hoping that no one would trip, and send me splattering onto the concrete below.
Luckily I managed to get back down to terra firma in one piece.
Now, I have to say the bouncers were brilliant. They were constantly checking that I was okay all through the night, and of course without their help I wouldn’t have got up the steps.
The manager that I spoke to however, to say the least I am less than impressed with. I emailed him in December asking about the wheelchair access and he said it was “fine”.
In what way is having to be physically carried up eight steps “fine”? In what way is not being able to reach the disabled toilet “fine”?
This guy is obviously completely ignorant of what wheelchair access is. If he even thought about it it should have been completely obvious that it did not involve steps.
So here’s what I am going to do. I complained to Rock City a week ago and as yet have received no reply. I complained to Nottingham City Council today, so hopefully something will come of that.
This place NEEDS to be accessible to everyone. There is NO excuse for it not to be.
The Equality Act (2010) states that providers of public services need to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people are not put at a significant disadvantage compared to able-bodied people.
In the case of Rock City wheelchair users clearly ARE at a significant disadvantage. We can’t even get in to the venue without having to climb the steps. Which, by the way, is also a SERIOUS health and safety hazard.
So, even though I personally will never go back to Rock City again, I will fight to get them to make it accessible. There really is no excuse for it. Disabled people want to go to rock concerts and clubbing as much as anyone else, and nothing should stop them from doing so.
This is not an isolated incident either. There are still plenty of places in the world that are not accessible to wheelchair users. However, if we can get one place at least to make the necessary adaptations it will set a precedent for everywhere else.
I am going to bug the hell out of them until they do something. I don’t care if this is unreasonable. Being unreasonable is the only way things will change.
As George Bernard Shaw said:
“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people try to adapt the world to themselves. Therefore all progress depends on unreasonable people.”
UPDATE: I sent a letter to the venue complaining about the lack of wheelchair access and finally received a reply a month later. The manager wrote to me and apologised about what happened and said they were working with the charity Attitude Is Everything to improve the wheelchair access.He also sent me a cheque to refund the price of the tickets which was a nice gesture. I’m pretty satisfied with this response overall because they are taking steps to improve and I wasn’t expecting them to refund the money which I appreciated.