Kat Watkins is a woman who likes to live life to the full.

She's visiting South Africa in the spring, then it's France for the Rugby World Cup, where she hopes to see Wales in the final, having bought a ticket.

Kat also travels around the UK from her Swansea home to the theatre, museums, spas and concerts.

But as she is a wheelchair user, Kat can't get tickets by clicking a website link like most people - watching Ed Sheeran took 1,000 phone calls.

Because she needs a personal assistant to accompany her, Kat, like other disabled people, generally has to ring up ticket offices.

This means being restricted to office hours only - trickier if you work full-time - and having to get through phone systems.

Kat Watkins (right) with her PA Bianca

Getting tickets for disabled spaces can be an "exhausting" process, Kat says

This hasn't dampened her love of watching concerts, with Kat having seen Take That six times, as well as Westlife and JLS.

While she praises Cardiff's Principality Stadium for offering accessible tickets for Ed Sheeran's mega-concerts without having to provide proof of disability, getting hold of them was another matter.

"I would ring, get 'beep, beep, beep', hang up - and it took 1,000 attempts," she said.

"And then when I got through to the wait, it was another 40 minutes. And luckily there were tickets left."

Kat did manage to get tickets to Tom Jones and Stereophonics quicker, but was again frustrated she could not simply book online.

The Principality Stadium said it currently dealt with tickets via the phone to understand customers' needs, but added it was planning on moving the purchase of accessibility tickets online.

Wheelchair spaces at a venueI

Wheelchair and disabled facilities at venues are often good, but getting tickets can be the barrier

When Kat visited the O2 arena in London to watch Take That's Mark Owen, she had to send her personal independence payment award through to prove her entitlement.

This is a common procedure, but requires people to do it repeatedly for different events.

Wales has made some progress in trying to ease the process, with the Arts Council of Wales establishing the Hynt scheme which offers people with disabilities a card showing their entitlement to carer tickets.

They only have to provide proof once when first applying.

Kat said it has removed a lot of the bureaucracy involved in getting tickets.

However, even with the card, it doesn't automatically give people the opportunity to book online at many of the venues.

An exception is Cardiff's Wales Millennium Centre - once a person registers the card, all they have to do is sign in online to be offered wheelchair or regular seats with a free companion ticket.

Tale of two clubs

At the two biggest football clubs in Wales, Cardiff and Swansea, the contrast is marked.

Cardiff City's Disabled Supporters Association (DSA) has been in talks with the club for years about getting an online system in place, but fans needing a carer still have to ring or visit the ticket office.

In contrast, Swansea City decided in 2016 to develop its own bespoke ticketing system, with users registering their details and eligibility once to gain online ticket access.

A club spokesman said after they have provided supporting documents to show their accessible needs, they are able to log into their account to get tickets.

In 2016, Swansea was the first Premier League club to provide the service and shared it with others.

Kieran Jones, Disability Supporters Association

Kieran Jones of Cardiff City's Disability Supporters Association said they had been asking for online booking capability for years

As an IT specialist, Kieran Jones from Cardiff City DSA finds it frustrating the club had not yet managed to set up a comprehensive online booking system, despite the fact people who need disabled spaces just for themselves can book online.

"The ticket office moved to a new system and they're still working with it," he said.

"It's the same system that Wales, the FAW [which uses Cardiff City Stadium for matches], have got so it will eventually allow people to book with a carer, but currently they haven't got that far."

A Cardiff City spokesman said as a Premier League club in 2016, Swansea was in a different income bracket to Cardiff and had more potential to invest in ticketing.

However, he added "significant steps towards improvement" have been made over the past couple of seasons.

'Ticketing a big issue'

Alexandra Osborne

Disability Wales' Alexandra Osborne is a regular gig goer but has missed out on tickets because of having to ring up for them

Alexandra Osborne from Disability Wales describes the ticketing situation at venues as a "big issue, and has been long term".

"An awful lot of our members, disabled people from across Wales, are saying that they missed out on another gig, or another concert, " she said.

"You've always got to spend quite a long time looking it up before the tickets come out to make sure you don't end up missing out because you've called a number that last time is fine but this time is the wrong number."

Ms Osborne would like to see online and phone booking options available for disabled people.

She believes one single UK-wide access card, similar to Hynt but valid for all venues, would make a positive difference.

"It's a lot of work to apply for them all and then keep up, to make sure your passes haven't expired," she explained.

"If there was one pass so we could use it in any registered venue, I think it would just help with the awareness and people actually using them because it would be talked about a bit more."


From BBC




Copyright © 2024 Able Here