New research reveals strong demand from disabled audiences to return to live events

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Attitude Is Everything - Club Attitude - Hatcham Social - Captioned and BSL interpreted - photo by Sara Amroussi-Gilissen
  • Audience snapshot by music and event industry charity Attitude is Everything indicates that a majority of Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people want to return to live events – as long as accessible safety precautions are in place.
  • However, a significant minority fear they will not be able to return to indoor events before 2022, a reality that industries need to respond to if progress towards inclusion is not to be lost.

A snapshot online survey, carried out by the charity Attitude is Everything between 19th July and 1st August this year, has revealed the diverse positions Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people now find themselves in since the lifting of COVID-safety regulations one month ago on 19th July.

The poll of 289 individuals with a history of attending live events found that respondents went to a staggering 5000+ indoor and 1200+ outdoor live events in 2019, from gigs and festivals to football matches and book launches.

74% have additional access requirements in order to attend live events, such as companion tickets, accessible seating, step-free access and accessible toilets.

A key message from the survey is that many disabled people are eager to return as soon as possible.

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50% said they would feel comfortable attending an indoor live event as long as they are confident that as many accessible measures as possible have been put in place to increase safety.

35% have tickets booked for an upcoming indoor live event, despite having to navigate additional barriers caused by a lack of staffing of access booking services, whilst 48% are planning to attend an indoor live event by the end of the year.

The results underscore the crucial need for event organisers to ensure that access and COVID-safety measures are at the forefront of reopening plans. To help with this transition, Attitude is Everything have developed a number of online resources and a Charter framework to remove barriers returning audiences might face. Following the survey, Attitude is Everything calls on event organisers to check their post-July 19th COVID-safety information and practices against this list of reopening measures supported by respondents.

However, elsewhere a more complex picture emerges, with the results shining a light on a new splitting of disabled audiences due to COVID that organisers now need to respond to if the progress made towards full inclusion before and during the pandemic is not to be lost.

67% of respondents considered themselves to be at heightened risk if they were to contract COVID, with 46% having shielded in 2020, and 27% feeling it necessary to return to shielding now rules have been lifted.

Furthermore, 42% didn’t see how a live venue could be a safe environment for them at the time they completed the survey, with 24% feeling that they won’t be able to get to an indoor live event until next year at the earliest.

96% of all respondents said it is important that venues and events engage with disabled people who don’t feel safe to return just yet, with 78% thinking venues and events should maintain online streaming as an option.

Attitude is Everything’s Access Guide: Online Music Events demonstrates the ways in which online events can be made accessible. It has never been more important for venues and events to reach out to disabled audiences, including those holding back from returning to live events due to safety concerns. Online engagement sessions and live events, venue open days for people to visit and learn about safety measures on the ground and programming of socially-distanced event options are four key tools in ensuring that diverse disabled audiences are not overlooked at this time.

As is to be expected, outdoor events felt more achievable for many. 73% said they would feel comfortable attending an outdoor live event as long as they are confident that as many accessible measures as possible have been put in place to increase safety, with 55% planning to attend an outdoor live event by the end of the year. 23% are considering going to an outdoor event for the first time this year due to concerns about indoor safety, further highlighting the need for outdoor events to ensure what they offer is accessible to all.

On the controversial topic of events requiring the NHS COVID Pass, 83% said they would attend a venue or event that requires the NHS COVID Pass to gain entry, with 67% stating they would actively choose a venue that requires an NHS COVID Pass to gain entry over one that doesn’t.

On the findings, Suzanne Bull MBE, Founder of Attitude is Everything, said:

“In 2019, disabled people were big consumers of live events. In fact, in the years before the pandemic, the economic spend from disabled people attending live music grew from £3.4 million in 2013 to £9.3 million in 2019, so there was always going to be a huge demand from the disabled community to return to live events.

“Understandably, disabled people have real and deep-seated fears about how safe live events will be after the pandemic. I urge the live events sector to address concerns and make demonstratable efforts to welcome those with access requirements back to their venues and events, and for artists to become actively involved in this welcome.

“Over the past 18 months, disabled people have been loyal in donating to venues and campaigns to support musicians, and bought music, art and books to help creatives to sustain themselves. So more than ever before, it’s time to recognise that the disabled community are part of the life-blood of culture in the UK.”

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