My findings when I researched seating arrangements in theatres for the visually impaired.
This was originally a research project, however due to the lack of knowledge on this, I decided to share it here.
Seats for the visually impaired has been a particular issue that has affected me ever since I started to go to the theatre to watch musicals.
As I am classed as visually impaired, I have found that I have to pay a lot more money in order to get a substantial view of the stage, something that I thought was unfair.
Currently, the average ticket for a show in the West End costs around £70. However, tickets that are closer to the stage tend to cost a lot more. For example, when my mother and I went to watch ‘Dreamgirls’, we found that the popular demand of the show left us having to pay more for seats that were within my viewing range. These tickets were an incredible £110 per seat- it was this experience that led me to realise that the visually impaired are overlooked when talking about actual disabilities.
So, what can be done about this?
I called up both the ATG (the Ambassador Theatre Group) and the Apollo Victoria Theatre and asked them about their seating arrangements for the visually impaired. Specifically, what one might have to do in order to get a seat at a more reasonable price.
The Apollo theatre has an access concession rate which discounts ticket prices from £70 to £37.75. This offer not only goes to the customer but also to their plus one. In order to do this, you have to provide proof of your visual impairment.
Another thing I would like to add is that most theatres do a performance for the impaired twice a year for a period of two weeks. During this time period, there is a choice of shows ranging from captioned performances, audio performances and a touch tour before the show, where people are able to go backstage to look at the props at a more comfortable sight and touch them.
The ATG has an Access scheme in which if a customer is visually impaired, there is a discounted ticket for them and their carer/ plus one. In each theatre, there are particular seats that are left open that are classed as access tickets that you can book for in advance. Regarding evidence that you need to show, it is asked for in the form of a doctor’s note or something from your opticians, and the theatre would prefer to see it in person but would accept an email. When a more popular musical is released (Hamilton for example), if you are classed within the access scheme, you can book tickets so much as a year in advance, therefore missing the stress of trying to get a seat before they sell out, while making sure that you can still view the performance from a good angle. Once you’ve set up with the access scheme, you’ll be put in the system and therefore will only have to call in when you want a ticket.
I believe that the main issue when getting seats would have to be ticket websites. Websites like Ticketmaster don’t make it clear that their access policy includes those hard of hearing and visually impaired.
To say that I was shocked at the amount of help and offers that are available for the visually impaired would be an understatement. I am very happy to be able to say that I will no longer have to pay a flabbergasting amount of money for tickets.
In a way, I believe that the reason this information seems so surprising may be due to the social approach towards having a disability (the issue is highly controversial so I’ll keep this light-hearted and only based on myself). Although I am classed as visually impaired, I can still see (to a certain degree) with my glasses on. I believe that there should be more advertisement within the musical society about the many accessibilities that are available for people with a range of many disabilities.
So, to all visually impaired people out there, I hope this is an immense help towards your ticket purchases.