Disability discrimination is something I’ve experienced in various forms throughout my life of being disabled and in a wheelchair. It’s not something I’ve ever gotten used to or found easier to accept. Just last month I unfortunately experienced disability discrimination at a music gig…
I couldn’t believe it when I found out a great band called Needtobreathe were coming to the Òran Mór in Glasgow. I have been a fan of them for a while now so I knew I had to get my hands on some tickets. I phoned the venue to enquiry about a free ticket for my carer and was given the run around as usual (phone the ticketing agent, promoter and back to the venue). Eventually I was told no, so I went online to buy two standard tickets, but they had sold out by then. I was disappointed, but there was still a few months until the gig, so I held out hope that by magic more tickets would become available.
Fast forward to the night of the gig and there was a chance we might actually make it. There was people on Facebook selling tickets, but they were only selling one ticket each. I started mailing a few of them to see if the tickets were still available. While I waited for their replies I decided to phone the venue again and explain that I could have the chance of a ticket and could my carer be given a free pass as so many venues are now doing that. The person I spoke to wasn’t sure, but said he’d call the promoter and find out. He called me back as well as the promoter and both confirmed everything was arranged and gave me a name of the person at the venue who would inform the door staff of the situation.
Everything was going great. Straightaway we found a space to park the car within a 1 min walk from the venue. The people we bought the tickets from were waiting for us outside (our friend managed to arrange a ticket too so decided to come with us). We couldn’t believe how smooth everything was working out for us. We should have known at that point that it was bound to go downhill from there. The calm before the storm…
The bouncer appears at the side double doors to let us in as this is the only accessible door. My wheelchair wouldn’t fit through the door he opened and it seemed he had a problem having to open both sides of the double doors to let me in. Once we were in the doors he asked to see our tickets and he instantly had a problem because there were only two tickets for three people. We tried to explain about the free carer’s ticket and we gave him the name of the person who arranged it all. He didn’t believe us so he speaks into his ear piece saying “apparently they have a carer free, whatever that is”. Again I mentioned the person’s name who arranged it, but he ignored me and again he repeated “apparently they have a carer free”. Putting emphasis on “apparently” making us look and feel like liars not to mention uncomfortable. He then gets told that it was all cleared and my carer is allowed in.
He takes us through a cramped hallway to the lift. I have to drive through the doorway backwards because the space is so tight. Our friend tries to make small talk as he can sense the atmosphere is a little awkward and the bouncer practically shoots him down creating more awkwardness. I never understand why people are like this to other people, especially if that person was only being polite in the first place.
We finally get downstairs and we see that the room is full with it being a sold out show . We start to think of the best way of dealing with this and finding a spot that is both safe and practical for me to actually see the band. We move further forward, asking some people to move a little to let me through, but then we come to a point as it narrows nearer the stage and it’s blocked with lots of people. The bouncer was close by so my boyfriend asks him if it is possible to help clear a small path through the crowd to enable me to see the stage. He tells us “no, it’s not my job”. I became worried at this point that I would not be able to see the band on stage let alone enjoy the show. It’s incredibly uncomfortable being so low down in a crowded loud room full of people that cannot see or hear me because I am below their eye level. My boyfriend then asks the bouncer “what is your job?” which he replied “my job is to get you in the building and up the lift”. Allan then asks him “whose job is it to help me?” The bouncer says “no one, you get through crowds like anyone else”. My boyfriend then says “it’s very busy and she can’t see the show that she paid to see just like everyone else”. He wasn’t interested at all and every time we said anything to him he replied like a broken record “there are other people here to see the show so I can’t ask them to move”.
For 10 minutes this goes on while my boyfriend continuously tells him he understands that there are other people, but all we are asking for is a little help to get through the crowds. The bouncer kept saying it wasn’t his issue and that it’s our problem to move people if I want to be able to see the stage. We explained to him that even if people move a little bit they would still be able to see due to standing whereas I can’t because I’m lower sitting in my wheelchair. The only thing I’d see would be everyone’s backs and bums. Not something I’d want to do after paying to see a band. The bouncer continued to repeat it wasn’t his issue and we continued to plead for help. He didn’t show any compassion or willingness to help customers that needed some assistance within the venue. Isn’t that what stewards/bouncers are paid to do?
So in the end we slowly moved towards the front barrier jammed up against the far right-hand side of the stage. We get nearer and the bouncer pulls the curtain over as if trying to stop us from getting nearer. My boyfriend asks him “what are you doing, let her through” he smirks and dramatically drags the barrier forward and says “you should have just said” in an arrogant manner. My boyfriend replies “I just asked you to do that for us, why could you not have done that from the start instead of being so awkward”. No reply from him as he stood at the side of the stage trying to act tough. He decided to stand, towering over me a matter of inches away all night and made me and my boyfriend feel intimidated and stressed.
Throughout this entire ordeal, we never once asked for special treatment. All we asked for was some common decency and understanding that I required some extra help to get to a spot where I could see the show like everyone else. Instead this person ruined my night and made me feel so sad that someone could treat me like this.
Once the show ended the other bouncer that was briefly involved came over to us and was extremely patronising to me. He told us that all the trouble was nothing to do with them, nothing they could have done and that we all have to fight for things we want. We tried to make our point heard over and over. He laughed and said “put it this way, things might have been different if I was dealing with it, depends on the person”. I think that sums up what he thought of the whole situation that the other bouncer was deliberately being awkward with us.
We go to many live music shows throughout the UK and never experienced such dismissive, ignorant, apathetic and rude people in this time. It made me feel worthless and like I do not have the same rights as everyone else. I feel it’s disabled discrimination which has no place in society in this day in age. Since the gig we have made a formal complaint to the venue. Although we have received a brief response from the Assistant Manager and an offer of free tickets to another gig (which we declined), we are still waiting on the Security Manager and the Manager of the venue getting back to us. We were also told that an investigation would be made into what happened that night.
Last month was not a good month for me for going to music gigs. To read about my other recent experience and thoughts on accessible ticketing for disabled people click here. You should also check out Needtobreathe if you are into discovering new music.
Have you experienced any discrimination and how did you deal with it? What’s your thought on disability discrimination?