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O2 Academy Edinburgh | Wheelchair Access Review

I was supposed to see Birdy at the 02 ABC Glasgow, but due to the lift being broken at the venue I couldn’t attend. Upset and disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to attend Birdy’s show, which I had been looking forward to for such a long time, I was relieved to discover she was performing the following night at O2 Academy Edinburgh.

Accessibility Information

Before booking tickets for a gig, especially at a venue, I’ve never been to, I always check their website for accessibility information. Do they have wheelchair access? Is there a lift/stairs/level access? Is there an accessible toilet? Do they offer a free PA ticket? How do I book accessible tickets?

These are some of the basic questions among others, which I’d expect to see on a venue’s website. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out much accessibility information on O2 Academy Edinburgh website, apart from that, each room within the venue had an accessible toilet.

However, this was not easy to find and required looking in the FAQ’s under the ‘Our Rooms’ section. This should be much easier to find and located in a section clearly marked Accessibility.

Update as of 2021: O2 Academy Edinburgh website has now been updated. However, there still not does appear to have an accessibility section. There is some access information in FAQ’s.

Booking Tickets at O2 Academy Edinburgh

With so many questions and no answers, I decided to call the venue for more information. The woman I spoke to on the phone wasn’t the most helpful person, but she did tell me the venue was accessible and that I could book my tickets online as there was no separate accessible ticket line.

Since most venues offer a free PA ticket to disabled customers, I was surprised when told that O2 Academy Edinburgh didn’t.

Something in the way the woman told me this, made me question whether this was true. The following day I called the venue again and spoke to someone different. This time I got a different answer to my question and in actual fact, they do offer a free PA ticket.

This was great to hear, but I shouldn’t have had to call the venue again to question the information their staff were giving me. But by calling the venue for the second time I ended up saving myself £30 on a ticket.

Birdy at The Edinburgh Corn Exchange

All venue staff should be made completely aware of basic accessibility information like this. It’s concerning that other disabled people have likely been given false information about PA tickets and had to fork out more money than they should have or even worse not be able to attend a gig because they couldn’t afford to pay for their PA to accompany them.

I was told to book a standard ticket online for myself and that the sales and marketing manager would email me in order to add my PA to the guest list. So off I went and booked my ticket online and waited to receive my email from the manager.

A few days had passed and I still hadn’t received an email from the manager, so I sent an email explaining the situation and asked for my PA to be added to the guest list. The following day I received an email from the manager informing me that his name would be on the venue’s guest list when we arrive.

All venues should have accessibility information on their websites. Access starts online is a great campaign by Attitude is Everything. It’s easy to do and saves disabled customers a lot of time and effort.

Venue Accessibility at O2 Academy Edinburgh

We drove to O2 Academy Edinburgh and having never been to this venue before we were unsure what the parking would be like. Fortunately, parking was a breeze and we were able to park right outside the venue.

It’s important to note that the venue does not have its own parking facilities. They do have a drop-off point at the main entrance though.

The Edinburgh Corn Exchange

As we arrived at the entrance a friendly member of the event staff approached us and instantly offered to help. Chatting away and asking us questions about Birdy as he escorted us into the venue.

He then passed us on to another member of staff who wasn’t as helpful. She checked our ticket before handing it back and then saying nothing. Left wondering where to go we had to ask where the accessible seats were. Without saying a single word to us she just pointed in the direction we had to go and turned her back on us. I found her manner off-putting and very unprofessional.

Access into the venue was all on one level and completely wheelchair accessible. There are no steps, ramps or lifts.

Viewing Platform at O2 Academy Edinburgh

We entered the room where Birdy would be performing and the viewing platform was right at the back of the hall, which I personally thought was too far back. There was a big gap between us on the viewing platform and the rest of the crowd. Potential space that could accommodate a larger viewing platform.

The Edinburgh Corn Exchange view from platform

The steward guarding the platform checked the guest list and couldn’t find my PA’s name. We explained I had email confirmation from the manager that the name was added to the guest list, but the steward kept insisting it wasn’t and wasn’t interested in looking at my email.

Even though he eventually let us on the platform, he made us feel like we were being dishonest with him, which wasn’t the case.

The Edinburgh Corn Exchange viewing platform ramp access

The ramp to the platform was quite tight, which could be a problem for larger wheelchairs and mobility scooters to navigate around. Once on the viewing platform, we had to squeeze in between other wheelchair users and their friends.

This created problems when someone had to leave for the toilet as we all had to move, which made that person feel uncomfortable and an inconvenience for causing others to move even though it wasn’t their fault.

The platform was too small for its purpose. A bigger platform would accommodate more people and provide a more comfortable space for moving around easily.

The cramped space could potentially be a health and safety risk especially in the event of an emergency or if someone became ill because it would be difficult for everyone to get out quickly and safely.

As I said before, there was lots of space between the platform and the crowd so I think the hall could definitely take a bigger platform.

Birdy at O2 Academy Edinburgh

In the shadows, Birdy appeared like an angel and instantly began to mesmerise the audience with her haunting vocals and flawless piano playing. It’s very evident why this young virtuoso sits in front of this captivated audience.

Birdy at The Edinburgh Corn Exchange venue review

Birdy’s real name is Jasmine van den Bogaerde and was discovered at the age of 14 on YouTube. Now 19, she has just released her third album, Beautiful Lies. If you haven’t heard this album or any of Birdy’s albums for that matter, you are seriously missing out.

It’s difficult to choose a favourite from her stunning setlist of tracks, which included Keeping Your Head Up, Wild Horses, Words, Shadow and Deep End.

Birdy is an extremely established songwriter and tells stories beautifully through her music. Make sure you go check her out as soon as you finish reading this review. You won’t regret it.

Birdy at The Edinburgh Corn Exchange venue review


Leaving the venue was just as easy as entering. At the end of a gig, we sometimes wait until the crowds have eased up, but we decided to leave as soon as Birdy left the stage. We headed for the accessible door we came in and the same steward who had helped us in was waiting to help us out.

It was very easy and hassle-free. We managed to get back to our car and began our journey home within a few minutes of leaving the O2 Academy Edinburgh.

Final thoughts

O2 Academy Edinburgh has good wheelchair accessibility. Access into the venue is good as it’s all on the one level with no need for ramps or lifts. The viewing platform could be improved to allow better access and accommodate more people whether wheelchair users or not.

It would be helpful for O2 Academy Edinburgh to have accessibility information on their website which is easy to find and gives disabled gig-goers instant information they require, saving them having to call the venue.

Booking tickets is simple once you know the procedure and that the venue offers free PA tickets. Again this is something that should be stated on the website so that disabled gig-goers know before booking their tickets.

It would also be helpful if all staff were aware of free PA tickets and other accessibility information. #AccessStartsOnline.

You might also enjoy

The Usher Hall Edinburgh Disabled Access & Wheelchair Accessibility Review

SWG3 Wheelchair Accessible Venue Review | Dermot Kennedy

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Meet Emma

Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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10 Responses

  1. I have this problem with a lot of sites, and often complain (nicely). The National Portrait Gallery had no access information, so I contacted them and said how disappointed I was, as my memory was that it was accessible. They contacted me, asked me how they could improve the site, took in my comments, and gave me two free tickets. It should be a legal obligation to display how they comply with the DDA.

    1. That’s great to hear they were willing to listen and accept your comments and ask how they could make things better. Did they eventually improve access information on their website? I agree, it really should be made legal that they comply and clearly display accessibility information on their websites. Thanks for sharing your experience, Philippa 🙂

      1. Oh the website accessibility thing catches me out every time. I’ve seen venues that I can’t even get into be quite concerned that I can read their website OK.

  2. Thanks for the review, Emma. I’m seeing Arcade Fire there next month and I’m a bit down, if not surprised, to find out the platform is at the back.

    How far away was the stage in relation to, for example, the Glasgow ABC?

    Cheers, Declan.

    1. Hi Declan. Unfortunately the platform is further away from the stage compared to Glasgow ABC. I’d say the room is longer than the ABC. It’s difficult to show the distance from the stage in photos 🙁

      I was at the ABC a few nights ago seeing Gavin DeGraw. What do you think of the platform at the ABC? I often struggle to see the stage properly if there are tall people in front. I also don’t like how crowded the platform gets.

      I hope you have a great time at Arcade Fire. Please let me know how you get on 🙂

      1. I’ve not had too much of a problem with obstruction at the ABC because I’m tall so my chair is quite high accordingly. There was one time when two tall guys stood in front of me but my friend asked them to move and they were thankfully very nice.
        Yeah, the crowding area thing. It hasn’t bothered me compared to the Academy where I’ve thought that if I’d needed to use the loo, I’d be done for.

        The ABC’s lift not working for SIX EFFING MONTHS though. I missed two shows I really wanted to see because of that.

        Places of entertainment is my bugbear so I thank you for this blog which I just found because of my Corn Exchange worries.

        1. The more I go to the ABC the more I question why I bother. I end up leaving the show at the end of the night with a sore neck and back from all the twisting to see the stage. I’ve got my recent review of the ABC coming in the next few days if you’re interested in that.

          I completely understand what you mean about the crowds at the Academy. Thankfully I’ve never needed to use the toilet or leave during the show because it would be a total nightmare trying to get people to move out the way. I’d hate the hassle of that.

          I also missed out on several shows I really wanted to see, but I’m so happy the lift at the ABC is finally working now. I think it was a complete rebuild they had to do if I’m not mistaken. Have you been to the ABC since the new lift?

          I’m glad you found my blog and I hope you have a fantastic time at Arcade Fire next month. I’d love to hear about your experience so please let me know how you get on 🙂

          1. The Arcade Fire show was the best concert I’ve ever seen.They were playing in the crowd at the start and in the foyer afterwards.The big bit in between was excellent too.

            Disability stuff etc –

            The band played in-the-round which brought the stage closer to the platform. However, I was in early so parked up at the barrier. i got advised by security not to but i accepted responsibility for all of it. With four sides to the stage, that cut barrier crowding by a quarter so it was all fine. A one off opportunity to see them right up close and they’re probably my favourite band so i was happy. The staff were helpful and any luke-warm things I’d heard about the venue’s shape and sound didn’t really apply the way the band had set up.

  3. Thank you for this post! I’m new to having to navigate accesbility at gigs and this is helpful. Really hope things have improved since you posted this, but it’s been good to hear someone’s first hand experience.

    1. Hi Sara! I’m really glad you found this post helpful. What gig are you going to? Please let me know how you get on at the gig – I would love to know what your experience was like.

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