It's kind of the "done thing" here in the UK to offer discounts to disabled people and carers or sometimes to offer free entry for carers. It's a way of recognising that things aren't ever going to be completely fair and level the playing field somewhat. My parents and I will always mention that I'm disabled and need a carer when booking tickets 1) to ensure they can meet my needs and 2) so we can make use of any discounts. My mum also has gone as far as going "I'm her carer, do you give discounts for carers?
I had a feeling I wrote about part of this story back at the end of September when it first happened but I can't find the entry and there's been a slight development today so, if i have, forgive me.
I love to go to the theatre. And my mum and I (and occasionally friends or other relatives) go every few months to the one in Oxford. We're going on Friday along with my friend Elisa and my sister. We're going to see Starlight Express - the tickets were my birthday present. But despite their being a present I organised and paid for them (mum paid me back).
The theatre had a system whereby the disabled person paid full price (and had to sit in the worst of the most expensive seats) but the carer went free. So given that me and Elisa both use chairs I figured mum and Soph would both be classed as carers.
An important point here being that whilst the theatre is accessible there is no way that the two of us in chairs could go alone. We're both extremely independant and capable of going without a carer or other able-bodied person but the way the access works (particularly to the loos) is such that it wouldn't happen. Elisa may surprise me and manage but I will be surprised and there definitely is no way i could. the small matter of the disabled seating being at the top of the theatre and the disabled loo miles away down an extremely steep ramp and then up another steep ramp. And those ramps are not the 1 in 12 that is considered safe for a chair. Mum normally takes me down it backwards and it takes both of us.
So I booked the tickets for Friday and queried the price because I thought it sounded too much. I was told they still offered a discount for carers but it was no longer free; they had a new system. To me it sounded as though the price was full price for all tickets but I was assured the discount had been applied. However when I questioned how it worked (for example, when we went to see Equus in London we had to have the most expensive tickets due to my chair but they charged us for the cheapest) the woman couldn't tell me.
Off I went to their website. No answer there.
So I clicked on the link for "e-mail the manager." I got an out of office auto reply saying he'd be back in on October 1st (this was late September).
This is what I wrote:
Sent: 24 September 2007 14:28
To: Manager, New Theatre, Oxford
Subject: Message from Website - facilities for disabled customersHello,
I am a wheelchair user and have frequently attended shows at the New
Theatre in the past. I have always been very impressed by the level of
service and attention I have received from your staff both in person and
over the phone.
This morning I booked tickets for a couple of shows and when I queried
the cost was told that the complimentary ticket for carers has been
stopped. The person I spoke to said that the price I had been quoted
included the discount but didn't really explain how this is now worked
out. Please could you explain to me why the scheme has been stopped as
I find this very disappointing - theatre tickets are expensive,
particularly when you must pay for a carer (I cannot visit alone) as
well. Also could you explain how the new system works? This would be
useful information for me to have for future reference.
Today, nearly three months later, he saw fit to reply.
Whilst I in no way think I deserve to have complimentary tickets still the issue for me is the fact that I am independant and in no way need a carer to go to almost anything but there set up means I must have one. As well as meaning I must sit in the most expensive seats, sit right at the back (which means if you go to something like Rocky Horror where people stand up and dance for parts you can't see the stage - they do have cctv screens but the quality is crap and I paid to watch the show not watch it on tv). which arguably are the worse seats in that section (I imagine having been to other theatres there are better seats in the cheaper sections to a certain extent). The set up also means I can't go down to the stage if they do meet the cast in the interval (which is rare there, actually) and I must be taken to the loo like a child.
I'm not sure if I'm more annoyed with the "put up and shut up" wishy washy not answering my questions nature of his reply or the fact it took him THREE MONTHS to send it for christ sake.
This is the reply:
Thank you for your email, please accept my apologies for the delay in
Yes, I do accept that Live Nation's new pricing policy for able bodied
companions is an emotive one and I accept that visits are expensive
enough however I have been asked to enforce it. Basically tickets for
able-bodied companions were free, they are now priced and the lowest
ticket price available for the performance the customer is looking to
book for. Should you wish to make a booking then you need to liaise with
our Group Bookings department who also handle calls from customers
wishing to book with carers, please contact XXXXX
Wishing you my best intentions at all times,
Mum suggested that I e-mail him back asking for more information and we both thought I should ask if they plan to improve the access so carers aren't always needed. But I think I shall find someone else to e-mail (and also ask how long queries are supposed to be answered in). God only knows if I e-mail him again, I'll probably be waiting until March at least!
Still, I did expect more than "they were free, they're now not".