I made the decision to post my findings about seating arrangements within musicals in the form of a blog after observing that a lot of people shared similar views.
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. This is an issue that personally affects me as I am classed as visually impaired, throughout my journey I have found that I have to pay a lot more money in order to get a substantial view of the stage, a fact that I have always found difficult to deal with.
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' in January, 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 considering disability access.
Therefore, I got to thinking if there were any measures set in place other than wheelchair access. The results that I received quite surprising.
I called up both the ATG (the Ambassador Theatre Group) and the Apollo Victoria Theatre in order to ask them about their seating arrangements for the visually impaired and what one might have to do in order to get a seat at a more reasonable price.
The reason in which I chose to call the Apollo Theatre was due to the slightly cheesy fact that Wicked was the first musical that I ever watched and was the catalyst for my love of musicals. I spoke to a woman named Rhianne who answered every question I had to offer.
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, all you have to do is call them up. Another thing that Rhianne wanted to add before I ended the call with her was that they do a performance for the impaired twice a year for a period of two weeks. During this time period, there are 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.
When contacting the ATG, they had a wider variety of options you could choose from. This is due to the wide variety of theatres in which they cover. The ATG book for theatres like: the Apollo theatre, the Piccadilly theatre, the Savoy theatre and many more. The woman who I was talking to, Rashida, was very patient even when my questions were directed towards tickets that I currently possess.
The ATG have 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. However, talking to Jack at Ticketmaster customer service, proved that it can be fairly easy to change your ticket depending on when you call in relation to buying the ticket and whether or not they are already sold out. Since discovering this, I have enquired into changing the tickets I bought to see Annie. However, this will not guarantee me a discounted seat due to the complexity of the agreement.
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 being highly controversial so I'll keep this light hearted). Socially, 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.
If I would have known that all it would take is a simple call to the theatre and maybe an email with proof of my eyesight, I would have done it a lot sooner and I would have gone to a lot more musicals.
So, to all visually impaired people out there, I hope this is an immense help towards your ticket purchases.