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See Tickets in discrimination row after choreographer asked to prove disability to watch own show

The Rollettes. Photo: Becky Bailey
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Ticketing company See has become embroiled in a discrimination row, after it demanded proof of disability from a choreographer in a wheelchair who was booking to see her own show.

See Tickets said it was necessary to request proof because of fraudulent activity and to ensure accessible tickets were only used by those with a “genuine need”.

However, the policy has been labelled potentially discriminatory by theatre company Graeae, which has also accused the ticketing company of “aggressive” behaviour.

The theatre company raised the issue after it tried to book a wheelchair space for a choreographer working on a performance by its young company, the Rollettes – to be staged at the Alexandra Palace on December 16 as part of Horrible Christmas.

During the booking process, See sent an email to the theatre company stating that only “registered disabled customers” have access to the area required and that it needed “proof of disability”.

“If we have not received this within seven days your booking with us will be cancelled,” it wrote.

See Tickets told The Stage that several of its clients and venues had “experienced instances where people are fraudulently claiming accessible tickets”.

“We ask for evidence of disability at the final booking stage to ensure accessible tickets and personal assistant tickets are being used by the people who have genuine need for them,” a spokeswoman said.

The company said the system of evidencing in place “reduces fraudulent access and increases the actual capacity for customers with disabilities”.

However, Graeae head of marketing Richard Matthews said the number of people “pretending to be disabled to get a cheaper ticket is probably very small”.

“From our perspective, it’s more important to be treating disabled people ethically – not asking for very personal documentation, which is very violating,” he said.

Matthews added that companies need to act “within the confines of the equality act” and should not use phrases such as “registered disabled” or add extra levels of administration for disabled customers by asking for proof. He described it as ridiculous to “suggest that someone might pretend to be a wheelchair user and to pretend needing a wheelchair space”.

“It seems See have a one-size-fits-all approach to disabled customers, and perhaps they should build in more flexibility if they insist on doing this,” he said.

Following the incident, See said it would be reviewing the wording it used when seeking evidence to “communicate more clearly why we are asking for evidence and how our process benefits customers with disabilities”.

The Stage also approached Ambassador Theatre Group, as the largest theatre ticketing company, about its policy.

A spokesman told The Stage that it also asked for proof, and said that this was in place to prevent fraud.

“Unfortunately, we too have seen fraudulent activity in this area and are actively working with industry partners to address this issue,” he said, adding: “We appreciate that these requirements may feel unjustified to some patrons, but unfortunately they are necessary in order to avoid abuse of the access scheme.”

Ticketmaster said it did not have a fixed policy around this area.

Earlier this year, Andrew Miller was named disability champion for the arts. He has already signalled his intent to push for a single national online ticket booking scheme for disabled customers.

What does the law say?

There is no longer a register of disabled people, so you do not need to register as disabled. The Equality Act says that you are disabled if you have “a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”. It’s illegal to discriminate against you because you are disabled.

How do you prove a disability?

According to charity Scope, stating that you are disabled will be enough most of the time. Sometimes you need a disability benefit entitlement letter. This will help you to get a carer’s space at the cinema or gain admission to accessible area at gigs.

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