Leading disability charities have criticised the Kings Theatre in Portsmouth for introducing charges for previously free carer tickets.
Portsmouth’s Kings Theatre took the decision to charge £10 for carers’ tickets, after reviewing its access policy in October.
The decision has been condemned by disability equality charity Scope, and VocalEyes, an arts organisation championing experiences for blind and partially sighted people.
Scope’s campaigns manager Jess Leigh, said: “Without the vital support a personal assistant provides for things like using the toilet, getting comfortable and eating and drinking, activities such as going to the theatre would be impossible.
“Life already costs more for disabled people – on average £583 a month. Initiatives such as free carer tickets help to level the playing field and ensure everyone can access theatre.”
“We hope the theatre will rethink this policy change, and that venues will improve their performance to become more inclusive for disabled people,” she added.
VocalEyes chief executive Matthew Cock added: “The Equality Act (2010) requires businesses to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people accessing their venues and services and it is not permissible to charge people for that reasonable adjustment. A theatre should therefore have a concession scheme that either lets an essential companion accompany a disabled person free of charge, or both tickets should be discounted by at least 50% of the price of a ‘standard’ ticket.”
He added: “I would strongly advise them to reconsider their charge. There is no justification with regard to the venue’s costs of providing the service.”
In a statement provided by the venue, a spokesman said it had reviewed its carer and access policies in October last year, to ensure they were up to to date. As part of this, it looked into how other similar-sized venues across the UK charge for companion tickets.
“We decided that rather than a complex changing price structure to instead have one nominal fee of £10 per companion ticket which is the same price regardless of the show,“ a statement said.
The Mayflower, a similar sized venue in Southampton, states that carers of disabled patrons are “entitled to a half-price personal assistant seat”, which varies according to the show.
The theatre’s CEO Paul Woolf told The Stage: “The Kings prides itself on being at the heart of our community in and around the city of Portsmouth. We are actively involved in a growing number of community initiatives to further support the experience of our audience at the venue and within the wider city.”
He added: “Since the introduction of our new policy in October 2019, 597 companion tickets have been purchased from our box office and this was the first issue raised.
“We are always sensitive to our patrons views and continuously listen to our audience and review all policies as a result.”