The challenges wheelchair users face buying accessible concert tickets – and how to fix them

Music fan Faith Martin and Kidz Board members Caitlyn, Alice and Ella on the barriers to being there at live shows

There’s never been a concert tour as lucrative or as anticipated. Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour opens on Friday in Edinburgh. The 73,000 fans who will be there as she takes the stage are the first of almost 1.2 million people in the UK who will experience her record-breaking show over 17 ecstatically-received dates. 

With figures like that, it's no surprise that according to UK Music, live music was worth an estimated £6.6 billion to local economies in 2023. The live music and events industry is one of the biggest contributors to the UK economy. So why is getting accessible tickets as a wheelchair user so hard?

Taylor ticketing trouble

As a fellow Swiftie, I was ecstatic to find out Taylor would perform at Wembley the day before my birthday as part of this history-making tour. Since I’d attended a Harry Styles show there the year before, I was pretty confident about my chances of securing tickets. I made sure to send my proof of disability before phoning, as Wembley advised that this makes the process smoother, and I made sure I had the number up and ready to dial.

What I didn’t expect was having to ring Wembley over 2000 times, to no avail. Every time I rang the number, the call disconnected, and I even tried various other numbers in a desperate attempt to get hold of anyone working at Wembley. I found different lines that other fans had succeeded with online, which racked up my phone bill, still with no joy. The day after the tickets went on sale, Wembley put out a statement on X that read:

“Due to unprecedented demand, waiting time for Taylor Swift The Eras Tour Disabled Access is longer than normal. For those unable to wait on the phone, we have a call-back system, which can be found here. Please note this is not a guarantee of tickets.”

The callback form required me to put in my name and phone number, with the promise that a representative of the access team would get back to me. During this time, I kept ringing the access line just in case, but I eventually got a call back the next day, being able to secure my tickets. However, other fans were not so lucky.

Challenges buying accessible tickets

The main issue is that the booking process is entirely different for wheelchair users than for those without access needs. Non-disabled people just had to register for access to the tickets on Ticketmaster, and if they were lucky enough to get a code, they could buy their tickets online.

However, it’s not just Taylor Swift's shows that cause these issues. I’ve been attending live music events for as long as I can remember, but buying the tickets is never straightforward. What you need to do to secure your spot will depend on the venue and the ticket provider. Some venues require you to phone and then email your proof of disability (usually something like PIP, DLA or a doctor’s note) after you’ve bought your tickets, but others allow you to book online and email proof afterwards.

Phoning tends to be the most universal method; however, it’s not the most accessible. It requires a decent amount of time, which can impact a disabled person’s pain levels, and other wheelchair users who also have hearing conditions find it impossible to book tickets.

Another issue is that disabled people aren’t on the same financial playing field when it comes to buying tickets. They have less choice over where they sit, so they don’t get to take advantage of the price brackets that non-disabled people get to suit their budget. This means that disabled people sometimes have to buy more expensive seats than non-disabled people.

In addition to all of this, presale access to shows isn’t always available to disabled fans as these are usually sold through ticket providers that don’t let you book online, which is generally the only option for pre-sale tickets. This means that wheelchair users have to jump through multiple hoops to see their favourite artists live, although the process is generally straightforward when you don’t have access requirements.

Disabled fans' difficulty getting refunds

Just recently, Spandau Ballet star Martin Kemp offered to personally refund a disabled fan as the ticket provider, AXS, only allowed tickets to be resold if they weren’t for access customers. This meant that although the customer’s husband was severely ill in hospital, she was unable to get her money back.

AXS later confirmed to Martin Kemp via X that they had now given the customer a refund and were “reviewing our internal processes with regard to this incident and delay in response”.

A survey by Which?.com in 2024 suggests that “half of those {disabled people} who had problems when booking tickets said the ticketing company didn’t offer accessible seats as an option”. Meanwhile, 43% of the disabled people surveyed said they weren’t given clear information about access at the venue. Not being given the correct information before or at the point of purchase can make going to live music events incredibly stressful and, in some cases, impossible. Although we’re specifically focusing on booking tickets, wheelchair users have to consider many other factors like travel, hotels, and general availability.

Kidz Board on accessible ticket booking

I spoke to members of the Kidz Board, the campaigning group of young wheelchair users at the heart of Whizz Kidz, to find out about their experiences booking event tickets. The Board have plans to be active in this area in the future. 

Caitlyn (above) explained how the venue only has a limited number of accessible spaces, dramatically decreasing wheelchair users’ chances of getting tickets to an event. “Your chances are limited right away. Of course, this can’t be changed, but those of us who require accessible tickets don’t have the option to be reallocated to a different area when booking,” she said.

Alice (below) believes that booking tickets reinforces ableist attitudes in society. “Accessible ticket booking processes, I would argue, engrain the societal attitudes and barriers to an event which should be enjoyable to all. From having to actually call during working hours only, to sitting on hold for hours to submitting a large amount of personal information, it’s a difficult process to do.”

Kidz Board Chair Ella (below) detailed how being both a wheelchair user and being hearing impaired makes booking tickets near impossible, as all venues require different information. “Having to call for tickets is really difficult for me as someone who has a hearing impairment as it relies on me understanding what is being said,” she said… “I hate the access card scheme as I find it infuriating that you have to pay as to me, that's just another disability tax…”

Why access to live music matters

As we speak, The O2 Arena has announced that its access system has changed. From June 3rd, they will only accept the access card as proof of disability. I applied, and although they are offering a free version for use at the Arena only, the whole process felt incredibly intrusive.

I had to provide both a PIP (Personal Independence Payment) letter and a copy of my passport as well as having to answer in detail exactly why I need my access requirements to be met on multiple pages. It felt very much like The O2 were trying to create more barriers for disabled people to access tickets. Ultimately, it means AXS will get to decide who gets their legal right to access, and there is no confirmation from the venue about how they will meet the needs of those unable to get the access card.

The O2 Arena operators have been contacted for comment. A Wembley Stadium spokesperson said: “The demand for disabled access tickets to Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour was unprecedented. Unfortunately, this resulted in waiting times being longer than normal. For those customers unable to wait on the phone we had a call-back system in place which could be accessed via our website.”

Live music has the potential to give us some of our greatest memories. An unforgettable chance to say “I was there”. Being a young wheelchair user doesn’t stop you from being a massive fan of your favourite artist. But without the necessary support, from buying a ticket to getting home after the final encore, it can feel like you’re being made to miss out on something you love. What’s clear is that we must find an easier way for wheelchair users to access live music.

5 ways to fix accessible ticket booking

Faith’s recommendations for venues and ticket providers on how to improve accessibility for disabled fans.

1. Being able to book online
This would make the booking process more of a level playing field for wheelchair users, especially those with more complex needs who might not be able to use a phone.

2. Having up-to-date information about how to book and venue accessibility 
An alarming number of gig venues include little to no access or booking information for disabled people on their websites. Adding more in-depth information would allow wheelchair users to make an informed choice about what shows to attend.

3. Having an ‘across the board’ process for booking tickets
Having a system across all venues for those with access needs would mean that wheelchair users will again be on an equal footing with their non-disabled counterparts. It would also create a smoother experience overall.

4. A non-invasive approach
Proof of disability can help make sure those with access needs are prioritised, particularly when there’s limited space. However, lengthy forms can be complex and intrusive, and an accepted form of proof, such as a PIP letter, should always be sufficient.

5. Being able to buy and resell wheelchair tickets
Non-disabled people can resell tickets if they can’t attend an event, and they can also buy tickets that are being resold. Wheelchair users do not have this option, which means that they lose out on money and live music experiences.

About Faith Martin

Faith is a 22-year old arts and culture journalist and disability rights champion. Her work appears in the Daily Mirror, Metro, and Gigwise. A powered wheelchair user who campaigns for equal access to live events, she can't wait to see Taylor Swift on the Eras Tour.