London O2 Arena Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Photo Credit: Louise Hill

Ah accessibility in London, always a topic of discussion. I always struggle to find people’s personal experience of venue accessibility as opposed to the venues’ account of their own accessibility (and as we know, how accessible venues say they are doesn’t always match how accessible they ACTUALLY are) so I decided to start adding into this blog my views on accessibility of venues that I’ve been to. This first one is, as the title suggests, a blog about the accessibility of O2 Arena London in Greenwich. I’ll be splitting it into the ticket buying process, the journey to/from venue and seating/general experience at the event.

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)

O2 Arena London has the fairly standard disabled booking line that you ring in order to request whatever kind of accessible seating you need, for me that means a wheelchair space and a free carer ticket but the person taking your booking will ask what you need to just tell them when they ask. I also find it’s a “call the minute tickets go on sale” situation to avoid tickets selling out, but that’s obviously if circumstances permit and it’s probably just me being overly eager to get tickets as well! The tickets I get are the disabled & carer ticket on one of the disabled platform, I’ll talk more about the kind of view I get from that area later on but there are 2 platforms I believe so your view etc will obviously depend on which platform you’re on. Buying tickets with this venue (and most venues now) actually gets easier the more you buy tickets for that venue as they (as far as I’m aware) keep a record of the requirements you ask for when you book so when you book with them more than once (i.e. me) they can just pull up the profile from your previous booking of what you asked for and work from there (obviously changing details if you ask them to).  

Getting there is simpler than I initially thought, obviously the accessible route takes longer than a “normal” route because it always does but the number of changes is pretty simple,  for me, it’s a bus to Uxbridge station (not using public transport is an option but I’m a student who likes to take advantage of free buses sooooooooo…) and then it’s Metropolitan line from Uxbridge (where a ramp is 100% required) to Wembley Park, not Finchley road because staff have told me that there’s hardly ever staff to interchange an MIP (Mobility Impaired Person, i.e. me) between trains; then Jubilee line from Wembley park (which supposedly, according to TFL’s own signage, only has disabled access from platform to street so a ramp is  needed but barely offered and sometimes refused when if it’s requested so I’d certainly be persistent about that if you need it) to north Greenwich which is completely accessible then a short walk to the actual arena (and the Jubilee line has Night Tube now so I only have to worry about making it back to the Metropolitan line at Wembley Park for like 12:30am to get the last train back to Uxbridge!

In terms of seating, I luckily always get tickets in the first disabled access platform closer to the front of the venue, so my view’s always really good but that obviously depends on which platform you’re on. It also depends on what event you go to, as for concerts the stage is right at the front of the venue compared to where I’m sat so I get an excellent view can really great sound, whereas for sporting events, like UFC London that I went to, the Octagon was right in the middle of the arena so, while I could see the standing stuff really well, I spent most of the groundwork time watching the big screens to get a clear view (although that’s probably the same for anyone who wasn’t sat in the cage side seats).

In terms of experience, once we arrived at the venue we were spotted by staff who led us through security then back on ourselves and around to a separate door to get to the disabled access platform, I wish there was a way to get to the disabled access door without having to double back on yourself and pass through security sensors twice but OBVIOUSLY I completely understand the need for security at venues. It was impossible to get lost as we were led everywhere through the back of the venue to get to the disabled access door. Once we were settled in our seat, any food and drinks we requested throughout the night were brought to us which was a nice touch as it meant not having to leave the event and miss parts to go and get stuff (I’d recommend using cash to pay for stuff when it’s brought up cash as trying to complete a card transaction with a concert going on sounds tricky). When the event was over it would have been nice to have someone walk us out of the main venue area to get through the crowds but, because those on the disabled platform leave through a separate door and there’s a large concourse area before you leave the venue it’s not actually that crowded trying to leave (until you get to the tube station which is a whole different crowd control ballgame for EVERYONE!)

*It’s worth adding to this that, according to the experience in this (linked) tweet thread from one of my Twitter followers, you might as well not bother trying to get a drink FROM the bar if you need to use the wheelchair accessible/lowered bar section. Staff (by their own admission) haven’t been briefed that the lowered bar is meant for wheelchair users, and the tills and pay points in that section of the bar don’t work so you’d have to have someone head to the standard height section of the bar to pay on your behalf anyway! Even if you do get served at the lowered bar, it will likely require someone from the standard height section of the bar pointing the bar staff in your direction.

I feel like the experience in this tweet thread is just more evidence that venues often think of access as purely getting disabled people INTO the building and don’t think beyond that. Accessibility means disabled people being able to access EVERY part of an event the same as everyone else.  That also means being able to go to the bar and get a drink independently should we so choose.

I hope this post is useful for at least 1 person and feel free to continue discussing venue accessibility in the comments, and kudos to staff and the O2 London for making concert going relatively easy for this #invinciblewoman!

 Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)




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