Here’s another 2 for 1 accessibility review deal with reviews of the Liverpool Gateway B & B and the M & S Bank Arena Liverpool as part of an overall review of my experience of UFC Liverpool.
(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!).
Liverpool Gateway B & B
In terms of booking, we found the B & B online and rung to explain the situation in terms of my disability and what was required in terms of accessibility, once it had been discussed and I’d confirmed that the B & B was accessible enough for me to stay there, I was able to book a ground floor room (the absolute deal breaker basis for accessibility that I requested).
For travelling to Liverpool, we used Megabus. In terms of getting across the city, we took the 10A bus from Liverpool One Bus Station (where the Megabus dropped us off) to Queens Square Bus Station (getting buses between bus stations may seem a little ridiculous but we were tourists who had no idea where we were going so we took the route we were given), then we took the 7 bus from Queens Square Bus Station to Old Swan to get to the B & B.
The B & B could not be considered “fully accessible” as there was no wet room, a step into the building and some small steps to the main area but I already knew about that and had booked knowing about it. We were able to have a ground floor room which is what I HAD requested. We also had great customer service throughout our stay with staff who were always willing to help with access (lifting my chair in and out of the building etc) and with recommending places to go and telling us how to get there. It’s a place I would gladly return to on another trip to Liverpool and would definitely recommend to others!
M & S Bank Arena Liverpool
In terms of booking, it may well be the longest booking process I’ve ever gone through. First, I bought the tickets and “part” paid as though paying for a disabled and carer ticket, but the carer ticket was not YET confirmed. Before that, 2 forms needed to be filled in: one for me as the disabled person and one for my “carer”. My form involved sending copies of my ID and PIP (Personal Independence Payment, government disability payments) confirmation and my personal details. The carer form only required the personal details of the person who would be accompanying as my “carer”. One stipulation was that the person named on that form MUST be the person who accompanied me, and that couldn’t be changed after the form was submitted. Top it all off, the venue then lost my documentation copies and form, so I had to resend it via email! Once my entitlement to a disabled and carer ticket was verified and confirmed, the venue confirmed that I did not have to switch my carer ticket to a standard ticket and therefore there was nothing left to do, and the tickets were FINALLY fully paid for!
*February 2023 update: The M & S Bank Arena has now moved away from the accessible booking system I described above. They now require that everyone who requires access seating or an access booking register for a NIMBUS Access Card and then provide their Nimbus registration number when booking. Registration is free if you register through Ticket Quarter. However, if you’ve previously gotten an Access Card through a different third party scheme, for example I originally got mine through Ticket Factory, you have to pay £15 to extend your current Access Card to all arenas. They say this has been done to streamline the process but I don’t see the streamlining in making disabled people jump through ANOTHER set of hoops, sign up to ANOTHER scheme with ANOTHER third party, just to be able to access tickets that we require and are entitled to. And don’t even get me started on the fact that some people, like me, have to PAY for this card in order to be allowed to access the tickets. PAYING specifically for access to accessibility?! If you can’t tell I’m very much not a fan of this update. Very much venues would STOP making us jumps through 1000 hoops for tickets. As I often tell my friends when discussing these sorts of situations, Venues: I’m disabled, not a fucking dolphin, STOP making me jump through hoops.
*Eurovision 2023 Update: The Eurovision 2023 ticket sales solely used Ticketmaster including online booking for the accessible tickets. You’d THINK this would make things simpler, but it in fact just added another layer of stress. My friend and I wanted to attend together (we’re both wheelchair users) but you could only buy one access ticket and carer at a time, so we needed to both try for tickets as we weren’t sure if the venue would be weird about one of us being the carer for the other (some venues are odd about that). Unfortunately my friend was the only one who could get a ticket so it was a nervous wait as to whether we would have issues with the carer ticket situation. My friend was also sent emails SEVERAL times asking for proof of disability for the carer ticket, even AFTER she explained she had already sent the proof!
Travel to the venue involved sharing a taxi with someone else who was staying at the B & B, that took us from the B & B to the city centre and then it was just a leisurely walk through the Royal Albert Dock.
The overall venue experience started well as there was a lowered window and counter where I could collect our tickets. We were then well guided through to where we needed to queue for entry and I was allowed to keep my water for taking medication without too much of an issue. We were directed towards the door for our section of seats and asked to sit down. From that point onwards, we were basically left entirely alone which was a little concerning as I would have liked to have been checked on more often to be reassured that the staff knew I was there. We were sat very much towards the higher levels of seating and quite central. The only issue with that was all of the submissions and “ground & pound” (my favourite part) on the big screens rather than watching the actual action. However, I suppose that’s a problem for all the customers who have seats higher up and not just specifically a problem for those with disabilities.
Getting out through the large, bouncy, VERY drunk crowd was quite difficult. More signage showing where would be easiest to exit, for those in wheelchairs or with other disabilities and their carers, would certainly be an improvement to access as opposed to having to struggle through large crowds to leave an event. This was again a case of me wondering if staff knew I was still at the event.
*Eurovision 2023 Update: The arena itself was pretty OK for the accessibility this time. We had a good view from section 5 of the wheelchair access seating (see photo at the bottom for the view), staff were very helpful and there was an accessible toilet nearby. They also had no issue with one of us being on the carer ticket, which alleviated that fear. The only issue I would note is the signage getting into/around the arena was difficult to follow as it didn’t specify accessible routes well.
I hope this post provides a recommendation for the Liverpool Gateway B & B and sheds some light on the accessibility of the M & S Bank Arena.
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