10 Tips on Making Concert Venues Accessible for Blind and Visually Impaired People

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I’m rather excited about today’s post, it is a collaboration with RightHear. RightHear is an accessibility solution for blind and visually impaired people, enabling them to be as independent as possible.

 

I am a huge concert lover (and a bit of a fangirl) so when Right Hear asked me to collaborate with them on a post on ways that concert venues can be made accessible for blind and visually impaired people I wanted to get involved straight away! Concert venues can often present accessibility issues and barriers for disabled people and I thought that listing some of the tips of how they can be made accessible may raise awareness of this.

So, without further ado, here are 10 tips on making concert venues accessible for blind and visually impaired people or those with other disabilities.

  1. Provide access information

Information on accessibility of the venue should be on your website, making it easy for disabled people to access should they wish. This should also be easy to navigate to and not buried somewhere deep within your website. Disabled people often have to plan their visit in advance, so this is vital. This information may include: how to book accessible tickets, where disabled seating is located in the venue, contact details for the designated disabled access officer (if appropriate), location of disabled parking and how to book this, location of disabled toilets, details of assistance for people with guide dogs, wheelchairs, or other mobility aids and any other necessary information.

One other idea is to have a specific contact number for disabled customers, making it easier for them to call should they need to. This is also extremely handy when booking accessible tickets.

As I am blind myself, accessibility information is something that I will always look for on the website, even before booking tickets. I will often contact the venue beforehand to check the best way to book accessible tickets if it is not stated on the website, and see if they are willing to accommodate..

2. Have various ways of booking accessible tickets

Often, the only way of booking accessible tickets is over the phone. This may not be possible for some people, so have other ways of them being able to book them such as online or in person. Make sure that these ways are accessible, for example, having the booking office in an accessible place.

3. Train your staff

One of the most important aspects of making concert venues accessible is to train your staff; this may be in sighted guiding, communication strategies, disability, or visual awareness training, but it is important for them to have adequate training. It is very noticeable and easy, for disabled people to tell which staff have, and which staff have not had visual awareness training. Friendly, patient, understanding and helpful staff make the experience much more positive. It’s also important to allocate staff on events to assist disabled people to their seats, answer any questions and provide support if needed.

4. Ensure that staff are knowledgeable about the venue and the local area

Staff should be able to help disabled people with any queries that they may have about the venue, and also being able to answer any questions that they may have on the local area, such as getting to places, finding the train station, or ordering a taxi.

5. Consider orientation and mobility needs

Navigating an unknown venue can be extremely difficult for blind and visually impaired people. Offering assistance for visitors with a visual impairment is invaluable.

Also have braille and large print signs or maps, making it accessible for blind and visually impaired people to read and access. It is also important that this is in plain text (with no arrows or graphics), as it is easier for blind and visually impaired people to read. They should also be in the same places on doors, then they are easy to find, especially for people relying on braille. After all, independence is key.

6. Have space for disabled seating

This may seem obvious, but many venues do not cater for disabled people and do not have enough seating or wheelchair space. It’s important to have as less of obstruction as possible in venues, making it easier for disabled people to navigate, especially those in a wheelchair or blind and visually impaired people using a cane or guide dog. It is also important to have specific seating reserved for disabled people and their companion in a good viewing location. If it is an outdoor venue, then a viewing platform may be a good idea.

7. Have adequate lighting

This might not be possible during the concert, where flashing lights and contrast are more up to the artist than the venue, it certainly can be considered outside of where the actual music or performance is taking place. When planning lighting in your hallways or in the actual auditorium, consider keeping things on the brighter side so that visitors can navigate around the venue when they’re not at their seats. In addition to accessible lighting, it is also important to have coloured contrast railings, tactile markings on floors leading to stairs and also easy lift access for those with less vision or other mobility needs.

8. Provide large print, high-contrast, braille, electronic or audio formats of materials when possible

This includes menus, event programs, or any other literature you may have. Although putting literature into such formats may seem expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Even if it is, providing these materials is a long-term investment that will not only support customers who are blind or visually impaired, but may also be useful for customers with other disabilities or those that are elderly. Accessibility means equal opportunities for all, and almost always has benefits to your business.

9. Have specific, accessible features such as audio description or touch tours

Audio description is a narration/description of exactly what is going on. Audio description allows blind and visually impaired people to listen to a description through a set of headphones while still being engaged in the show or performance. This promotes accessibility, equality and independence as blind and visually impaired people know what is happening themselves, rather than relying on their companion to tell them. This may not be possible for all shows such as concerts, but it can be implemented for events such as theatre shows/performances or sporting events.

Touch tours are when a blind or visually impaired person gets to go onto the stage before a performance to get a feel for the environment and touch the props, costumes, set, and more. This really sets the scene for blind or visually impaired people and can give them a better understanding of the show. Like audio description, this may not be possible for all events, but where possible, this is a worthwhile consideration that also promotes equality and accessibility.

10. Speak to disabled visitors about their experience

Liaising with disabled people about their experience gives you detailed information on what you need to improve on, what works well and what doesn’t and gives you an insight into their experience. You can use this feedback for future improvements or developments. By gathering feedback from disabled visitors shows that you have a keen interest in making your venue accessible and it also shows you are willing to support disabled visitors to the best of your ability. You could do this by having a review section on your website, using social media or even a short, simple questionnaire.

 

Useful links

There are some very useful links that may be of interest: Attitude is Everything – improves Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music by working in partnership with audiences, artists, and the music industry. Festival Spirit – a charity which provides a safe and fun way of disabled people being able to access festivals. They provide “buddies” who are non-disabled volunteers who accompany disabled people at festivals. They also provide accessible accommodation. Euan’s Guide – disabled access reviews, by disabled people, for disabled people.

 

That concludes today’s post, those are just some of the tips that can be used in order to make concert venues accessible for blind and visually impaired people, or those with other disabilities.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and that it is of use to some of you! Feel free to share it with people that you think it may be of use to.

As always, thank you for reading.

Holly x

 

Disclaimer: although this post is a collaboration, all views are my own. I only work with brands and organisations that support my message and the aims of my blog.

My Overall University Experience

I have now finished university and found out that I will be graduating with a 2:1. I can’t tell you how pleased I am with my result and how proud I am of myself as it’s not been easy, so I thought I’d write a post on my overall university experience as it’s the end of an era for me. I thought that it may help some of you, but it’s also something that I can look back on in the future.

I’ve split this post into each year of university so that I can discuss each one in more detail as they were all completely different.

I hope you enjoy this post! It’s a long one so grab a drink or a snack and enjoy!

 

Preparing for university

I first applied for university towards the end of 2013, I had previously attended several open days earlier in the year and contacted the universities and decided where to apply for and which courses I wanted to also apply for. I weighed up all the factors, and decided that York St John university was the university for me. The Head of Programme of the Children, Young People and Families course was really accommodating and seemed to understand my needs, she seemed approachable and willing to help me in every way possible. AT the time, I didn’t feel confident enough to live in halls of residence so I decided that I wanted to commute. I made sure that I did everything early such as applying for student Finance and DSA (Disabled Students Allowance), this meant that I received my DSA equipment early too which was a great advantage. For those of you that don’t know what DSA is, it is an allowance that disabled students can apply for, which means that they can have equipment to help them with their studies, support, mobility training and much more. During the summer of 2014, I received my A-level results meaning that I had got a place at my first choice university which was obviously York St John. I can’t tell you how happy I was, as I had basically convinced myself that I wasn’t going to get in. Everyone believed in me, but I didn’t believe in myself. I think this was a turning point for me though, as I realised that my hard work had paid off and that I could actually achieve something if I put my mind to it.

I also had a final meeting with the Head of Programme and Disability Support to double check that everything was in place, and how they could best support me. My Head of Programme also got my timetable early for me, so that I knew what days I had lectures, and so that I could learn the routes to the lecture and seminar rooms.

I had orientation and mobility training around campus a couple of weeks before my university journey started so that I knew the routes when I started lectures so that I had some idea of where I was going and also because the campus was quiet so it made it easier to carry out such training. I was extremely nervous about doing orientation and mobility training as I wasn’t the most confident cane user, and didn’t really like using one. You can read my story on embracing the cane here. I’m pleased to say that this was the first time that I really did enjoy using the cane and honestly did enjoy mobility training. After all this, I was just about ready to start my journey at York St John University.

 

First year

Like every student, starting university is a nerve-racking and daunting time, and my experience as a visually impaired student was no different. Like I said, I did orientation and mobility training around the university campus so that I could attempt to navigate campus with my long cane. I was nervous about using my cane around university as I hadn’t had the best experience of doing so in school, but I thought that university might be different so wanted to try and give it a shot.

Freshers week (welcome week) arrived and I was feeling both excited and nervous; excited for a new chapter of my life to begin but also nervous, as I had no idea of what to expect, didn’t know anyone and didn’t have any clue of what university life would be like. For anyone that doesn’t know what fresher’s week is, it’s a way of getting new students settled in and familiarising them with university life by holding events and having introductory lectures. I didn’t get involved with the events because they weren’t very accessible for me as a blind person and also the fact that I didn’t know anyone and didn’t really want to go on my own. I was quite nervous for the few weeks ahead because I thought everyone on my course would have made friends already and I’d be on my own but later on I found out that that wasn’t actually the case.

Once freshers week was over, it was time to start the course and therefore, lectures commenced. The first lecture I had, the lecturer told me that he had no idea that I was going to be in his lectures and that he didn’t know he had a blind student. This wasn’t true at all, my Head of Programme had reassured me that all the lecturers did know that I was going to be there and what they had to do. So as a consequence of him apparently not knowing, I hadn’t been sent any materials for the lecture so my note taker had to read everything out to me. This made me feel like I was back in school, not at university at all. What a great start! Luckily this all got sorted and this didn’t happen again. This was an issue that did not repeat itself. A positive outcome of this particular experience, was that the staff involved truly wanted to resolve the situation, rather than feel like they had to. Staff at my university looked beyond my disability. Other than that, there weren’t any major hiccups in first year which I was extremely happy about.

In terms of support, in the first semester I received note-taking support and library support but nothing else. I thought that I could be independent and do the majority of things myself. I soon realised that there was no harm in using extra support and learnt that this was invaluable in the long run. I also had proofreading support from then on, and personally I think it helped to boost my grades. The disability support service was very proactive in sorting support which was fantastic. This did not mean that there weren’t any challenges because they really were, but they helped resolve them to the best of their ability. In terms of accessing materials, I used my DSA equipment (laptop with Jaws screen-reader, braille display and ClearReader+).

 

I got all of the lecture slides sent to me beforehand in an accessible format, some lectures even provided me with image descriptions which was brilliant. Accessing books was a bit harder especially if they weren’t available as eBooks. Publishers are restricted by copyright laws which means that they can’t just distribute electronic copies of books, this meant that I had to request books that I required much earlier than my peers, in order for the library to get me an accessible copy. The library did everything they could to ensure that I had the books in an accessible format as quickly as possible.

The social aspect of university was something that I thought I’d struggle with, due to my negative experiences in school. However, at university, this was completely different. People came up to me and spoke to me, which I didn’t expect which really helped. I didn’t join any societies in my first year of university but made some good friends on my course. It’s important to remember that everyone comes from a different walk of life at university and there are many students with disabilities so you’re not alone.

 

Second year

I remember going into my second year of university feeling excited for the year ahead; something that I had never really felt whilst being in education. I will admit, second year was such a huge jump academically from the first; I don’t think we were fully prepared for how hard it was going to be. There were a couple of minor glitches like lecturers not sending me work in advance but this was all resolved quickly. Nevertheless, I finished second year on track for a 2:1 overall if I kept that standard of work up throughout third year…no pressure then!

Support in second year ran smoothly – there were no major issues and I once again was grateful for the support that I received.

I think second year was by far my favourite year in terms of the social aspect of university. I had a good, solid friendship group and we all got on really well. I also joined the disabled society, “superhuman society” as it was called. I also made some friends through that and was also asked to be a committee member so that helped me broaden my circle of friends. Some of my favourite memories have to be our regular visits to Pizza Hut and our cocktail evenings.

I spent the summer planning my dissertation and doing some research so that I could try and at least do some preparation and be ahead of the game as I was expecting that third year was going to be the most challenging year yet. Over the summer I had developed some problems with my eyes, I had no idea that this would continue into my third year of university.

 

Third year

Third year was very hard, extremely stressful and presented me with various personal challenges but I learnt a lot from those. I had problems with my eyes, resulting in me having to have an operation in January, right in the middle of my third and final year. I actually did some dissertation work whilst waiting to be called for my operation…dedication or what? I didn’t let that stop me though, I just got on with it and I feel like those challenges gave me the motivation to carry on and get through it. I was surrounded by incredibly supportive people and I couldn’t have done it without them. The university were really accommodating as well, providing me with extensions for my assignments and also any other support that I required.

The main piece of work was a 10,000 word dissertation. Before writing it, I didn’t think I even knew 10,000 words! It was by far the hardest piece of work that I’ve ever had to do but I am pleased to say that I achieved a 2:1. I’m so proud of it and all the effort that I put in towards getting the grade that I so wanted. As well as my dissertation, I also had several 5000 word essays to complete. I completed all of my work on my laptop, and also used my braille display and my OrCam for reading materials. I couldn’t have done my degree without this equipment, especially my laptop with Jaws screen-reader.

 

There were no major academic issues in my third year, all of the lecturers that I had had previously taught me so I definitely think that this was a bonus.

The support that I received in third year was invaluable, it made my final year a lot easier. Having support meant that I didn’t struggle on my own, it made tasks such as finding books and journals and proofreading so much easier. I felt very lucky with the support that I received throughout my time in higher education, especially third year, as it really helped with my studies. The only difficult part was not just being able to get books for my dissertation when and when I needed them, but the library did their best to accommodate and they did a great job of doing so. I think the support in third year was a step up from previous years, as I really got on with the people supporting me, they really understood my needs and went above and beyond to support me.

The social aspect of third year was interesting, as I really found out who my true friends were. The stress of third year tested friendships, but we all got through it which I’m extremely happy about. I’m so proud of all of my friends as they all achieved the grades that they wanted which they thoroughly deserve.

 

Overall thoughts

I am extremely pleased to say that I will be graduating with a 2:1 BA (Hons) in Children, Young People and Families! A 2:1 was the grade that I was hoping for. The stress really started to take its toll on me towards the end but I’m so glad it was worth it. If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt from my university experience is that hard work most certainly does pay off and determination is key.

So as you can tell, my overall experience of university has mainly been a positive one. There has been challenges along the way and it hasn’t all been plain sailing, but that’s to be expected. I know that everyone’s university experience is different, and I feel very lucky for the experience that I have had.

I’ve learned a lot whilst being at university, I ppreviously wrote a post about things that university has taught me which you can read here. My confidence has grown so much over the last three years, I also feel like I’ve really found my true self. I’ve also become so much more independent and I feel so much more comfortable in using a cane.

I could go into a lot more detail, but this is just a snapshot into my experience in higher education over the last three years.

I feel like I’ve wrote a book but before I finish this post, I’d like to thank a few people as I know some of them will be reading this post.

Firstly, I would like to thank my family, especially my Mum and Dad as they’ve always been there for me, supported me in everything that I’ve embarked on and made sure that I had the provisions and support in place in order to succeed. They really have been my rock.

I’d also like to thank my friends, they’ve always been there for me, and have given me some wonderful memories.

I’d like to thank everyone that’s ever supported me in education – you helped me get to where I am today through your hard work and dedication and I will forever be grateful. It’s given me some special people in my life. Many of you went above and beyond to ensure that I could succeed, and you looked beyond my disability and were willing to adapt and learn about my visual impairment.

I’d finally like to thank my readers; your support has really helped me and motivated me over the last couple of years. You’ve taken a keen interest in my blog, which then inspires me to write content for you all.

I could go on and on but this post is long enough already!

It’s the end of an era for me, I’m feeling both excited and nervous about the future. I’d like to work within the field of visual impairment, supporting people like myself so we will see where life takes me.

That concludes today’s post everyone, thank you so much for reading! If you got to the end then well done!

Are you a disabled student? What are your experiences of university? Let me know in the comments.

I hope this post has helped some of you.

I’ll be back soon with another post.

Holly x

Common Misconceptions on Blindness

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I thought I’d write a bit of an educational post on some of the common misconceptions on blindness/visual impairment and the correct ways to approach these. Just a note before I get into this post, I’m not speaking on behalf of all blind people, I’m talking from my own personal experiences. I hope you enjoy today’s post!

 

Being blind is a tragedy, therefore blind people are helpless.

This is far from the truth. I’m sure every blind person has their down days where they do feel helpless at times or feel like they’re fighting a constant battle but it does not mean that blind people cannot achieve the same goals as sighted people.

 

Glasses help blind people see.

No this is incorrect. Every blind or visually impaired person’s vision is different so for some, glasses do help but for others they do not. People may also wear glasses as a piece of assistive technology such as the OrCam in order to give them independence, not to improve their vision.

Photo shows an OrCam attached to a pair of glasses

 

Blind people have amazing hearing.

This is not true; we learn to use our ears and take note of sound effectively. We don’t have some sort of extremely powerful hearing. Just because we can’t see, it doesn’t make our other senses amazing.

 

If you are interacting with a blind person, you need to speak to them very loudly, then they’ll know that you are talking to them.

No, this is very rude and very very annoying. Speak to us like you would any sighted person.

 

People who are blind see total darkness.

This is not true as there are many variations and levels of blindness. Some people have tunnel vision, some can read large print, others have light perception and some have no sight at all. Personally, I have light perception which I find rather useful at times.

 

All blind people read braille.

As mentioned in the previous statement, many blind people have some useful vision so therefore do not need to read braille. Some people use other forms such as audio or assistive technology. We are very lucky in today’s society that we have such things. Personally, I do read braille myself and I think it’s a vital skill to have.

 

Blind people attend specialist schools and colleges.

This is one of the misconceptions that really does bug me. When I tell people that I went through mainstream school their shock and disbelief is evident in their voice. Educating blind people in mainstream schools has been in place for many years now, so specialist schools are not the only option. Specialist schools do exist and whether a blind person is educated in mainstream education or specialist school is entirely down to their needs and preference.

 

When interacting with a blind person, don’t say things such as “look” or “see”.

Never ever change your vocabulary when talking to a blind or visually impaired person. As a blind person myself, I use terms such as “I’m watching the tv” or “have you seen that?”

You won’t offend us by using them, you’ll more than likely offend us if you don’t use them.

 

Guide dogs know where to take a person and when to cross the road.

A guide dog isn’t a SatNav, it’s down to the person to know the route that they’re carrying out. A guide dog doesn’t know where to go, they only know where to go through training and commands from it’s handler. It’s the owner that decides when it’s safe to cross a road, and the guide dog will intervene if necessary.

 

All blind people have a guide dog

Whether a blind person has a guide dog or not is completely their own decision. Some feel that it gives them freedom and independence, whilst others prefer to use a cane. There are also many variations of canes – the standard white cane, red and white striped cane meaning deafblind and a range of coloured canes can also be purchased if you want a bit of glam or something a bit different.

Picture of a purple cane

 

Feeling someone’s face is a technique that blind people use to make out what someone looks like.

I don’t know one blind person that does this. Personally I think it’s just totally weird!

 

Blind people have limited job opportunities

Why do so many people think this? It drives me up the wall! With the correct technology, equipment, support and training blind people can get a job in whatever field or industry they wish. It may be harder for this to happen, but it does not mean that it can’t or won’t happen.

 

Blind people are unable to live independently

Being blind means that we may learn to do things differently or make adaptions, it does not mean that we are unable to care for ourselves or be independent.

There is specialist equipment and technology such as a cane, guide dog, screen-reading or magnification software or kitchen appliances in order for us to complete daily tasks and live independently.

 

Blind people can’t apply make-up.

People are often shocked when I say that I apply my own make-up. There is often this wrongly perceived idea that blind or visually impaired people can’t look glamorous, and therefore don’t apply make-up. Personally, I love being able to apply my own make-up!

 

Most blind people are looking for a cure

Many blind and visually impaired people are more or less happy with their disability and do not want a cure. Personally, it would be nice if I could see but I’m not looking for a cure and holding onto the tiny chance that this may happen. I’m happy with the person that I am and believe my blindness has shaped who I am today.

That concludes today’s post everyone. If you are a blind or visually impaired person yourself, what common misconceptions do you experience? Let me know in the comments!

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Holly x

Blogging And Sight Loss: How It Works

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

Today I wanted to address a question which I get asked quite a lot, ‘how do you blog even though you’re blind?’

This is a very valid and interesting question, I get asked it by both sighted and visually impaired people. So today I wanted to tell you how I’m a blogger even though I am blind, give tips to aspiring bloggers out there and hopefully answer that question for you all.

So, without further ado let’s get into today’s post!

 

Find an accessible blogging platform

Once you decide on the main focus of your blog, it’s important to find a blogging platform that’s accessible and one that you like, and feel comfortable using. You may need to do some research beforehand on different blogging platforms, this will help you decide which one is right for you.

Personally, I use WordPress, as I find this to be the most accessible with my chosen screen-reader. It’s also got an app which I also use on my iPhone or iPad which I find very useful and it is also very accessible. I do know blind and visually impaired people that use Blogspot, so it’s all about personal preference and finding out which one works best for you.

When initially creating my account, and setting up my blog, I did need sighted assistance to originally find a blogging theme and to help me with my blog header and things like that.

Blog header that says 'Life of a Blind Girl'

However, the pages, menus and other aspects that are on my site I did myself.

 

Writing posts

Writing content is obviously the main aspect of blogging. Everyone has different ways of doing this, and there’s no reason why you should be limited to doing this because of a visual impairment. There’s so much technology out there that can enable you to do this such as screen-readers or magnification software.

To write my posts I use Jaws screen-reader on my laptop and sometimes tweak them using VoiceOver on my iPhone or iPad. In simple terms, a screen-reader reads out loud everything that is on the screen and also what you’re typing.

Before I even write my posts, I like to plan them and write down any ideas that I have for future blog posts. To do this, I usually use the notes app on my iPhone as it’s something that I can refer back to quickly and easily.

picture of an iPhone

In terms of writing posts, I will either write my posts on a word document or write them straight into WordPress and spell check them using the built-in editor.

 

Visual content

For fully sighted people, visual content is often as important as written content. It catches people’s attention, and can often draw them into reading your posts. Depending on how much vision you have, adding images in your posts may be something you need assistance in doing. When you insert images into your posts, it’s important to add Alt text (alternative text) or a photo description so people who are blind or visually impaired know what the photo shows. That goes for any sighted bloggers out there as well!

I’m going to be honest here, I don’t take blog photos myself as I don’t have any useful vision to be able to do this. My Mum or Dad take them for me, which I am extremely grateful for. I do insert them into the posts myself and write the descriptions to go with them. I will often get my Mum or Dad to check whether they look okay before I press publish.

 

Sharing posts on social media

It’s important to share your posts on social media in order to gain new readers, followers, and visitors to your blog. All social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are fully accessible for blind and visually impaired people so this shouldn’t be a problem. Sharing and promoting your posts is all part of blogging! Social media is also a great way of interacting with other bloggers and being part of the blogging community. It’s important to share the love!

 

Engaging with other bloggers

It’s important to engage with other bloggers – read their posts, leave them a nice comment and you may even find that you will make new blogging friends along the way. Depending what blogging platform they use, you may experience accessibility issues such as not being able to leave a comment but there are other ways in which you can do this such as contacting them on social media or sending them an email. It may also be good to let them know if their blogs are not accessible as they may want to try to change this.

I like to engage with other bloggers and have also found some of my closest friends through blogging. Engaging with other bloggers may lead to blogging opportunities such as being asked to write guest posts or being contacted by brands.

 

That concludes today’s post everyone, I hope some of you have found it useful or that it gave you an insight into how I blog as a blind person.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments, or do not hesitate to contact me. Are you a blogger with a visual impairment and have some other useful tips? Or are you a fully sighted blogger and have some general blogging tips? Then leave them in the comments below!

Holly x

Shawn Mendes Concert Experience

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

Today’s post is a bit of a relaxed, chilled out one…I think I need that at the moment with all the work I have. I wanted to write it a lot sooner than this, but there’s not enough hours in the day for me to do everything, I seem to be saying that a lot recently. I was super excited about writing this post as I think it’ll be really nice to look back on in the future and it’s something that I’ve never wrote about on my blog before. This post is part of mine and Elin’s #SeeingThroughSightLoss series where we discuss all things visual impairment, disability and our meet ups. So this post is all about the Shawn Mendes concert we went to together back in April.

Before we get into this post, I spoke about the passenger assistance problems that I had whilst travelling to and from Manchester for this concert in my previous post so make sure you check that out.

On Friday  28 April 2017, me and my best friend Elin went to see Shawn Mendes in concert as part of his Illuminate world tour at Manchester Arena. We booked the tickets as soon as they came out back in September so it had been a long time coming for us.
(Photo of my concert ticket)

Me and Elin are huge fans of Shawn so we knew that this would be an unforgettable experience!

This was Elin’s first concert so I felt really lucky to experience this with her. I feel very lucky as I’ve been to a lot of concerts, I am so grateful that I’ve had such wonderful experiences and opportunities.

Shawn was a bit of a new experience for me too though as me and Elin were attending the gig on our own, so we needed assistance to get to and from our seats. As I previously said, we booked our tickets in September and enquired about assistance whilst doing so. We booked our tickets through the accessible booking line for disabled access tickets, meaning that we didn’t have the hassle of the normal ticket rush. The disabled access line is for people that require disabled tickets, for example, if you need a companion with you or have specific requirements because of an impairment or disability. When trying to get tickets, we were both calling throughout the day and neither of us could get through, so Elin emailed to let them know and they called her back and booked our tickets that way which we both thought was really nice. The staff were extremely happy to accommodate and told us to arrange assistance 4 weeks prior to the concert which we did.

We also booked our train tickets and hotel back in February, before they were all fully booked.

 

The day finally arrived and let’s just say, excited was an understatement!

After the travel disaster, we went to the hotel, quickly unpacked, re-did our make-up, and headed down to the bar/restaurant area to grab something quick to eat.

Once we had finished, we headed across the road to the arena! Our hotel was only a short walk from the arena so it was very handy and a lovely hotel too.

When we got to the arena, there were queues everywhere but luckily, we had been given instructions to go to city rooms as we had disabled access tickets and required assistance from a member of staff so luckily, we missed out on these. There was a bit of a mix up at the start as the steward didn’t fully understand why we wanted assistance and didn’t quite get that our Mums weren’t going to the concert with us, as they were with us at the time, but once that was sorted two stewards took me and Elin to our seats and told us what to do if we needed anything. We were both really impressed so far. As we entered the arena the support act, James TW, had just come on stage so we were there in time to see his set which was so so good! I’m definitely a huge fan of James now. Like I said, I’ve been to a lot of concerts with some good, and not so good support acts, but James was by far one of the better ones that I have seen. We had really good seats as well which was a bonus.

After James had been on, me and Elin were even more excited for Shawn if that was even possible! Around 15 minutes or so later, Shawn Mendes finally came on stage. The introduction started off with some highlights from his career which was really sweet then he started with his latest single, ‘There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back’.

The crowd went absolutely crazy! Shawn performed songs from both his albums which was a really nice mixture. You could hear the crowd singing throughout every song, it was such a good feeling. Shawn noticed this too and at one point he said “I can hear the British accent”.

One of the things that I liked the most was that he did little speeches before some of the songs, explaining what they were about, thanked us fans and also gave some words of wisdom and inspiration, they were really motivational and quite emotional too! I’ll most definitely have them on repeat for a while.

About half way through the concert, people started to stand up on chairs and me and Elin wondered what was going on. A lovely girl in front of us told us that Shawn had moved to the middle of the arena behind us but as we couldn’t see we didn’t know! We think he was in the crowd somewhere because of their reaction but like I said, as we couldn’t see we didn’t know exactly what he was doing! #BlindGirlProblems

He did an incredible acoustic set and I think at that point you could really hear how powerful the crowd were. Once he had done that acoustic set, he moved back to the main stage and carried on with his live band. His vocals blew you away, they were incredible!

We wanted you to have a bit of the concert experience so we put together some clips of the audio that we recorded. Make sure you check it out below​

I could go into detail about the concert but I’d probably bore you all. So I’ll sum it up!

His vocals were phenomenal, his stage presence was extremely good too, basically he’s such a talented guy. He seems like such a genuine, down to earth person and is so appreciative of his fans and the fact that he’s living his dream – he’s proof that if you really want to achieve something then strive for it and hard work really does pay off! If you get chance to go and see him live then I would highly recommend going!

Once the concert had finished, a steward came to assist me and Elin back to city rooms to meet our Mums. We were extremely impressed at how quickly he arrived despite how busy it was, as it was a sold out concert so we expected to be waiting a while for someone but we were wrong. He waited with us until we had met our Mums so he knew that we were ok. Overall, the assistance from the stewards was excellent. I’d definitely attend a concert and book this assistance again. After the disasters of the passenger assistance on trains, it did restore some of my faith in such systems put in place for disabled people.

 

I honestly had the most amazing night singing my heart out to every single song with my best friend! It’s such a good feeling, and as you can gather, concerts make me extremely happy. I’d had a rather stressful few months leading up to the gig with uni work, but it was such a great way of getting rid of stress and celebrating handing in my dissertation! I’m not going to lie, I came away feeling even more motivated to finish my last two assignments.

After the concert, we went back to the hotel and had a drink in the bar, me and Elin listened to some of the recordings that we did during the concert and had one of our usual girly chats.

The next day, we had breakfast and mainly discussed how much we wanted to go back to the gig and how much we needed another Shawn concert in our lives and  packed our stuff ready to head home. We spent the rest of the day going back to the arena to take some photos and then had a wander into Manchester.


(photo of me and Elin)

Me and Elin wanted to make the most of the time that we had as we’d be leaving in a few hours. It was very hard to say goodbye!

Seeing Shawn on his Illuminate World Tour has given us some amazing memories which we’ll cherish for a long time, it is most definitely a night that I know we’ll never forget. Going to a concert without a sighted person was a first for me and I’m so pleased to say that it was a success and a brilliant experience!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Make sure you check out Elin’s post to see what she thought of the concert.

If you have any questions about the assistance, the concert in general or anything else then please do leave them in the comments.

I’ll hopefully be back soon with another post.

Holly x

Failings in Passenger Assistance

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

This post is part of mine and Elin’s #SeeingThroughSightLossSeries where we discuss everything relating to disability, visual impairment and also often our meet ups. Today’s post is going to be a bit of a mixed bag – I am going to discuss my own personal experiences and from this, I hope to raise awareness.

I try to be positive on my blog as I feel that it generally reflects the person I am, and I don’t sugar-coat anything that I write, therefore this post is no exception but I just want you to know that everything that I’m discussing is true and honest, not exaggerated, made up or fake. As I said, I try to be positive on my blog, but I do sometimes address the negative aspects of having a disability too and I think that’s important. Today I want to tell you about an experience that I have had recently, but one that’s reoccurred on several occasions and sadly, that’s one of the harsh realities of being blind or having a disability. What I’m talking about is passenger assistance on public transport, in this case, trains. For those of you that aren’t familiar with passenger assistance, it’s where a member of staff from a train station helps a disabled or elderly person IE people in wheelchairs, or those with a visual impairment like myself. For example, They can assist people on and off trains, take people to a meeting point to meet others, to a taxi or even a connecting train. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

That’s what I thought when I tried it for the first time. But this was soon the opposite – I was left on a train, had I not have been with my Dad who came with me whilst I was trying it for the first time, I’d have been left on a train to Southampton, over 100 miles away from my original destination. Scary thought, right? But this sort of thing happens too often. You can read about my first time trying passenger assistance here.

After that time, I thought that it would just be a mistake and wouldn’t happen to me again but that couldn’t have been further away from the truth, in the last 9 months the so called “passenger assistance” has failed me each time that I have required it.

I want to tell you about the most recent experience that I had. On Friday 28 April 2017, I was travelling to Manchester to meet my best friend Elin (My Blurred World) as we were going to see Shawn Mendes in concert and I was extremely excited! I pre-booked my hotel, train tickets and passenger assistance back in February so that it was all done, and I knew that I would hopefully get assistance. My Mum was travelling with me, as she was going out for a meal with Elin’s Mum whilst we were at the gig and as Manchester isn’t familiar to me and Elin, they were our eyes so to speak.

(photo of a train ticket)

You may be asking why I needed passenger assistance when my Mum was with me, I wanted to try it on this route as it’s one that I’ll hopefully be doing more often so wanted to try it whilst someone sighted was with me. So please do not tell me that I was abusing the system because I wasn’t, and I genuinely needed the experience for future trips.

I started my journey at York station where I went to the information desk, where I was met by an assistant a few minutes later. This part went well, the assistant helped me onto the train and assisted me in finding my seat; they did everything that they were supposed to do.

When I arrived at Manchester Victoria station, this is where the problems occurred. I was on an overcrowded train where people were stood up in the carriage, I appreciate that this was on the day of a rail strike so people were probably using alternative trains but as a blind person, it made it practically impossible for me to get through these people using my long cane. If my Mum hadn’t have been with me, it would have been extremely difficult for me to carry my luggage and navigate through an overcrowded carriage with my cane. We waited a couple of minutes to see whether a member of staff was going to come onto the train to assist me, as time quickly ticked by, we  soon realised that they hadn’t turned up yet again. We got off the train as it seemed that there was no assistant for me like I had pre-booked. Once we were off the train and stood on the platform, my Mum looked at a person who seemed to be a member of staff, and the lady came over and asked if I needed assistance, I explained that I had in fact pre-booked assistance as I was blind, for her to inform me that she only had two people on my train down for luggage assistance, rather than one with a severe visual impairment. I knew that the information she had told me was wrong as I knew that my passenger assistance details stated that I had a visual impairment and had the right instructions for the member of staff.

We went to the information centre at Manchester Victoria station to find out exactly what had happened. I knew that the assistance had been done right as I was there when the person booked it for me back in February. The man at the information point checked the system and told me that it was in fact all correct, and there had been clearly some mix up in communication. He said that they were short staffed but agreed with me in that this was no excuse. He told me to complain when I returned home the following day.

Despite all of this, I wanted to enjoy the Shawn Mendes concert and the time with my best friend so that’s exactly what we did! A post on the gig will be coming soon – this would have been too long if me and Elin would have just done one post each on the weekend overall!

 

On the Saturday, we left Manchester in the afternoon and me and my mum parted ways with Elin and her Mum and headed off to catch our trains.

Me and my Mum went to the information point again, in order for me to get my assistance. I informed the man at the information desk that I had pre-booked passenger assistance, the man told me that the system was down so would try to see if any assistants were available. Luckily there was, but had I been on my own, this could have been a real issue and so much worse.

When we arrived back at York station, there was no assistance there to come and help me off the train again. We waited for the train to pull out and there was no one there as my Mum and Dad observed this. A couple of minutes later, a woman walked onto the platform so we asked if she was my assistant, and she said yes, but she was waiting for me to “wave a stick or a dog in the air”. How can I wave a cane in the air when I don’t know where a person is, or if there’s anyone there waiting for me? Had I have been on my own, I’d have had to struggle to get off the train by myself along with my luggage, or even worse, ended up in Newcastle which is a long way from where I needed to be.

I wrote to the train company, First Transpenine Express who informed me that they couldn’t deal with this issue as they do not manage Manchester Victoria station so have passed it onto Northern Rail who would be in touch with me. And guess what? I haven’t heard from Northern Rail yet, despite trying to contact them several times myself.

So clearly, there’s a failing in the system somewhere.

I find it appalling that train companies and members of staff do not communicate, misread information, leave disabled passengers on trains and ignore complaints. Like I said, this is one of many incidents that I’ve had when using passenger assistance and it really isn’t fair.

Sadly, I’m not on my own when experiencing these issues, most or if not all of my blind or visually impaired friends have had the same experiences across the country. Make sure you check out Elin’s post as she gives you an account on her experience of passenger assistance and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I’ve wrote this post to highlight some of the issues and struggles that people like myself face when wanting to do something simple like travelling independently on public transport. Just because we have a visual impairment, or other disability it should not be incredibly hard and cause endless frustrations for us. We claim to live in a (fairly) equal society but is this really the case when such problems arise and are a regular occurrence?

I know that here in the UK, we are extremely lucky to have services in place such as passenger assistance and I am extremely grateful for this service but it does not make it right when such systems fail.

I believe that disabled people should have the same rights to travel on trains independently like non-disabled people, but the reality of this is that I feel that this is not the case at all. This is becoming a regular occurrence for me and many others and I do not feel that this should be the case at all.

It is frustrating, and very exhausting for me and my parents to have to keep contacting train companies because of continuous failings, lack of communication or assistance.

I know that writing this blog post will not change the policies and procedures that are put in place, but I hope it highlights some of the issues that disabled people face.

I want to be like my sighted friends and family and travel independently but how can I trust such services when they keep letting me down?

I’m sorry if this was a bit of a rant but I really hope it has helped raise awareness.

I’d really appreciate it if you could share this post so that we can at least try to make a difference!

If you are a disabled person and have had similar experiences then feel free to leave them in the comments.

I’m sorry if this post has offended any of you – that was never my intention.

As always, thank you for reading, I’ll be back soon with another post!

Holly x

Things University Has Taught Me

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I am approaching the end of my degree, and my time at York St John University is coming to an end. It’s only a matter of weeks until my final assignments will be submitted and a matter of months until I graduate!

The last three years have been a bit of a whirlwind, there’s been some amazing times but also some rubbish times too, times where I’ve wanted to drop out but here I am! Going to university has taught me a lot so I wanted to share some of the things it’s taught me with you all.

I’d like to do more university related posts in the next few months so if you have any suggestions then please do send them my way! Feel free to leave them in the comments below or to contact me.

Without further ado let’s get into today’s post!

 

Having a disability is completely fine.

There are probably more people that have a disability at university than you realise so it’s completely normal. It’s not like mainstream school or college where there are very few disabled people and chances are you are the only one with a disability, university is completely different. There’s people from all walks of life at university, with a range of disabilities.

 

Being different is okay.

I think at university you reach a point where you realise that there’s no point being anyone but yourself.

 

Fight for what you need and what you’re entitled to.

If you need support such as Disabled Students Allowance then fight for it, if you’re struggling and need help, make sure you receive it. At university, people have your best interests at heart and the majority of them want to help you.

 

It’s ok not to be ok.

University can be an extremely stressful time and you can experience a rollercoaster of emotions. There is always someone out there that you can talk to and support is always available.

 

Life isn’t what you always expect.

This has most definitely been true for me over the last three years; I’ve changed my mind on what career I want a number of times which has completely thrown me off track at times. There was appoint in my second year of university where I didn’t even know if I was on the right course, I didn’t know what I was doing with my life basically. It wasn’t what I expected to happen at all, but I stuck with it, and here I am, about to (hopefully) graduate in a few months.

 

Independence is key.

Whether this is moving away from home, becoming more confident in using a cane, applying for a guide dog etc, taking those steps to independence is so important. This can often mean stepping out of your comfort zone and facing new challenges, but it’ll more than likely be worth it! Independence is different for everyone, so whatever it is you do, be proud of yourself because it’ll help you in the long run.

 

Drama still exists.

If you thought you left those friendship or boyfriend dramas behind in school or college, they decide to make an appearance at university. But be the bigger person and sort them out.

 

You will find out who your true friends are.

Like everything, university has most definitely taught me who my true friends are and you know what? It feels good.

 

Lecturers want you to succeed.

They have your best interests at heart, it’s important to ask for help if you’re struggling and ask questions.

 

Deadlines come quicker than you think.

Preparation is vital to ensure that you don’t get bogged down with all the work and add extra pressure.

 

Organisation is key.

Leading on from the previous point – this is fairly self explanatory but it’s important to organise your assignment, work commitments and social activities so that you have a good balnce and stay on top of everything. University is stressful and it’s very easy to get bogged down with the all the work.

 

Referencing is the bane of your life.

Chances are you’ll enter first year not really knowing how to reference or what you’re doing, it’s frustrating! There are many tips and tricks that can help you along the way and for it to be less of a pain.

 

Hard work really does pay off.

I know it doesn’t always feel like it in the process but if you put your mind to it, then you can achieve anything you put your mind to. If you put the work in and try your best then it’s something to be proud of. This has definitely become more apparent to me now that I’ve finished my dissertation!


(Photo of Holly holding her completed dissertation which has been printed and bound, it looks a bit like a book)

 

University is so much more than a degree.

I think we all get so caught up in the work that we often forget this, I do anyway. The degree is vital obviously, but university is also about the friends you make, the life lessons you learn and it’s also about growing as a person.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and that it has possibly helped some of you that are transitioning to university or that are currently at university. If you are a student, what has university taught you? Let me know in the comments!

Holly x