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Nightclubs should provide better accessible services

Alex Kingdom

A disabled student has highlighted barriers people in wheelchairs are up against if they go to a nightclub in the UK.

Alex Kingdom enjoys the Cardiff nightlife with his friends, but they need to plan in advance which venues are suitable for wheelchairs - and the local scene is few and far between when it comes to fully accessible clubs.

The guys only found one nightclub which published its access facilities for disabled people on its website in Cardiff and Swansea.

This does not mean to say there are no other venues suitable for people with disabilities in the surrounding area, but they do not publish their accessible information online.

Pryzm in Cardiff has a lift for disabled visitors, although the nightclub never mentions this on their website.

Kingdom has cerebral palsy, the University of South Wales student needs to use a wheelchair when he goes out and finds it frustrating that clubs don’t make their accessible facilities public.

The 21-year-old, originally from Exeter, told BBC News: "When I first came to Cardiff, my friends would go 'do you want to go this club' and I'd say I'll have to find out if it's accessible first because there's no indication of that at all."

Kingdom is a regular at Live Lounge, a local club which he feels meets his mobility requirements.

"It's mostly due to how they treat me there. They're very good with people like me and other wheelchair users,” he told BBC News.

"You have to pay for tickets for Pryzm, so you've paid your entry and you get to the door and it's, 'oh the lift's not working', but there's nothing on the website to indicate that.

"I now have friends in wheelchairs who are 20,19, that [say], 'I don't feel welcome at a club because there's no information for me', they don't know the ways of getting around it.

"Sometimes they'll come to me or other people and ask, but I think there is a fundamental issue there because it also makes it seem like they don't want people in wheelchairs there, or they don't expect it, which shouldn't be the case in the year we're in now."

The Equality Act 2010 states service providers are committed to make “reasonable adjustments” for people with disabilities, but they are not committed to provide wheelchair access, especially if adjustments would be complicated or expensive.

"For someone like me, I can get over it [when there is no access] but for other people it really does get them down and make them feel unwanted,” Kingdom said.

"The amount of people I've seen out in wheelchairs in nightclubs, I could count them - it's under 10. And I think part of that is just because they don't know that they can go to these things.

"There are so many disabled people that love a drink and all that sort of stuff and would love to do those sorts of things, but don't really feel welcomed by it."

Pryzm is run by Rekom UK, who say they are working hard to ensure their venues are accessible for as many people as possible, but admitted the lifts - although serviced on a regular basis - do break down from time to time.

A spokesperson for Rekom UK said: "We try to sure they are repaired as quickly as possible," it said, adding: "We recognise that we need to do more to highlight the facilities we have available, which also include quiet areas for those experiencing sensory overload, and this is something we are working on as part of our guest-first we care strategy."

Michael Kill, chief executive for the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), is well aware the nightlife scene needs to be more accessible.

"Without a doubt, the nightclub industry still has a lot of work to do. Some of them are limited by the makeup of their buildings within city centres, listed buildings etc," he said.

"I recognise through our audits of websites and comparative websites for other experiences in different cultural formats and spaces that there is a lot of work to do."

Kill said the NITA is working on a training package for members looking at accessibility, particularly "the communication of accessibility".

"There are some very clear and supportive people who want to engage and ensure that people with disabilities have the opportunity to come out and enjoy a night out."

The Welsh government has launched a disability taskforce addressing the barriers disabled people face and are looking into how services can be improved.

A spokesman said: "We recognise the importance of young disabled people having access to a range of social settings."

Alex Kingdom’s favourite genre of music is "anything you can sing along to, a bit of cheesy 2000s pop".

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