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THE organisers of Leicester Comedy Festival have come under fire from members of the disabled community, after a wheelchair user found that she was unable to attend a show due to access issues at the venue.

Lucy Wood, who has Celebral Palsy, was set to attend a show by disabled comedian Rosie Jones on Saturday (February 12), as part of a feature for a podcast she shares with Loughborough’s Alice Evans.

The outing was designed to celebrate a year of the pair’s ‘lABLEd Podcast’, which sees them share their experiences and issues around disability.

Picture: lABLEd Podcast

However, the pair were shocked and angered to learn that Rosie’s show, which is being held at Leicester’s ‘Big Difference’, wouldn’t be accessible to wheelchair user Lucy (pictured right).

It is a situation which the Staffordshire resident has labelled “very short sighted,” by event organisers ‘The Big Difference Company.’

“We are both fans of Rosie Jones, and this has been something we’d been looking forward to for ages, so it was a big disappointment when we found out that it wasn’t going to take place on the ground floor of the venue, where we assumed it would be, but in the basement,” she said.

“You have to go down a flight of stairs to get there – not a lot of steps but still it doesn’t matter. My legs don’t work and I can’t get down there,” she added.

“To my mind, the marketing person, or whoever was in charge of booking this gig, would have looked at the person who’s actually performing on the stage Rosie Jones, who herself has Cerebral Palsy, and asked themselves “what is the demographic of her fans and supporters” before realising “oh she’s disabled”, and then asking the question “have we got everything in place for disabled people to come to that venue?”.

“It’s just very short-sighted really.

“I don’t know how many meetings that event has gone through, and how many discussions they’ve had to get it in place, but you just know that the issue of accessibility has been completely left off their list of things to talk about.”

Alice, who is visually impaired, told The Leicester Times that she felt shocked and angry about the situation.

However, she and Lucy have since met with Geoff Rowe, director of the Big Difference Company to discuss their disappointment.

“Positive steps have been made towards raising awareness around access needs, and making sure changes are made to prevent similar scenarios happening in the future,” she said.

“I’m sorry that these two customers are unable to see the performance which is at a venue downstairs, and we have already met with them to speak about their experience,” confirmed Mr Rowe.

“Some of their suggestions were able to be implemented straight away and our venue access guide is now available to download from the website.  I’m delighted that they want to work with us in the future to try and ensure our festivals are as accessible to as many people as possible.”

“We have a long tradition of trying to ensure Leicester Comedy Festival is as accessible as it can be, and this year is possibly the most accessible the event has ever been,” he added.

Louise Steel