Mark My Words · mark my words · Wrestling with Stairs

Wrestling With Stairs – Lucha Forever Accessibility Review

Ah, Lucha Forever. If there was ever a company where I went in with low expectations, and they managed to not even hit those, it’s you. For those who didn’t catch it when things went down on Twitter, co-owner Ryan Smile made a number of remarks which many considered to be homophobic, about why gay pride wasn’t necessary, asking why couldn’t people just live “normal lives”. He also commented that overcoming depression was as simple as a positive attitude. Complaints about this were met with blocking, retorts from his partner, Alex Windsor, and being blocked by her as well.

Coupled with that, I attended on a week where Will Ospreay, the other co-owner, had been accused to racism due to liking a tweet by Paul Robinson containing the n-word. He had then written a defence about how he couldn’t be racist because his best friend – the aforementioned Ryan Smile – is black. So it could be said that I wasn’t expecting these guys to do a great job of my accessibility needs, but I tried to go in with an open mind, a genial tone, and with hope that they could better themselves in my eyes by assisting me.

I will mention that I’m blocked by both Smile and Windsor on Twitter, and though I can’t say whether or not the attitude I was given was personal, I worry for their business if this is how they respond to any and all disabled customers. In a way, I hope it was personal dislike, simply for the benefit of others attending their shows. It’s important for me to note that no matter my feelings on a promotion or promoter, I always want the review to be good. I take no pleasure in negative reviews – it just means I had an uncomfortable night, and makes me feel sad about being a part of this community. I always want to write an awesome review, and for a promotion to exceed my expectations.

Emmy and I headed to Ultimo Battle at the Coronet Theatre on the 5th of October.

Discussion of Access

Three weeks before the show, I contacted Lucha Forever via their website contact form, as their Twitter DMs are not open. After hearing nothing back, a week before the show, I sent another message, this time emailing directly (although both send messages to the same email address), and sending a tweet. Once we got down to three or four days before the show, I was getting nervous, and friends tweeted at Lucha Forever’s Twitter account, without encouragement from me. They were met with aggressive, sharp responses (whereas my tweet had been given no response) – one friend asked them to stop “messing [me] around” to which they replied this was “uncalled for”. Once again, I hope this behaviour was personal, and not something they extend to all disabled guests, but I can neither confirm nor deny that.

I eventually got the information the morning of the show, which meant I was panicked and on the verge of cancelling when it came through – but guess what? Lucha Forever makes it very clear on their website that they don’t do refunds unless the show is cancelled, so I wasn’t sure I could, even if I physically couldn’t access the building. 0/10


Physical Access – Discussed

I was told the building was fully accessible, that we would be let in early, and that we could sit where we felt was best for us. This was after I’d googled the floor plan and worked out that there was one ramp down to the seating area, so wanted to be near that. I was informed the disabled toilet was accessed via a key that the bar staff or LF staff would have. I was told that someone would help me enter the building.

I was given no assurances of safe lighting, any details about steps inside the venue, or what time I could get in, despite giving them a solution in the form of letting me in when VIP ticket holders were entering. 2/10 for managing the bare minimum.

Physical Access – Actual

I tweeted at Lucha Forever asking if we could be let in when VIP ticket holders were, and was told that was acceptable. Upon arriving at the venue, we were told they had to let VIP ticket holders in first, leaving me standing for ten minutes or so. Upon entry, there were four or five steps, right there in the lobby. There were then another six or seven steps up to the venue proper. I was offered a ramp, but as I already felt embarrassed that I was holding people up, I declined.

The main area near the bar was four or five large flat steps, and while there were ramps, these were only on one side – oddly, on the opposite side from the ramp down to the seats, which was long and also uneven, without proper lighting/tape to show when the flooring changed gradient. When I asked for the key to the disabled toilet, I was told it was actually a code – and then led down six or seven steps to it. Yup, this was a disabled toilet which required you to use stairs to get to it.

Inside, the toilet’s red cord, which is supposed to reach the floor for emergency use by someone who has fallen, was cut so short that it barely reached the seat of the toilet. The lock – a bolt – on the door was too high for a wheelchair user to reach, as was the hand-dryer. If I had fallen in there, I would have had no way to call for help, and even if I had managed to sit up, would not have been able to release the bolt. The bolt would also have been difficult for anyone to break through to get to me, even if I had been able to sound the alarm. Yes, this is the responsibility of the venue, not the promotion, but it’s still getting a mention. An unsafe disabled toilet is pointless.

The show began, and suddenly we were assailed by flashing lights. After two or three entrances, we realised the lights were going to keep flashing. A lot. Emmy got up and went to see if she could ask someone about it. After being sent from one person to another, Ryan Smile asked her what was the matter. She explained the lighting issue, and he replied “What do you want me to do, cancel the whole show?” which feels like needless hyperbolic sarcasm in the situation. He then said that the lights were not strobe, they were LED, and when Emmy explained that could still cause seizures for me, he said the lights had all been pre-set, and “people have put a lot of time into this”. She came back to me, and a few minutes later, he came over to us and told her (not introducing yourself to, or talking to the disabled person, instead speaking to their carer as if they’re not there? Mega faux pas.) that he’d toned some of the lights down. It wasn’t much help. For entrances, I resorted to burying my face in Emmy’s shoulder, and she’d tap me when they were over. I understand that it’s frustrating to be told you need to change something, but I don’t really understand his attitude when the outcome could have been life-threatening or at least severely-injuring for me, to seize on a hard floor. -5/10

Going The Extra Mile

Don’t make me laugh. For lying, pure attitude at being asked to accomodate someone, and not giving a damn about my safety, -5/10.

Other Shows

I’ve no idea about other shows, but after this? I certainly won’t be attending again. 0/10

It’s upsetting when you go to something that so lets you down that you feel unsafe for the whole night. I can’t even say I enjoyed the wrestling, as good as it was, and despite there being many talented performers there who I’m usually very fond of. I did my best to enjoy it, but every time I went up the long, uneven ramp, then down the stairs to the unsafe toilet, I was reminded of just how much of a failing this was. It was absolutely shocking, and I should have gone with my gut reaction and cancelled it when no one got back to me at a week before the show. The only reason I didn’t was that so many friends were going, they reassured me they would help if the situation was dire. Had I been with only one carer, or alone, I would not have put myself in such risk.

I get no joy from writing this, but I wouldn’t go to another Lucha Forever show, despite their often brilliant cards. And the saddest part is? I don’t think they’d give a damn if no disabled people ever went to their shows, or felt safe there. At no point was any concern or apology given. Lucha Forever comes away with the first negative score in our history, with -2/10.

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