#O2AcademyBrixton #Accessibility #SIA

Email thread regarding wheelchair access policy which mandates that wheelchair users be segregated away from the general public on small raised platforms at gigs.

From: Tom Nabarro

To: Nigel Downs

Subject: Re: Super You + Me Disabled Access Booking


Hello Nigel,

I appreciate your reply.

The information you provided about club nights is reassuring although this definitely wasn’t made clear in previous conversations with your colleagues.

I don’t quite agree with your assessment of the health and safety issues with respect to the dangers wheelchair users pose to other customers. I attend many festivals and gigs and enjoy being in the thick of it and have never caused any more harm to others than the next able-bodied person. Whilst I appreciate that my personal experience cannot be grounds for a general health and safety policy I would be interested to hear an explanation of why you have differing policies on club nights and gigs.

With regard to crowd lateral movement, this is obviously an issue with regard to wheelchairs not being able to move sideways and in the case that there is significant crowd movement I would not expect to be at the front middle of the crowd.

Having considered your concerns regarding the above issues I would like to explain why I think it is a mistake to force wheelchair users into segregated platforms away from the general crowd.

Whilst you say that friends are allowed onto the platform, “numbers permitting”, in my experience the platforms are fairly small and it’s unusual to be able to get more than one friend or assistant on the platform. Nonetheless the fact that you have to rely on chance to be able to spend time with your friends at a gig is unacceptable.

Disabled people in general have a hard time overcoming social isolation, it takes a concerted effort to battle against general prejudice and for some the effort is just not worth it. For people who do make the effort to get out and socialise and challenge preconceptions for their own as well as other disabled people’s benefits, it’s a real “kick in the teeth” to be told that they can not be with the general public and enjoy the ambience and that they can only socialise with their “carer” who is usually paid to look after the personal needs of the “client”.

I go to a gig to be with friends, not to hang out with someone I am forced to rely upon 24-7 due to my complex needs.

I would be quite happy not being right at the centre of the dancefloor but being forced onto a raised platform away from the general public is a human rights infringement.

I feel like your policy over health and safety has not been weighed accurately against the well-being of your disabled customers.

This policy is not one that I have encountered other than at the O2 Academy Brixton & Arena and the forum in Camden.

I hope you can consider my arguments and look forward to hearing your reply. In the meantime I will continue to be vocal about these issues on Twitter, other social media and charity channels.


— Tom —

From: Nigel Downs

Subject: RE: Super You + Me Disabled Access Booking


Dear Tom,

Apologies for the delay in reply.

We believe at the O2 Academy Brixton that we provide an excellent service to our disabled customers. We work closely with Attitude is Everything and believe the way we operate is in line with other large venues.

In relation to allowing wheelchair users on to the main auditorium floor, we also have to take into account the health and safety of all customers. If an incident happened within the crowd and lateral movement occurred, then not only is the wheelchair user at risk, but so would other members of the audience.

We provide a raised platform like the O2 Arena, Wembley Arena or football grounds, but we allow all wheelchair users friends to join them for the best view in the house, numbers permitting. Our disabled policy is no different to any other venue. Wheelchair users at the O2 arena cannot go onto the standing area. In relation to the information we provide to wheelchair customers at the time of booking, we’ll review this to ensure that it is clear.

In relation to club nights, we do allow more flexibility. We allow wheelchairs on to the flat floor but ask that wheelchair users stay to the side for everyone’s safety. I understand that the duty manager on the night did speak to you at her earliest convenience, and ensured you could get on to the auditorium floor.

As a major venue, we do try to ensure as much freedom for our wheelchair users as feasibly possible but these have to be set against the Health and Safety of all customers.

Best Regards,

Nigel Downs | General Manager | O2 Academy Brixton

Subject: Re: Super You + Me Disabled Access Booking

Absolutely please

sorry to hear it was cancelled, do you know why

also I would like to ask how best to register a concern about the disabled access policy at the O2 Academy Brixton

I am a frequent customer of O2 Academy venues and a wheelchair user and have been really disappointed on a number of occasions at Brixton due to being forced to sit in the wheelchair enclosure segregated away from my friends. I don’t tend to go clubbing or to gigs on my own with a single assistant, therefore it’s quite a shock being told I can’t sit with my friends/other people. I haven’t had this experience at any other venue and wonder why it is so strict. Due to these experiences electric Brixton is now my venue of choice and I don’t plan on going to O2 Academy Brixton in the future. I enjoy going to the O2 Arena, O2 Academy Oxford and Bristol and have had very good experiences there.

I have heard that my friend Lucy (copied) has also had negative experiences in relation to being a wheelchair user at the O2\ Academy in Brixton.

I hope these feelings can be related to someone in a position to be able to address them.

Thank you very much for your email


— Tom —

week out of the office

Enjoyed a wonderful week last week only doing a couple of days work away from the office and spending time in London Brighton Portsmouth Winchester visiting some museums, restaurants, Brighton seafront and nights out including Brighton and Brixton. Being looked after well by Jana and Nela whilst having good fun. as usual staying in holiday inns and thinking about my talk this week @ SIA agm at the Williams conference centre near grove. We’ll be talking about assistive technology.

Guttman conference on Spinal Cord Injury: content updated

140626 Assistive Technology and Employment- Fulfilling Prof Guttman’s Dream


Gave a talk at the conference today. The subject was employment and assistive technology for someone with spinal-cord injury.

photo slideshow from the previous backup city dinner talk:

Tom’s AV


Levanto, Italy 2014

Our Italy trip was great, fantastic hospitality as usual from the well renowned “a durmi” holiday accommodation. Great company with Ellen, Angela, Aniko, Chiara, Elisa, Alison, Christine, Didi, Lisa, Ermano, Clara, Graziella. the most spectacular food from our friends at “l’artichoka” and “totano blue”.

Due to the recent refurbishments of Levanto and the access to surrounding towns we were able to travel along the coast through the tunnels (which are fully wheelchair accessible) to the towns of Bonasolla and Framura. We travelled via British Airways from Gatwick to Genoa and then used an accessible taxi (not cheap but very good and driven by a supplied driver) to get to Levanto.

Treatment at Genoa was very good if unorganised and the staff at Gatwick were friendly but there was no communication between groundstaff and airline staff. Not much of a surprise but definitely manageable.
Going to start looking into finding ways to help with the cost of flights for personal assistants as this is always a barrier to travel for someone with high dependence.

Great to get some much-needed sunshine and take the mind off work for a while, reading my iPad from the chair via the head control proved a great success using the “Perrero” module.

Stunning food and scenery as you would expect, managing the uninhibited staring from the Italian populace was often uncomfortable especially when a returned smile was not reciprocated. I think a minor cultural Revolution is necessary to help with the acceptance and accommodation of physical disability in Italy. Makes me really appreciate the relatively positive attitude we have in this country.

So thank you so much to Angela and Aniko for facilitating such an enjoyable break and mitigating against potential skin related disasters with due care and diligence.

I’ve uploaded a few photos to Flickr…

Buona Giournata (I think!)

accessing digital media around the house

Access to digital media

In recent years our standards of living have been closely linked to availability, quantity and quality of digital media. My recent mini project has been concerned with enabling me to access digital media around the house independently and irrespective of location. the following gives the objectives:
I want to be able to listen or watch media from a number of bearers including YouTube, iPlayer, iTunes as well as other website and my local media.
I want to be able to access this from my bed, my wheelchair and anywhere else I happen to be in the house.
I want to also be able to access this media through a number of devices: laptop/voice recognition, wheelchair controls/mobile phone, bedside switch/environmental control.
I want to be able to use my mobile phone through my lap top and my wheelchair controls.

I have mostly achieved the objectives through the following solution:

I have a wheelable TV stand supporting my 38″ Tv, two laptop docking stations, a raspberry pi minicomputer, a chromecast HDMI dongle and a hi-fi system connected to the TV via a Bluetooth receiver and transmitter.

All the TV stand connections are integrated within the stand, the laptops+, chromecast, raspberry pi communicate with the Internet and the home network over Wi-Fi and the TV connects with the hi-fi and speakers over Bluetooth. There is one cable connected to the TV stand, a single 240 volt power cable.

The premise is that everything transmits media to the TV which in turn plays audio via Bluetooth over the hi-fi.

Any device capable of supporting a chrome browser can stream digital media directly to the TV via chromecast. Therefore from a laptop when I’m using voice recognition of from my phone when in my wheelchair using my head control/wheelchair mounted environmental control to scan through iPhone icons via the Perrero module. also works well with YouTube iPhone application.

I can control my media centre, displaying through the TV, hosted on my raspberry pi, £35, minicomputer from my wheelchair environmental control or the single switch environmental control next to my bed. Through this I can access a host of digital media from the Internet or my local media server. This also provides a airplay interface which allows any device supporting iTunes to stream digital media directly to the TV (any Apple devices), another option from my phone or laptop.

The TV stand can be wheeled around the house still transmitting audio through the hi-fi via Bluetooth, connected through Wi-Fi to the Internet and the home network.

This allows me to spend less time asking people to connect/reconnect devices and more time getting on with life…

driving adaptions

This is regarding the below article on driving by a tetraplegic. Great to see how much work he puts into it. Sounds like some useful advice on approaches to the various challenges. Probably because of the extra inconvenience of not having any movement in my arms, it’s not one of my highest priorities in terms of independent living. I’m working on controlling door openers and light switches from my chair at the moment, via infrared. Very basic technology but offers good functional improvement to everyday life.