How the iconic building’s history impacts its ability to be disability-friendly
The accessibility of Brisbane venues is always on my mind when I visit a new one for the first time, and when I was given Row K seats to a show at The Tivoli in Fortitude Valley, this was my main concern.
The Tivoli was originally built as an Adams Bakery in 1917, and was later used to store rare books by the State Library. But when Expo ‘88 emerged, new owner Ann Gams turned it into a Restaurant and Theatre. ‘The Tiv’ has been a highly popular performance venue within Australia ever since, and has hosted some of the world’s biggest names, like Powderfinger and Nick Cave. In 2016, brothers Steve and Dave Sleswick took ownership, and in 2017 the building celebrated its 100-year anniversary.
But is it disability-friendly?
How accessible is The Tivoli?
First, kudos to the staff team on the night. They were nothing but helpful to myself and my support worker, letting us enter the theatre ahead of the crowd, and directing us to the bathroom when we asked. But as far the accessibility of the venue itself, a few things can be improved:
Front door: We were met by two steps that needed two wooden ramps in order for me to access the front door. Thankfully, the staff provided those ramps, but it might be handy to know in case you or your wheelchair struggles on imperfect surfaces.
Toilets: Funnily enough, when enquiring about the bathroom for me, my support worker was told that there was an accessible toilet down some stairs on the next level. Let that sink in for a minute as we were already on the ground level and there appeared to be no elevator on site. So, our options were two disabled bathroom stalls; one in the Men’s and the other in the Ladies’. This for me was a little bit of an issue as I had a female support worker with me. I didn’t feel comfortable taking her into the Men’s, nor did I feel comfortable going into the Ladies’ as a mid 30’s man.I decided to go with the Men’s room, to which my support worker said was the better option size-wise after she visited the Ladies’ herself later on.
Seating: As most wheelchair users do, I was worried about the view to the stage and how the crowd would impact my enjoyment of the night. With no allocated disabled seating in place, the system at The Tivoli is to simply remove seats at the end of a row as needed. But I was right to worry, as even with the empty chairs in front of me it was still difficult to get a clear sight of the stage – and when the seats were filled, getting a look was near impossible. I had to keep moving my head and readjusting my view every time there was some movement from the people in front of me. But it wasn’t just me who found it difficult getting a view; my support worker was constantly moving to avoid the obstructing heads, too.
Inspiring change to make venues disability-friendly
It’s difficult trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and that’s what it feels like when you’re looking at the accessibility of older buildings. There might not be too much we can do when it comes to improving the accessibility of these older Brisbane buildings, but what we can do is hold companies who are building new venues to higher standards than what was acceptable in the past. Equality may cost a little more in the short term when it comes to accessibility, but in the long run, everyone benefits.
Over to you
Have you been to The Tivoli and had a different experience? How have you found the accessibility of Brisbane venues? Tell us in the comments below.