The Access2 card program is a great opportunity for people with disabilities to be part of their communities, but policies within partner institutions make it much less useful than it should be.
The Access2 card program was created in 2004 by Easter Seals Canada with help from Cineplex Entertainment and many national disability organizations. When a person with a disability who has an Access2 card comes to a partnering venue with a support person, the support person enters for free or at a reduced rate. Support persons may help people with disabilities:
- Move around venues
- Care for daily living needs
This program gives people with disabilities equal access to entertainment available in their communities and the chance to visit some of the country’s most well-known tourist attractions.
These cards give people access to a variety of entertainment at select venues across Canada. For instance, venues that are part of the program within Ontario include:
- Movie theatre chains, such as:
- Landmark Cinemas
- Rainbow Cinemas
- Imagine Cinemas
- The CN Tower
- The Canadian National Exhibition
- The Ontario Science Centre
- The Art Gallery of Ontario
- Ripley’s Aquarium
- Miniature golf courses and activity parks
People can find out which venues are part of the program by visiting the Access2 website.
Applying for an Access2 Card
People can also apply for a card on the website by downloading and filling out the application form. Applicants can pay $20 for a card lasting three years or $30 for a card lasting five years. A doctor must fill out one section of the form to confirm that the applicant has a disability.
Venue Policies Make Cards Less Effective
Venues have their own rules about whether people can use their cards to buy tickets online or in advance. Most venues require cardholders to buy their tickets in-person and on the day they will use them.
While such a policy might have been reasonable in 2004, now it is not. In recent years, with the rise of internet use and online shopping, most people buy tickets to events online and in advance. People love the ease and choosing their own seats. This growing trend means that by the time people with disabilities enter a venue on the day of a movie or a visit, tickets are often sold out.
If there are still tickets for sale, there may not be any accessible seats. An “accessible seat” can mean different things to different people. For instance, it can mean a seat:
- Someone can reach without climbing stairs
- Near the front so that someone can see or hear clearly
- On one side of the theatre for someone with sight in one eye or hearing in one ear
If accessible seating is sold out, a person needing that seating has a much worse time at the event.
Attempted Solutions and New Barriers
Sometimes staff at these venues understand that while the same-day policy might work in theory, in practice it makes the program non-functional. Staff may try to help by letting people buy tickets in advance as long as they still do so in-person rather than online. Such a policy change is somewhat helpful because it gives people the chance to buy tickets as early as non-disabled friends and neighbours. However, the in-person policy creates a new barrier for cardholders because it means they will need to make two trips to the venue. This step is not required for event-goers who do not have disabilities and might be hard or time consuming for people with certain disabilities.
Alternatively, staff may allow people to benefit from their cards through the following process:
- Buy tickets online in advance without using their cards
- Arrive early on the day of the event
- Return their tickets with a full refund
- Re-purchase the same tickets using their cards
This option mostly allows people to ensure access to events and accessible seats while using their cards, but it seems complicated and there is a chance that someone else will buy the tickets online during the brief time they are for sale again.
The only way that would remove barriers, instead of creating new ones, would be a systemic policy change. People with disabilities will only have equal access when they can use their Access2 cards at all times and locations that tickets are available to the public. Venues that have a policy like this in place already are leading the way in terms of accessibility. A total policy change would restore the card program’s well-deserved status as a ground-breaking service bettering the lives of people across the province and the country.