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Marvel Stadium to enhance accessibility after ableism criticism

Featured image credit: Bob Tan/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Marvel Stadium has said it will add a second sensory room and retrain its staff on accessibility protocols after being publicly accused of ableism during the staging of Harry Styles’ concerts at the Melbourne venue.

Following the first of two shows at Marvel Stadium on Friday, actress Chloe Hayden, the star of Netflix show ‘Heartbreak High’, hit out at the venue on social media after her experiences during the concert.

Hayden, who is autistic and is a disability rights campaigner, shared her experience at the Styles show, encouraging her followers to do likewise. She said on Twitter: “Hey @marvelstadium reminder you cannot preach inclusivity and then not let me into the sensory room because you decided I don’t look autistic enough.

“How g***amn disappointing the same venue has proven flying its woke flag and ticking the disability box is where its values begin and end.”

Hayden, along with other concertgoers, reported being dismissed by staff and prevented from accessing the stadium’s sensory room. She also shared stories from other fans of staff allegedly asking to see “diagnosis forms” to access items that help with sensory overload.

She said: “(The worker) looked over me and did a once-over, checked me out, and she told me ‘oh, it’s not available’. They definitely made out that I wasn’t welcome in that space.”

However, after a meeting Hayden said she had with Marvel Stadium CEO, Michael Green, on Monday, she posted on Instagram yesterday: “Fighting for the disabled right to access public spaces should not be this radical, or controversial, or taxing. It should not be something that is debatable. But, it has raised so, so many important conversations that is going to lead to so, so much important change.

“I’ve spoken with the CEO of Marvel Stadium and we’ve discussed steps forward. A second sensory room is being built, and they have committed to retraining their staff. I plan on keeping them accountable for both.

“Both myself and Marvel Stadium are encouraging everyone with stories of poor disability access and discrimination to reach out to Marvel directly so they can hear as many stories as possible, and continue to gain knowledge to change, educate and create a better future.”

A Marvel Stadium spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald that the new sensory room will be created on the opposite side of the venue, and on a different level, to help patrons in other areas gain access. It’s original offering opened in August 2019.

The spokesperson added: “We are extremely disappointed to hear of the experience some patrons had at Marvel Stadium over the weekend when they were unable to access our sensory room which was at capacity on both nights.

“After conversations… with patrons affected, Marvel Stadium has told patrons that to cope with increased demand a new extra sensory room will be included in the Marvel Stadium redevelopment when it is completed this year.

“Marvel Stadium was the first stadium in Melbourne to open a sensory room and takes great pride in welcoming everyone to the venue for events, with our sensory room being a safe and welcoming space for the many people who have used it since it was first introduced in 2019 including the many people that accessed it over the weekend during both concerts.

“While we sometimes experience capacity issues at major events, we still aim to provide a positive and caring experience for all patrons needing to find a quiet place and we sincerely apologise to patrons for the hurt and inconvenience that was caused over the weekend.”