Actor Chloé Hayden Says She Was Refused Sensory Room Access At A Harry Styles Gig

When it comes to accessibility at music venues, Australia has a very long way to go.

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Heartbreak High actor Chloé Hayden, who has autism and ADHD, accused staff at Melbourne’s Marvel stadium of ableism and discrimination. The 25-year-old was refused access to the venue’s only sensory room at a Harry Styles’ concert for, in her words, not looking autistic enough. 

They’re loud, vibrant, confetti-strewn, and can make for the best nights of your life. Whether it’s a festival or concert, live music should be an experience accessible and inclusive for everyone.

But sadly people are still missing out, or worse, are attending events and not being properly accommodated or supported. Case in point: Heartbreak High actor Chloé Hayden, who says she was unfairly treated at a Harry Styles concert at the end of last month.

Chloé’s Experience 

The 25-year-old actor, who has autism and ADHD, accused staff at Marvel stadium in Melbourne of ableism and discrimination, when she was refused access to the venue’s only sensory room, for, in her words, not looking autistic enough. 

Following a thread of tweets and sharing her experience on Instagram, Chloé reportedly received more than 50 messages from people who had the same problem. 

The accusations come just a month after disabled festival attendees told Hack  they were turned away from accessing viewing platforms at Sydney’s Laneway festival, even after receiving permission from organisers to access the space. Clearly, then, there are massive issues around accessibility in Australia for those living with disabilities. 

Under both state and territory and Federal law, it is a legal requirement for events to be accessible for people with disabilities, but many venues may be breaching anti-discrimination laws. 

Former Australian of the year Dylan Alcott and his brother Zack have been working tirelessly to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, by putting together guidelines for festival organisers. Alcott also launched Australia’s first all accessible music festival, known as Ability Fest

Despite these massive moves, many festival venues still lack basic ramps, drop-off bays, designated parking, and staff education. 

What Are Sensory Rooms?

Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium, where Harry Styles performed, was the first stadium in Melbourne to open a sensory room. 

Sensory rooms are specifically designed spaces to help people living with autism, PTSD, chronic illness, or dementia regulate their reactions to external stimuli. 

If someone is experiencing sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation, sensory rooms can offer a safe and calming place. They usually contain equipment to modify the environment, with light, sound and touch experiences, and sensory objects like noise cancelling headphones, fidget tools, and soft toys. 

In one of her tweets, Chloé pointed out that a stadium that has a capacity of roughly 53,000 people, with 16.5 percent of the population having sensory processing challenges, then 8,000 people could need access to a sensory space at Marvel Stadium. 

Marvel Stadium’s sensory room has a capacity of 12 people, which Chloé says does not equate to genuine inclusion, but a tick box solution. 

Marvel Stadium’s Response

In a statement provided to Junkee, Marvel Stadium said they take great pride in their sensory room and were disappointed to hear of the experience some patrons had”.

They acknowledged “capacity issues” and apologised to “patrons for the hurt and inconvenience that was caused.”

Chloé has since tweeted that the CEO of Marvel Stadium has confirmed a second sensory room is being built, and has committed to re-training their staff. 

Marvel Stadium has also called for anyone with stories of poor disability access and discrimination to contact them directly so that they can improve their facilities. 

Marvel’s full statement is below. 

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 this morning 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. 

Image credit: Instagram, @harrystyles