His music guided her through the most difficult period in her life but now a Toronto woman says she’s being deprived of a chance to see that inspirational musician, the legendary Stevie Wonder.
Tracy Whitfield has been a superfan of the Grammy Award winning singer for 20 years.
She says his music helped her through her own vision loss after being diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy at 19.
“I woke up completely blind,” Whitfield explained. “I had hemorrhages in the retina of both eyes ended up filled with blood.”
She says she spent a year without vision, during which time she battled depression. After many surgeries and treatments Whitfield regained some eyesight, but is still legally blind.
When it was announced that Wonder would be bringing his “Songs in the Key of Life” tour to the Air Canada Centre on Nov. 25 Whitfield applied for tickets in the accessibility section, only to be told she wasn’t approved for that area.
“They said no, we don’t have accessible seats for what you’re looking for,” she explained. “We’ve got accessible seats for mobility but we don’t have accessible seats for vision. This was hard to imagine for me at a Stevie Wonder concert.”
Diversity advocate Michael Bach says he sees these kind of barriers time and time again.
“I think it’s everybody’s responsibility. It’s Ticketmaster’s responsibility to make sure their website is accessible,” he explained. “It’s Maple Leaf Sports, the Air Canada Centre’s responsibility to make sure that the venue is accessible. I also think it’s the promoters and Mr. Wonder’s responsibility to make sure everyone can see the show.”
CityNews contacted the promoter, LiveNation, Ticket Master and the Air Canada Centre.
In a statement released Monday, MLSE said they do try to accommodate all requests involving accessibility.
“When fans contact us with an accessibility inquiry, we work with our event partners, in this case Live Nation, to address each need,” the statement read.
Ticketmaster says they offered Whitfield tickets in the 21st row but she says they won’t do her any good with her limited vision.
“I might as well be sitting in the 500th row I’m not going to be able to see,” said Whitfield. “It’s about showmanship. It’s about feeling a part of this excitement. Feeling like I’m not missing something.”