Nimbus Disability, the company behind the Access Card scheme for disabled customers, is now offering its card validation system completely free of charge to venues.

Nimbus launched its Access Card in 2014, meaning Deaf and disabled customers can easily and discreetly give information to providers about the sorts of needs they have.

Access requirements are verified and distilled into a number of symbols, which are then printed onto a photo ID card and used when booking tickets or when arriving at venues, meaning customers don’t have to go into depth about personal information when booking.

The card has proved popular, with around 25,000 active cardholders in the UK and beyond.

The cards work in conjunction with an online system, called the card validation system, that the venues use. This means that they can see a digital version of a customer’s Access Card, so they can quickly identify and meet their access needs. It also means that if they’re talking directly to a customer with an Access Card, the conversation can bypass talking about their needs and instead focus on finding a solution.

The card validation system had previously been chargeable, but Nimbus is now offering it completely free of charge. It takes just minutes to set up following the submission of a simple licence agreement form.

Managing director of Nimbus, Martin Austin MBE, who was recently named in the New Year Honours list for services to Accessibility in the Tourism and Entertainment Sectors, said: “I feel that this software now needs to be almost open-source – removing the financial barrier for organisations means that there’s no legitimate reason not to get involved and we will be doing our part by expanding the reach of the scheme for our members.

“By getting involved, a venue or event will find their admin costs reduced, but will also need to pause and spend five minutes thinking about how they will meet disabled customers’ needs in relation to the symbols on the card. All-in-all, services improve for disabled customers, which is what we all want in the long run.”

The card validation system is used by companies including TicketMaster, Glastonbury, KOKO and many more.

Nottingham Motorpoint Arena, one of the first box offices to start using the system, has found the tool a vital piece of the access journey for customers.

Richard Crowe, box office manager, said: “Being able to view a customer’s access needs via the Nimbus online access card system has vastly improved the booking process for many disabled visitors.

“With a few simple details, the venue can straightaway see the adjustments required and ensure the most suitable seating/tickets are booked, without the need for lengthy admin processes involving the customer having to send us proof of their requirements.”

Jonathan Brown, CEO of STAR (The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers) got involved with the challenge of accessible ticketing in 2014 in response to Attitude is Everything’s State of Access Report.

He sees this latest development as substantial progress: “The Access Card is unique in providing venues and ticket sellers with crucial information that identifies the reasonable adjustments they need to make for D/deaf and disabled people and in ensuring the right tickets reach the right people.

“Making the validation system free to use for businesses is a great and timely encouragement for venues that don’t currently recognise the Access Card to come on board. I really can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t.”

The card validation system also works with ticketing systems so people can book tickets online and don’t have to rely on special helplines.

The API ticketing integration means ticketing companies and systems can link customers’ access requirements directly to their account, making it much easier and simpler to book the right tickets and have access needs met.

The initial integration of the API was undertaken by The Ticket Factory and, together, Nimbus and The Ticket Factory went on to win Attitude is Everything’s prestigious Ticketing Without Barriers Award for best Ticketing/Tech Company.

Suzanne Bull MBE is the CEO of Attitude is Everything, an organisation that improves Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music. It works in partnership with audiences, artists and the music industry.

Bull said: “It’s fantastic that the card validation system for venues is now free of charge. I’m hoping this will encourage many more venues to get involved, enabling more people with access needs to enjoy their leisure time and socialise with friends and family – which is what life is all about! And now that it’s free, there’s no excuse for not using it!”