It’s dawned on me recently that I haven’t been doing as much as I used to do (don’t let the Instagram posts deceive you, 70% of the time, I’m at home alone with my dog). I don’t go to as much gigs as I used to. I don’t go for pints. I don’t go to friends’ houses for tea.
I’m missing out on things. I even missed out on my own birthday this year. My original and totally accessible venue of choice had flooded so the party split. The larger group went to an inaccessible pub and because I didn’t feel like spending my birthday debating with a bouncer that I should be allowed in the basement if I wanted to go to the bathroom at all, four of us went to Whelan’s instead. I was in a foul mood and requested 15 minutes of cursing and blinding Dublin and its shit access.
Over a year ago, I wrote a piece called This Is What Poor Access Means To Me. Being disabled means that I miss out on things because of shit access. When I rock up to restaurants and see the face of the host drop when they realise before I do that I can’t come in, it can really kick your confidence. When a bouncer tells you that it’s illegal for you to go up or downstairs (it’s not), it makes my blood boil. I’m getting really tired of having a short list of pubs, restaurants and cafes that I can visit and the rest of the time, I have to convince people that it’s fine. That I’m fine. It’s not fine.
I recently interviewed Sean Gray* from Is This Venue Accessible, a Washington DC based writer and musician who also uses a walker to walk. We discussed how shitty access in music venues is across the world and that’s when he said this:
“You get into music and art because you want to escape what shitty around you. Or you want to understand it more. Again, I think, when I can’t go to a venue and can’t see that show, it’s not about ‘oh, that place is inaccessible’, that not what it’s about. What it’s really about is that what you are saying to me is I am not allowed to come into this venue.”
That has stuck with me.
I used to always say that I can’t go to places but now I realise that I’m not allowed. My options are limited and I am really, really tired of it.
So tired that I’ve decided to branch out a little bit with Legless and start doing a spot of access consultancy for music events. When Body & Soul reached out to me to learn more about access and when Hard Working Class Heroes released discounted ticket rates for people with mobility issues when I tweeted them, I realised that it’s possible to change how we view access.
Building regulations are so bloody difficult to work around but with music events, we can go outside or keep an eye out for the perfect venue while using almost perfect venues and providing all the access information that gig goers with disabilities need. So far, I’m working with one fantastic promoter and things are looking good.
Even though it’s not going to improve the physical infrastructure of venues, hopefully it will reduce heated arguments with bouncers, the feeling of extreme guilt when staff realise that there’s nothing that they can do to help and, more importantly, the horrible feeling you get when you have to leave a night early because no one knew how to include you.
I’m starting small but it’s happening.
If you interested in this service, you can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
*The rest of this interview will be up soon.