Accessibility in the Music Scene: ADA Areas
by Cassie Wilson and Lu Laurent
Going to shows as a disabled person is a very different experience than going as an able-bodied person. This difference becomes clear when disabled people attend shows with their able-bodied friends who don’t have the same stresses and struggles about staying safe and being comfortable. While many people are worrying about getting front row, disabled attendees are negotiating with security and other venue staff over unjust ADA sections.
Someone who is disabled should be able to go to a show for the first time and have just as great of an experience as an able-bodied person rather than feeling like a forgotten minority or a burden to the venue. Instead, disabled fans have to advocate for their own accessibility before arriving to a concert. Even then, venues can often be forgetful of arrangements made with disabled fans, so then it’s the same battle for supposedly already met requests. This can leave fans stuck in an impractical place that was made up on the spot, and they’re often told it’s the only choice, so they’re left feeling powerless if it doesn’t work.
ADA sections are usually in the back, providing a poor view. They are very small and restrictive in both their size and their rules set for disabled fans which could include how many other people can be brought with you, whether you can leave during the show or not, etc. With many sections being so far away from the stage, it can lessen a fan’s experience, but asking if there’s anywhere else to be feels ungrateful.
Balconies are considered accessible sections at times, but most are first come first serve, priced much higher than normal general admission tickets, and/or inaccessible depending on each individual’s health and physical abilities. Due to many disabled people’s conditions, waiting in line can put too much strain on them and ticket prices for safe sections are frequently unaffordable.
Recently I, Cassie Wilson, went to a show at a venue that claimed to be accessible on their website, however they also stated that there was no elevator despite the concert itself being upstairs. When I got to the show, the first thing I saw was a step just to enter the building, but what surprised me the most was just how many stairs there really were inside.
It’s frustrating to know that their website isn’t fully honest, although it shouldn’t be a requirement to have to read their website and call ahead if you’re a disabled concert goer. Anyone should be able to make a last minute choice to go to a show and still have an equal experience. It’s disappointing that people don’t consider all forms of accessibility and don’t keep all kinds of disabled people in mind when speaking about and creating ADA sections. Sometimes it feels like disabled seating areas were chosen for the convenience of the venue, and not for the people who are going to be using it.
Having a non-visible disability I, Lu Laurent, have had problems trying to get in and stay in accessible sections since I don’t “look disabled”. I’ve been told to leave sections due to “lack of seating” only to fill staff in about my health issues and then see them pull out more chairs shortly after.
Disabled fans shouldn’t have a smaller selection of shows to choose from based on the accessibility of the venues at which they are held, and being safe shouldn’t be a privilege―it should be a right. Improving accessibility doesn’t always have to be a costly construction project, sometimes it’s simply about picking a better spot for disabled fans to watch the concert or educating security on a wider variety of disabilities to avoid ableism.
Cassie has a dwarfism that primarily affects her ability to walk or stand for long periods of time, so she uses a wheelchair at concerts.
Lu has a multitude of chronic health conditions that include symptoms such as constant pain scattered throughout their body, fatigue, breathing problems, and an inability to stand for extended periods of time among other things. At shows, they need to be able to sit.
We hope you enjoy their series and find it very informative.
Please email Cassie and Lu at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are involved in the music community and have a mental disability, are blind, deaf or hard of hearing because we would like your perspective on accessibility. We would also like to hear from any and all disabled artists.