by Sean Gray
Let’s be clear: No venue will be perfect. Disability is a spectrum, and what may be accessible for some may not be for others. (For example, I use a walker and with help can actually get up stairs if there is a railing.) If you are running a venue, setting up a venue/show, or even just someone attending, here are some things to keep in mind:
No matter how accessible on inaccessible your venue or space is, providing information is key. Let people know through all channels what they might face. Count the stairs. Which side is the railing on? Where is the bathroom? Is that accessible? What is the venue’s capacity? The more information you can provide — even if your venue is not accessible — can really help.
Push promoters, bands, and people to post about accessibility on their Facebook invites or flyers. Let them know this is important to you and it matters.
Offer help but never be too pushy. Not everyone with a disability needs or wants your help. Do let people know that help is here if they want it. Not everyone feels comfortable just asking without knowing. Post signs about where to ask for help or who to ask for help.
Just because a person does not have a mobility device does not mean there isn’t a disability: invisible disabilities do exist.
If you are in a band and notice a venue is not accessible, say something! Or better yet, play somewhere else. Of course not every band have the privilege to say no to a venue or show, but if you can and the venue excludes people with disabilities, play elsewhere. Make a statement.
People without disabilities: We disabled folk do not need you to comment on how awesome it is we were able to come out due to how hard it must be for us. Do not assume the person with the disability needs your help during the show or getting in and out of the venue. Putting the spotlight on us can make us feel othered.
Listen to people with disabilities and never assume anything. The best way to be an ally is to just listen.
Sean Gray is a Washington, D.C-based writer, promoter, record label owner and musician with cerebral palsy. He runs the website Is This Venue Accessible? at itvaccessible.com.