Concert

Wheelchair Concert Etiquette

Live music has become one of my favorite things since becoming paralyzed. When you’re at a club enjoying live music, you’re just like everyone else – another pair of ears taking in the beats. My first concert, The Monkees, was when I was seven years old at the Minnesota State fair, but after my injury, oh man, did concerts take on a whole new meaning.

It can get tiring knowing you’re missing out on aspects of certain activities. Water Parks, hiking, full on dance parties, there are a lot of activities where we can’t enjoy every tiny aspect like everyone else. I don’t know about you, but it can drive me crazy knowing I’m missing out. But in the realm of live music, it doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting, standing or if your body is 75% paralyzed, you can fully experience this environment 100%.

From dealing with obnoxious drunks to dealing with even more obnoxious drunks (hey they come out in force when live music happens), here are a three common situations that can happen when you attend a concert as a wheelchair-user.

The “from behind” jostle: Whether you attend a busy concert in a small club or you’re able to get on the floor at an arena show, chances are you’re going to get packed in like a sardine. And there’s no way around this if you love music and use a wheelchair, but…there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for the impending crowds.

For starters, bring someone with you; preferably a person who’s able-bodied and has no problem telling people to back off (even if the person in question didn’t intend to bump into your wheelchair). It can be very hard getting people’s attention when you’re in a loud dark club as a wheelchair-user, so be prepared for someone to accidentally trip and fall on you or push up against your chair at some point (especially if you’re in the front row).

The arm rest abuser: This happens often – the person standing next to you at a show decides to use your arm rest as for their own; without asking. This can be one of the rudest things you’ll ever experience as a wheelchair-user and it still blows my mind whenever it happens.

The wherewithal it takes to lean into a wheelchair-user’s armrest without asking is definitely shocking. In case this does happen, I always make sure I turn off my joystick too whenever I’m in a crowd of people, since you never know when a drunk person may fall over and hit it. This can happen more often than you think, and will happen when you least expect it.

The “let me help you” patron: This may actually be one of the rare bonuses of showing up at concert as a wheelchair-user, and at the concert I went to last night – an evening of David Bowie covers – I was able to experience this bonus. What I’m talking about are the overly helpful (usually drunk) people in the crowd who want to help you any way they can. Always take these folks up on their offer if it’s not too crazy, such as offering you a closer place to the stage.

And remember, always check concert venue accessibility before showing up, especially when it comes to smaller clubs. When going to a club or a concert, it’s usually going to be general admission, so always make sure to get there early so you can get a good spot, and hopefully, avoid said-crazy situations from above.

What tricks do you have for enjoying concerts as a wheelchair-user?

Photo courtesy of Anik Shrestha

2 replies
  1. Ellie
    Ellie says:

    It’s my first concert today and when I should be excited my anxiety kicks in haha . But thanks for the advice I suppose I just have to go and brave it out haha . I’ve being in a wheelchair for 3 years now .

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