“Something struck me,” my friend said recently when I brought up an inaccessible music venue. “We have the privilege of not worrying about accessibility.” I never thought about it that way before, but being an abled-bodied person, she was right. I talk about ableism so much, but I’ve never considered how my friends blank on accessibility since they don’t have to worry about it. For the most part, I always find a way around inaccessibility though. When it comes to navigating shows and concert venues I’d like to think I have it down to a science.
Typically, I like to call up venues I haven’t been to before and ask about accessibility. I live in a city and some buildings are a little outdated with the old, charming, yet ill-fitted architecture for my disability needs. Be aware of how much space your adaptive device takes up and plan according, which may or may not entail leaving your bag at home. Personally, if I’m going by myself I make sure to have my primary bag on my person. The bag that is usually on my chair either stays at home or I make sure I do not have any items of substantial value inside. Just in case. I always like to bring my manual wheelchair just in case there’s a stair or two or a set of narrow corners. Outdoor settings are a little bit trickier, but once again, calling ahead to inquire about the layout can certainly help. You can even ask to take a look around before the event if you feel it would be beneficial.
Familiarize Yourself With Your Surroundings
Look for landmarks and don’t be hesitant to ask for help if it’s needed. Make note of sidewalks and the weight of your devices. For example, if you know that you’re going to want to use your walker and you’re bringing a wheelchair just in case you get a bit tired, do you know how you’re going to carry said walker back?
When it comes to transportation, I speak to staff if necessary and let them know of my ride times. This way, if I need to weave through crowds on a time crunch, I have a helping hand ready. I always make sure that I have a back-up plan in terms of getting home. This usually means I either have a friend on stand-by or cash for an accessible taxi service. Be sure to call them in advance, as some taxi services have curfews. Keep in mind that you may wait up to two hours for an accessible taxi, if not more.
Venue Staff is Your Friend
In all honesty, it all comes down to asking for what you need be it though a phone call or speaking to staff directly. Make friends with them so you feel comfortable asking for help. I know, personally at least from where I stand, a lot times accessibility is viewed only as “being without stairs”. This does not consider narrow entry ways and exits, overcrowding, and accessibility of restrooms. Nothing like enjoying a couple drinks at a show only to discover that you and your stumbling self now must navigate either waiting to pee or squeeze into a non-accessible stall. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…
When in doubt about anything, talk to staff. Ask for help. Have your phone on you and be mindful of the time if you’re using a transportation service, and enjoy yourself.