In the last two years or so that my medical condition has declined and my need for mobility aids has greatly increased I slowly began going to less and fewer concerts in my incredibly musically diverse city of Denver. There were stairs, no accessible bathrooms, inability to see, and I let that keep me away from the thing that, at least in my mind, made me who I am. And I know I’m not alone in that, whatever your passion may be. Denver, like many cities, is filled with historic venues that, while beautiful, leave much to be desired when it comes to accessibility for those of us with mobility aids, particularly wheelchairs.
While much larger area type venues are modern built and very accessible, smaller more intimate venues often lack the basic accessibility that most of us here need. Whether it’s a lack of access to restroom facilities due to stairs, design (i.e. no handicapped stalls), and lack of retrofitting for historic or older buildings to make them truly accessible. I attempted to visit a local venue I know exceedingly well for a sold-out show with some moderately large bands. While the staff was incredibly accommodating, the collapsable ramp they had was inadequate to safely get in the building and required 3 people to use it safely, plus a ground assists because of how incredibly steep it was. While the staff was happy to accommodate me, going in and out of the building, especially for fresh air or a break from the sound was pretty impossible without it being an ordeal and a full loss of autonomy. Additionally, the only restrooms were up a long flight of stairs, making relieving myself during the duration of the concert impossible. While this focuses on one individual venue in Denver, it is shockingly common throughout the USA. Music isn’t made to be only accessible to all at large modern venues, it should be possible at smaller venues as well. Accessible entrances, restroom facilities, and, where possible, viewing areas are amazingly important for small shows too. While I like butts as much as the next person, when I go to a show, I’d much rather be able to see the band than a wall of booties in front of me with nowhere to go to get around them, or view around the side!
Music can free the soul, drive you to dance, to laugh, to cry, to sit in rapt joy. And that’s something that should be available and accessible for all of us. To be able to freely enter and leave venues. To see the show. To be able to relieve oneself. To not feel singled out with accessibility concerns. And now is the time to start making these needs known. While arena concerts can be truly amazing, being able to enjoy the small to medium-sized intimate concerts at truly lovely venues that are disappearing from our landscape, we need to shine a light on the fact that we need safe and reasonable accessibility accommodations so that truly enjoying the music experience throughout the country can occur. So many times our mobility and/or chronic illnesses and disabilities can set us apart from others; things that bring us together are even more important in fostering community, inclusion, and normalization of those that are differently-abled. So let’s get out to our local venues, support them, and help them know what we need to truly immerse ourselves in the concert and music experience. See you at the show!
Image credit: Author