You pride yourselves on how open and inclusive your scene is…but is it really?
You step onto a stage to applause; you look around at all the different people in the crowd. All genders and non-genders, all ages, all races, all backgrounds. You feel proud. You brought all of these people together here tonight. You are the reason these lives are intersecting tonight—people are meeting for the first time. Potential friendships, relationships. United by your music.
Which is cool. But there are no wheelchairs. No hearing aids. No service animals…
After spending years working in the direct care field I feel I can say with truth that the disabled often miss out on a lot in life, but a thrilling musical experience should not be one of these things. Here are some ways to make your shows and your music more accessible to your most alternative fans that apply to any level of fame. (Take note, rock stars…)
THE HEARING IMPAIRED: The hearing impaired/deaf still appreciate music, just differently than us. I once met a completely deaf person who responded to the vibrations of the instruments and vocals that came up from the floor. I watched him get into a set, the vibe literally coming up through his entire body. Have a friend learn your lyrics in ASL and accompany you to gigs as an interpreter. I promise it’s not as hard as it may seem, and it will really set you apart as artists/people who, like, really give a shit.
THE ANXIOUS, OR THE PTSD SUFFERERS: Acoustic sets, ya’ll. Less noise, less commotion. Book a quiet café, set up a safe and intimate space, and announce it as a benefit for charities that support awareness for mental illness and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED: A quick Google search will bring up the many agencies that house/care for/provide assistance programs for young people and adults with developmental disabilities. Many of these agencies have people hired that specifically coordinate and schedule events for their clients; reach out. Say you’re interested in playing shows that clients and their aides can attend. You may even gain some lifelong friends and fans out of it.
THE MOBILITY CHALLENGED: Before you even agree to play at a venue, you need to make sure it is a wheelchair accessible place. I don’t know why more people don’t think about this, but it’s not fair to those who really want to see their favorite band but can’t, due to literally not being able to enter the building for a reason other than being underage. Inclusivity starts here, it starts with you. Take it a step farther even, and petition some of your favorite venues to build ramps and expand their bathrooms.
A thing you should think about more often while jamming in the basement or recording your next record or touring the world is, that you are always potentially seconds away from a life-altering event that could not only prevent you from doing what you love—permanently—but also keep you from being able to watch others do the same. Get involved.