You don’t stop loving live music just because you become disabled.
This is something I learned from experience, and it was not always a happy experience. In 2021, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I had no idea at the time how much it would impact my life as a music fan. Since then, I have lost significant vision (including some color) in my right eye. This has heightened the hearing on my right side. Most prominently, I have also lost some of my balance causing me to require a cane when I know I will be on my feet. This is made worse due to sudden surprise bouts of severe vertigo or the occasional “foot drop” that catches my foot and sends me tumbling. I also struggle to stay on my feet when conditions are hot and need to have someone with me all the time, just in case. This has impacted my ability to enjoy a show the way I always did. I no longer feel safe going alone and difficult conditions are now often impossible ones. Things like stairs and uneven ground, large crowds or too little space can be a dangerous situation for me. This has all opened my eyes to things I wish I had known to be conscious of before – that not all shows and venues are friendly to the disabled community.
I have had other attendees knock me over, use my cane for their balance walking up stairs, or push me into walls or barricades – mostly because there was simply nowhere else to be as space for patrons who needed it was not made available. I have been in situations that I had to climb stairs to get to rest rooms or vendors because elevators were not made available. I have had venues tell me I could not bring someone with me, despite wanting to pay for that person to be there with me. I have also had staff go above and beyond to make sure I was able to get to my ticketed seat, restrooms, and vendors safely and without issue despite obstacles and made sure that I was able to enjoy the show despite my limitations with vision.
I have experienced the very best and the very worst of the NYC area in terms of venues and whether or not they care for their disabled patrons. This goes beyond ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accomodations. Those are quite simply THE LAW and it would shock most people to know how few of those are even taken into account. Before I attend anything now, I have to Google the venue, the event, the area, and everything in between to see what their accessibility options are just to determine whether or not I can even go. When certain bands hold a “lottery” for their tickets, this becomes even more of a challenge. What’s worse – perfectly able bodied fans who claim to be otherwise to get the seats that ARE allotted for people like myself.
As an independent music journalist, it’s my job to bring these things out in the open. Moving forward, A Perfect Mess will be making sure to cover the accessibility and inclusion of all shows and venues where a review takes place. If I am in attendance, you will know what the options and accommodations are. It’s much needed information for the disabled community and the music community as well.
No one should have to stay home because they cannot feel safe at a live show due to disability. I intend to make sure that if there is a way, we will all be there listening to the music, feeling the vibe, and enjoying the show.