[Photo by: Attitude Is Everything]
Imagine not being able to go and see your favorite band because there wasn’t a toilet at the venue you could use. Imagine not feeling confident enough to attend a festival because you were worried about not being able to get around the site easily, or that you wouldn’t be able to see what was happening on the stage. Imagine not going to your favorite club night for fear of being harassed.
These are all real issues facing music fans who identify as disabled; and over the last 17 years, U.K. charity Attitude Is Everything have been working to make the music scene a more welcoming place for people with physical and mental impairments. Having worked with some of the world’s biggest festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds, the charity is now looking to expand its reach into tours and venues of all shapes and sizes with the launch of their DIY Access Guide: a handy guidebook for bands, promoters and venues that details how they can make their shows more accessible.
“Early on, we realized there were a lot of people in the industry who wanted to do the right thing regarding being inclusive of disabled music fans, but they didn’t have the know-how or confidence to tackle the issue,” says Attitude Is Everything’s Research and Campaigns Manager Jacob Adams. “Addressing those concerns has been a goal of ours over the last 17 years. We want to help people who are worried about getting it wrong or nervous about saying the wrong thing.”
And helping those in the industry with concerns about how to make their gigs more accessible is where AIE’s DIY Access Guide comes in. Including tips about how to make special access arrangements, create safe spaces and implement DIY captioning to benefit those with hearing impairments, the guide is a fantastic, free, easy-to-understand zine that could help transform the ways in which disabled people–and music fans in general–experience live shows.
“The overarching aim of the guide is to reach out to bands and promoters and say, ‘You can join our campaign to make live music accessible. There are things you can do. You have some power and influence,’” Adams says. “It can be as simple as saying to a venue, ‘We’ve noticed you don’t have any information on your website for deaf and disabled people.’ We want to let venues know that we exist and we can support them, and also inform them of simple things they can do themselves.”
Adams also is keen to stress that, while looking to improve accessibility in venues, this campaign isn’t about criticizing those spaces with access issues—the DIY Access Guide is designed to work alongside the industry, not against it.
“Our position as a charity working with the music industry has always been that we are in no way advocating for the boycotting or closing of inaccessible venues,” he says. “There’s a realism and reality to what we do, and we know there are some amazing venues that are in old buildings or buildings that are hard to work around. But there are things those venues—and the promoters and bands that work with them–can do. It can be as simple as letting disabled gig-goers know where the nearest disabled toilet is! Basic things like that allow disabled people to make informed choices.”
On top of advice on some of the basics of gig accessibility, the DIY Access Guide also outlines some of the more detailed steps venues can take to ensure disabled fans can access shows.
“We’ve included some ‘gig hacks,’ which go into more detail on how to set up certain aspects of an accessible gig,” Adams says. “We cover things like seating areas, personal assistant tickets [extra tickets for people who need assistance to get into and around a venue] and DIY captioning [presenting lyrics on a screen for the benefit of those with hearing impairments].”
The ultimate objective behind the DIY Access Guide is, Adams outlines, for bands and promoters worldwide to use the information Attitude Is Everything is providing to make a positive change wherever they can. He’s also keen to stress that, wherever people are looking to put on accessible shows, AIE are ready and willing to offer as much help, support and publicity as possible.
“Everybody benefits from implementing the tips in this guide,” Adams says. “You’ve got promoters who want to sell tickets and build audiences; bands who want to connect with as many fans as possible; and, as well as that, we’ve included some tips on how to include disabled artists in gigs. Making a gig accessible for fans goes hand-in-hand with making it accessible for artists, too, so we’ve included tips in the guide on how to make the stage accessible, and how to create an environment that’s conducive to disabled artists being able to perform.”
The next step for the guide, Adams suggests, is getting bands to take it out on tour and spread the word about accessibility. And if any artists are interested in doing so, Attitude Is Everything wants to hear from them and work together.
“We’ve had some interaction with [record label] Xtra Mile who’ve shared the guide, and we’ve even heard that a reading group in a zine café in Tokyo have added it to their collection!” Adams says. “We’ve had a great response from the DIY scene, and this might sound a bit cliché, but we see the DIY Access Guide as a gift to the music world. We want to help bands and promoters and hopefully form some new relationships with them. A big message we’ve got for people is that we want to hear from them when they’ve read or used the guide. We really want to share stories of how the guide has been used. If a band is putting on an inclusive gig or tour, we want to hear about it and we want to promote it—we want to link up with these bands and promoters, and recognize people who are doing these things.”
As well as giving us an outline of what the DIY Access Guide entails, Adams also provided AP with 11 tips on how to make your gig accessible, which you can read on the next page.