Off with Their Heads

Gigs, festivals, disabilities, they don’t mix well. At least not in the Netherlands, where the standard accessibility policy applies to people in a wheelchair and only people in a wheelchair. Now I am all for access for them, make no mistake about that. However, the fact of the matter is that wheelchair users make up about 7% of the disabled people in this country. The 93% rest of us are barely an afterthought. There’s just no policy whatsoever for us. They’ve never given it a second thought. Not a third either.

As a result I am always forced to spend precious time and energy on contacting the people in charge of whatever event I intend to visit to extract the accessibility information I need as a visually disabled person. I don’t even begin to ask them about accessibility for autistic people (which I also am), because by now I am all too aware of the complete state of panic that breaks out when they receive my email. The mere thought of something so alien as a visually disabled person entering their premises is – on average – far too much for their ableist brains to handle. Scuse my French.

Over the course of the last few years venues have told me I would just have to make a run for it when doors opened, so as to stay safely ahead of the crowd (that’s really going to work for a cane user, duh). I have been shouted at by venue staff that I needed to look out better (such a tactful comment to a person that’s going blind). I have been told to bring a person that would take responsibility of me (cause every disabled person needs one, apparently) and that it was perhaps better if I just didn’t come at all, disability and all (charmed, I’m sure).
I have also been at a venue where assistance was promised but where I ended up being trampled by the crowd, Security not intervening at all, no matter how hard I cried for help. I was left injured, my cane damaged and to this day I am severely traumatised by the experience. Zero apologies or compensation offered by the venue.

Starting tomorrow I am setting off for three Kaiser Chiefs gigs in a row. As usual I emailed all the venues. One of them sorted things out very quickly, no problem at all. This was the only non Dutch venue of the three. The non Dutch are so much better at this. Apparently we are actually considered to be people outside these borders!

The (Dutch) venue I am going to on Monday put quite a bit of pressure on me because as far as they were concerned I’d best sit somewhere in a corner, safely kept away from other people. For the record, I only bite back, I don’t initiate any biting, people don’t need to be kept safe from me. Though the venue deserved to have its head bitten off for their reply I kept my cool and managed to sort it out in the end. I think. I will have to see (I get to do that pun) on Monday.

Sunday night’s venue, however… Wow. And I don’t mean good wow. Yet again I was confronted with an ‘able bodied persons one way, disabled persons the other way’ mentality. Like Monday’s venue they wanted me to sit somewhere in a corner, made continuous ableist comments and also decided for me that I could best see from somewhere on the balcony. Because they know better than I do of course. Emails went going back and forth. At one point I received an email that I felt was so hurtful that it left me both furious and close to tears. It very nearly made me decide not to go at all. If it wasn’t for my friends that are also going I would no longer be going, the venue was that horrible.

As things stand now I am to report to the Artists’ Entrance shortly before doors open tomorrow evening. A nameless venue person said in an email they will then escort me in. I am to be separated from my friends at that time, so they cannot keep me safe (as my friends do admirably). It very much remains to be seen where the venue people will then escort me. I rather expect them to dump me in a corner somewhere on the balcony where they want me, rather than in front of the stage where I want to be. Where I need to be, to be able to see whatever I can still see.

Since the venue chose to ignore my request to provide me with a map of the building ahead of time, I have not had a chance to memorise the layout as I normally do. So absolutely no way for me to know how I would get from a balcony back downstairs, let alone how to get to front, to the place I will have queued for for hours by the time doors open tomorrow. At this point I am not even sure if I will go to that side entrance they want me at, as I am not at all convinced by them, their actions speaking so far volumes.

My anxiety is going through the roof because of this, so thanks for that, venue. You certainly ain’t Paradise.