Invisible Disabilities and Gigs

an-argument-for-live-music1

So, I went to a gig last week. I’ve been going to gigs regularly for years, but over the past year my hypermobility and dyspraxia are manifesting themselves in a way that is making it really hard and painful for me to stand for long periods now. I always buy a seated ticket when available, but I’m finding it hard to accept not being able to go to gigs which aren’t in seated venues. Why should I miss out?

There are some gigs that I understand, aren’t suitable for me anymore, but the one I was at last week was far from it. The standing section had little cut out sections at the sides for disabled people, with seats and a little area of flat ground standing area (the venue had a sloped floor, which was really hard to stand on). I had spoken about not being able to stand very well (I also have a broken toe at the moment!) with the venue beforehand, but they said seating was not available. When I’d booked the gig, I hadn’t broken my toe, so I thought I’d just about manage standing. (I would probably have been wrong anyway!)

When I noticed the little area, I waited until the main band came on stage, to see if anyone else needed to use that area, and only two other people had gone in. So, I stood on the flat bit of floor at the very back of the area, in case others needed to use the chairs, or wheelchair users needed floor space. I felt happy, because I could cope better with standing on the flat floor.

About 3 songs into the main band, a lady in a wheelchair came into the area, so of course I moved further back to make sure she had enough room, then the security guard came in and told me to get out and that I wasn’t allowed to be there, it wasn’t for me. Then a large group of people dancing pushed past me to get in the space. I can’t comment about whether they were disabled, because this is the point of this blog. I don’t blame the security man, but this is an issue which is very prevalent in society. I felt really embarrassed and like I had to qualify my disabilities to him. Sometimes I feel ashamed, as if they think I’m lying, because I look fine.

We are so quick to judge people’s health or ability without knowing anything about them. I look like a ‘fit healthy young woman’, but I’m not. Some days, I can’t walk very well at all, and have to tape up my joints which are in shooting pain. Other days, I’m at the gym on the cross trainer (not being the most graceful though, I must add!). It’s confusing for me, so I know it must be confusing for others.

A lot of health and disabilities fluctuate massively, so why can’t we get this is our heads? And it’s not just able bodied people who do this, people with health conditions do it to.

My friend has hEDS, Fibromyalgia and POTS and uses a wheelchair or a walking stick. She was sitting behind a counter at work and a man who was a wheelchair user buying a ticket from her said ‘you don’t know what it’s like to be disabled!’ I’m sure, he must’ve been having a particularly bad day and was feeling frustrated…but he shouldn’t have made that assumption.

I think the main thing to take a away from both mine and my friend’s experience is, to never make assumptions about anyone’s situation. I’m still training myself to do this, in other areas of life.

As for gigs, I really hope there are more areas like this in gig venues, because I thought it was a great idea, but there needs to be more communication between the venue and people who need to use those areas. It would’ve been better, if I could’ve privately explained my situation to someone and they gave me a wrist band for the area, avoiding embracing questioning.  I’m sure people with visible disabilities also get these sort of issues arise at gigs also. I sometimes look at venues and think ‘this is definitely not accessible’ and there’s really no need. I’m not expecting to be right up the front and stage diving, but I think everyone has a right to watch a show they want to see.

What happens when you assume…

 

 

 

 

 

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