Accommodations are important and they work.
I should not be making a big deal about it. The ADA is 25 years old. Sadly, getting the accommodations we, disable people need, is often the opposite of simple.
If you have been reading my posts, you know that I am very visibly disabled.
I do require a lot of supports, and once I have them, I can do anything I set up as goals.
I have goals, or simply things I want to do, that most people would consider absurd. This is because they try to define what I am supposed to like and wish based on how I look, or how I move. Based on biased assumptions.
I defy that idea and I have a story for you. Again, it should not be a big deal, but since it still is, I will celebrate.
Recently, I discover some pretty awesome music and for many reasons, the band – Headstones – became my favorite. I love their music and the colors I see when listening to it.
The band announced three shows and I decided that I was going to one. This would be a new experience: listening to great live rock n roll. The thing is, the band plays loud music, there is a lot of light/blinking light, the fans are many, some pretty rowdy, and never quiet – and if you are there, and movement is not an issue, you cannot stay quiet. Blame it on the showmanship of the vocalist. It is contagious.
All this would not be a problem but:
Loud music plus all the lights can be a sensory nightmare, and there is always the risk of seizures, even if lights usually don’t trigger mine.
Too many people standing, yelling and jumping, all very close to one another makes me shiver with anxiety.
Usually there is no place to sit.
This was going to be my first rock concert and I would need my wheelchair and a safe area, away from the loud, possibly rowdy crowd.
I didn’t know what to expect as far as lights and loudness go, so I was a little concerned.
I needed accommodations.
I wanted the same experience the majority of fans have in shows and I needed to make sure I was going to be able to have that experience as a disabled person.
This is what happened next:
I got the most amazing, awesome, fantastic, fabulous experience.
I got accommodations.
The theatre – Rapids Theatre in Niagara Falls – had all set up for me and for others who also needed similar accommodations: ramp, chairs, safe area with security.
Plus, I could arrive just before the Rock Stars – and that’s what they are, in so many ways – came out to amaze us. I skipped the band that was opening to make sure I had all my spoons for my favorite band.
I had headphones and glasses that helped with sensory overload.
I did not have seizures – YAY!
Accommodations allowed me to share an incredible show with everyone else.
Disabled and proud. Disabled and fully participating.
But there is more, and it gets better:
I still wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to really enjoy the music I love and have my awesome synesthetic experience.
So I contacted the band management team before making plans.
I explained everything and did not have to wait until the offer came: I could go to soundcheck. Then, if anything happened and I had to leave the show, at least I would have listened to some music, played live.
The Headstones, being so awesome, went even further with the accommodations that would make my day. I thought I was going to walk in, listen to a few tunes, and walk out.
I was wrong. They played 5 or 6 songs, they tested/played the instruments, I met the band members and they could not have been nicer. They also went out of their way to make sure the theatre staff knew about all that I needed (they did).
I am very awkward when meeting new people and typing is hard. I feel overwhelmed with the new and with expectations. I was able to type a few words, but there wasn’t enough time for my brain to process everything that was happening, and for me to relax, enough to be able to have a conversation.
They got that, no explanations needed.
They spent some time around me, just chatting.
I have things in common with Hugh, as he observed.
We took pictures and Tim was aware of the dangers of flash photography for epileptic people.
They – maybe instinctively – knew that I am not a hugger.
Accommodations. Because they understood, my anxiety did not escalate.
I had the best time, my first rock concert, everything was perfect.
I did not miss anything. I actually left with a gift, handed to me during the show – a harmonica.
I shared an amazing show with lots of people who were not visibly disabled, with people who didn’t need all the accommodations I did.
Best of all, like a butterfly effect of willingness to allow full participation, I met incredibly kind and sweet people.
That, to me, was the best part.
I unexpectedly met authentic, good, kind, funny, sweet, warm people.
As I said, Rock Stars in many different ways.
Thank you Rapids Theatre Niagara Falls
Thank you Courtney and Steve
Thank you Hugh, Tim, Dale and Trent
You all made my day.