Thoughts: All concert seats should be created equal, even for disabled fans

by | Feb 16, 2020 | Music, Opinion, Thoughts

 

For the first 37 years of my life, I never thought about how disabled people attended concerts. That all changed when my Mom had to have her leg (just below her knee) amputated in 2017.

My Mom took me to my first concert when I was in 4th grade to see New Kids on the Block. Then it was Alan Jackson, Garth Brookes, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and eventually the Backstreet Boys. She loves the boys, maybe not as much as me, but she does. I’ve taken her to concerts since, such as NKOTBSB, Backstreet Boys, and even

The reason I’m talking about that is because of how difficult it is to find good tickets for handicapped seats at shows. Last year there was a big thing about the DNA Circle where some venues would not allow people in wheelchairs to be in the pit. Sure, it can be dangerous, but it should be up to the person if they are willing to take that chance.

My problem this is year is finding a close venue where my Mom can sit up close while I’m in pit. For our local show in Atlanta in Alpharetta, I will be in the pit with my best friend, while handicapped seats are very far away. My Mom is not totally independent. She can be, like when I go off for trips, but she can not live alone and I don’t feel safe with leaving her out and about a venue when she may have to go to the restroom and the transfer may not be possible.

Basically, concert venues need to think about handicapped fans or fans who may need disabled seating at concerts.

“There was a time in my life growing up when going to shows was a right of passage,” Misty, a fellow Atlanta Backstreet Boys fan said. “I knew that regardless of where I sat I’d be able to enjoy the show. They had accessibility seating and you could see the show very clearly and you felt like you were “Right there” with the band. Now, since Ticketmaster, it’s been very chaotic.”

Misty, who uses a wheelchair, is very independent and lives on her own, doesn’t even think of herself as disabled

She can sit in a regular seat, but cannot stand for long.

“When it comes to concerts if I sit in a regular seat, I can’t stand long, then others are standing up, I can’t see, I end up ducking and dodging trying to get pictures when I can and trying to enjoy the show like everyone.”

For a huge Backstreet Boys fan, and a music fan in general, like Misty, it pretty much sucks.

“It’s disappointing because a lot of the wheelchair seats are far in the back, when really they need to design and think of something different so people like me can enjoy the show up close like everyone else. They, Ticketmaster, [Live Nation], and venues do just enough to not be sued or seen as being isolated to the handicap community.”

And that’s the problem I’m going through with trying to take my Mom to a concert. I’m a ticket snob. It started after I was a concert photographer for a few years at a venue (one where Backstreet Boys came for their “This Is Us” tour). Since then, I can’t NOT be close to the stage. It’s a sickness really and it sucks when I can’t find a close seat for my mother, so I feel like she’s left out of something she loves, too.

Some venues do have close seats for handicapped, such as the outdoor venue the boys are playing in Charlotte and Tampa, but are long drives for her. All are LiveNation venues, like the one in Alpharetta, so why can’t Alpharetta have close seats like that?

“Every city and state and their regulations are different, what they can allow or not allow so it’s a grey area of what Ticketmaster [and LiveNation] can actually do in those regards,” Misty said. “BUT, I think the venues or any ticket seller or third party needs to come together and collectively come up with a solution so that it’s inclusive for all.”

Before talking to Misty, I searched around online and found a post from a music fan who was going through the same issues.

“Disabled people don’t belong in music venues, apparently,” the article posted by someone who goes through the same issues, pretty much says it all.  

The one part of the article that got me is something I’ve already experienced with my Mom, for the first time recently while in a busy mall Christmas shopping.

“Disabled people can’t even rely on accessible bathrooms at a concert; I’ve watched long lines of nondisabled humans snake around the corner and into accessible bathrooms at nearly every venue I’ve been in, and I’ve had to wait as nondisabled humans flit inside the few bathrooms where I actually fit while using my wheelchair. I’ve used “accessible” bathrooms with broken locks and soap dispensers and sinks too high for me to reach. Because, yes, the world makes it humiliating for us to do something as simple as pee.”

I will be honest, I never thought about these things before my Mom became disabled so badly that she is in a wheelchair and can’t walk. But now I kind of have to look through her eyes. Finding apartments or places to live are difficult. Going to certain buildings can be hard because older buildings built before 1990 do not legally have to be accessible. It makes me feel bad because I never thought about these things before.

I think a lot of people don’t think about this things.

“I don’t think of myself as disabled, but when I go to events I have to think like a disabled person because of the regulations that are put in place,” Misty added.

I think everybody should have a chance to sit close to the stage, just like there are going to be some people who have to sit in the back. People who need disabled seats should have the same shot to sit close to the stage. Some venues offer that, but there are many who do not.

That needs to be fixed.

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