Accessibility of live music events: Alice’s thesis

Alice Cerafogli

Months ago, casually, while I was navigating on the Internet, I bumped into the questionnaire of a girl who was about to graduate and was collecting info about a topic that’s close to my heart: accessibility of live music events for people with any disability. Of course, I filled the questionnaire and invited also Move@bility followers on social media to do so, since I think that full inclusion of people with disability into the social context also passes through leisure. That girl is Alice Cerafogli, 25 years old, who in a few days will discuss her thesis to get the specialized degree in Performing Arts Management and Entertainment at Bocconi University in Milan. From my answers to that questionnaire arose a mail exchange, based on the interested we shared. Now that she has completed her research, here we are to share it with Move@bility readers.

Hi Alice, how did you choose to talk about the accessibility of live music events for disabled people as a subject for your thesis?

Hi! I’ve always wished to work in music industry and concerts organization, so I chose this course of studies. During university, I became interested in accessibility and, particularly, I began studying accessible tourism thanks to a course I attended during my exchange period in Australia, at the University of Technology of Sydney (UTS). I was very impressed by the amount of initiatives promoted for disabled tourists there, so, once I got back to Italy, I wondered what the picture was like in our country and if there was a change to be inspired by the Australian example. Since I’m very keen on live music, I chose to study the topic of concerts accessibility.

How did you structure the analysis for your thesis about accessibility of live music events?

In addition to sharing the online questionnaire, which collected answers from many websites and associations working with disabled people, I interviewed some representatives of these associations and of important companies which organize musical events all over Italy. My goal was to get a picture that was as more complete and stick to the actual situation as possible.

accessibility of live music events

In your opinion, in view of the results of your analysis, what is the biggest obstacle disabled people have to face if they want to attend a concert, in Italy?

Based on the results I got through my research, I think that one of the main issues to face for disabled people willing to attend a concert is to find the info they need to access the tickets and be “prepared” to what’s waiting for them during the night of the show. Events’ promoters often adopt similar, but note identical, procedures, to ensure accessibility of live music events and each venue has different features that can affect the procedures to reserve, pick up the tickets, have your seat assigned and so on.  I think that fixing standard rules, valid all over the national territory, and make official communications clear and complete could help not only disabled people and their companions, but also the promoters themselves to better manage and more effectively all the spectators and the event overall.

In your analysis, you say that, besides promoters, also venues hosting live music events “set the rules”. As a woman with a motoric disability (even though I can walk autonomously) who loves attending both live music and sport events (usually, in Milan and around, then, ultimately, in a privileged situation, compared with other areas in Italy), many times, even though I had followed all the steps indicated by promoters of the event I was interested in, I had unpleasant surprises in loco: seats reassigned to other (not disabled) people (in the reserved area…), seats assigned in areas not reached by elevators or, however, far from the stage or from playground (for sport events), parking permit next the event venue not guaranteed (a quite big issue for who, just like me, can’t walk kilometres)… and the list could go ahead. Sometimes, reaching directly out to the promoter company, in the end, I succeeded solving the issue. But it didn’t happen all times. That had negative effects not just under a physical perspective, but also under a psychological one, often resulting in mined nights for me and for my companion… What would you suggest to do to boost the awareness of venues hosting the events as well?  

The main issue, for many venues, it that they often host different events. For instance, stadiums and arenas designed to host sport events, must “swap their face to host music concerts, reconsidering their spaces. It can easily generate issues, but it isn’t fair that disabled spectators’ needs aren’t always respected. Sure, it could help if the venue staff (both permanent or temporary hired just to manage big events) was made more aware about it. For instance, associations and volunteers could join the staff or some venues and provide it with a basic training about managing disabled attendees. Even small expedients can often make a difference, together with a more aware staff, who pays more attention to anticipating the audience needs, resulting in a right way to deal with specific situations.

In your opinion, would it be possible, soon, to ensure an adequate experience (including, maybe, the chance to live the concert together with a group of friends or with the rest of the audience, instead of reserved areas) to those who have any disability (motoric, sensory, psychic) and want to attend a live music event?

The topic of areas reserved to disabled people particularly impressed me, since, based on the data I collected, it represents one of the main reasons of crash among disabled audience and promoters. On one hand, I think that all the attendees could have the opportunity to choose where attending the concert and together with as many friends as they like. However, on the other hand, I understand that promoters must ensure safety of all the audience in case of emergency and, therefore, they need to ask the disabled people to attend the show from a reserved and controlled area. I think safety must be priority #1, but I’d like there were more reserved seats for disabled people and their companions, maybe not just in one area, but in different ones (at least, in biggest venues, where reserved seats are really too few compared with the demand for tickets).

I can only agree with you! What would be needed, also under a cultural perspective, to reach this outcome?

A huge organizational glitch to the accessibility of live music events is the commercial interest. However, during my searches, I discovered that many disabled people would be ready to pay a fair price for accessible experiences and would have the free ticket granted just for their companion. I think that starting to look at disabled people as a market segment could take to develop interesting initiatives and, generally speaking, to improve accessibility standards of spaces and services. Obviously, we could figure out a lot of initiatives funded by the Government to boost awareness towards accessibility, but I always tend to think from “my” point of view, and, then, that of businesses and service providers.

As a professional communicator, I like your idea of an institutional campaign to boost awareness towards accessibility of live music events: how do you imagine it?

It would be great if some artists would become testimonials of a campaign aiming to boost the awareness of industry operators, but also of the rest of the audience, towards the issues that disabled spectators and their companions must face. Various studies, which I reviewed for my thesis, also show that leisure opportunities, devoting time to their own passions without too many concerns, have a positive impact on wellness, facilitating the inclusion of disabled people into the community.  After all, fun is part of life to!

Thanks a lot, Alice, for your thesis about accessibility of live music events and for this chat. Good luck with all your future projects!

Thank you and cheers to Move@bility friends!

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