Nonprofit Half Access aims to make live music accessible for all

Half Access, a nonprofit organization with a mission to make live music accessible to all concert goers, is re-launching September 1, 2018. Half Access is making concerts more accessible to people with disabilities by publishing a public directory that compiles accessibility information on music venues all over the country.

half access

Founder Cassie Wilson, 20, conceived the idea for Half Access in April 2017 after becoming fed up with risking her safety to enjoy concerts.

I got tired of settling for being unsafe in the front row of shows in order to be able to see the artist performing. It wasn’t safe for me or anyone around me. It took me a couple years of going to shows to realize that I could start asking venues for an accessible area to safely and clearly enjoy gigs, but when I started asking them, I received a bit of push-back and was often left feeling powerless,” said Wilson. “I decided to start Half Access as an organized way to advocate for better accessibility in live music.” 

After receiving the Sub City grant from Hopeless Records and applying for 501(c)(3) status, Wilson used the money she received from the grant to rebrand and re-launch her website. Beginning September 1, the Half Access website will feature its directory, which will also allow users to input their own data and information, and a current blog that will spread awareness and information by publishing interviews with members of the disabled community.

Cassie Wilson, far left, receiving the Sub City grant at the Annual Alternative Press Music Awards

The directory will be a crucial tool for concert goers with disabilities because it will help prepare them for a concert at a new or unfamiliar venue by providing information they need to request accommodations prior to attending the show.

I can’t just go to any random show or venue I want. I have to plan ahead and research new venues before I go to them…so much more of my attention is on my own safety than the average person,” said Chicago music fan TJ Hayes, 21. “Being able to actually see the stage while also being safe is another issue my disability causes me to face; if I am at the barricade I can see real well but have the potential to get hurt, but if I stay in the back I am safe but then see nothing but peoples’ backs.”

While many large event and sporting arenas have ADA accommodations, many smaller music venues remain ill-equipped to accommodate fans with disabilities. Those that do offer accommodations are often not capable of accommodating everyone.

“We’ve been having some great conversations within the disabled community to learn about different things that affect different people at shows,” said Wilson. 

Wilson explained that some concert goers may require elevators, ramps and accessible viewing areas to enjoy a show, while other fans may need different accommodations such as warnings about lighting, sign language interpreters or the ability to skip long lines. Hayes added that some venues partially succeed at making their spaces accessible by providing grab bars in bathroom stalls, but that the stall itself and the hallways leading to the bathrooms are often too narrow to fit through while using a wheelchair.

Half Access is striving not only to aid music lovers with disabilities, but also to help venues asses their spaces and make them more accessible to all fans. Music venues, such as Wicker Park’s Subterranean with an upstairs stage that can only be accessed by a narrow flight of stairs, can use the database to understand how they can improve their event space.

I have cerebral and deafness. This makes stairs and asking for information in dark areas where I can’t lip read difficult,” said Mel Friday, 24, a Chicago concert goer and artist. “I faint if I stand up to long, so I need a place to sit.”

You can get notified with Half Access officially launches here. The website will also have a current blog that will feature interviews with disabled music fans and the disabled community.


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