A Discussion About Disability And Accessible Music Venues On ‘Kojo Nnamdi Show’

By Ally Schweitzer

Sean Gray (right) talked accessibility on Thursday's edition of WAMU's 'Kojo Nnamdi Show.'
Sean Gray (right) talked accessibility on Thursday's edition of WAMU's 'Kojo Nnamdi Show.' Ally Schweitzer/WAMU

Today’s Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU dedicated nearly an hour to an eye-opening discussion about disability and accessibility in D.C.’s music scene. The guest was record label owner (and Bandwidth contributor) Sean Gray, who launched the website Is This Venue Accessible last year in an effort to inform showgoers about which D.C. venues are accessible to music fans with a range of disabilities.

Now, Gray’s website has expanded to include venues in nearly 20 cities around the world, and he’s looking for more submissions to flesh out his database.

On Kojo today, Gray spoke candidly about his own disability — Gray has cerebral palsy and uses a walker — and how he came to understand how it affected his life.

“When I was younger… I didn’t think of my disability. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s… that I really started to realize that disability is an oppression and accessibility issues do exist,” Gray said. “I used to kind of feel like my disability was just something that I had to — not necessarily get over, but just deal with. And I never really questioned the accessibility of a venue or why can’t I go to this show.”

Gray said when he started checking out punk shows in the D.C. area, part of the scene’s appeal was its inclusiveness. But accessibility didn’t get equal billing alongside other social-justice issues.

“There’s a lot of bands in D.C. right now that talk about inclusion, and this isn’t me dissing them in any way, but I never hear any of them speak about accessibility,” Gray said. “I’ve never once heard a band on stage say, ‘By the way, this venue had two dozen stairs, and this isn’t right.’ That’s never happened.”

Stream the entire segment — called “The Local Music Scene and Disability Rights” — on kojoshow.org. It’s well worth an attentive listen.

Also read: Is D.C.’s Music Scene Shutting Out Disabled Music Fans?