Neurodivergent and disabled people are speaking out and demanding space in live music venues and two music festivals have answered the call.
The festivals based in Victoria announced they would be easing the use of strobe lights at future events to make them more inclusive for people who suffer from epilepsy.
Thousands will flock to Golden Plains Festival this Labor Day long weekend for three days of live music on private farmland between Geelong and Ballarat.
The annual festival is host to a stacked line-up of homegrown and global stars, including Bikini Kill, Angel Olson, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Carly Rae Jepsen.
“We are in the process of making The Sup (stage) more accessible, which includes making significant changes to stage lighting,” the festival organizers said in a statement this week.
All acts that take to the natural amphitheater stage, known as The Sup, have committed to playing without strobe lights.
The festival has also made efforts to redesign lighting controls to limit brightness, flash rate, fade time and duration as well as retrain lighting operators.
The operators – who are also behind the Meredith Music Festival hosted at the same site every December – have committed to seeing the changes through at both festivals.
“For many, exposure to these effects can be uncomfortable or debilitating. For some, they can pose serious health and safety risks,” organizers said.
“After consultation and consideration, we have taken steps to greatly reduce the potentially harmful use of these effects in The Sup.”
The major change comes after Melbourne artist Our Carlson, who suffers from epilepsy, called out the Meredith music festival for using strobe lights last December.
“If any of you have got strobe lights in your sets you’re ‘F*****’ ableist … If you see someone using strobes later, normalize booing and just boo ’em,” Carlson told The Guardian.
“Then we can all have fun together safely.”
Heartbreak High star Chloéo Hayden and radio personality Em Rusciano both made waves this week when they spoke about their experiences at the Australian leg of Harry Styles’ Love on Tour.
Hayden was turned away from Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium sensory room after staff told her she didn’t appear to “look autistic enough”.
The week before, Rusciano told her Instagram followers how thrilled she was about using that very room if she became overwhelmed and praised the stadium for making strides towards inclusivity.
Other ticketholders reached out to the two stars after the concert, sharing similar experiences of “ableism” or discrimination towards people with disability.
Research psychologist and autistic person Dr Jac den Houting said it comes down to the fact that disabled people have every right to enjoy live music and events that non-disabled people enjoy.
“Maybe it sounds a bit strange for an autistic person but I actually like the sensory overload of being in the front row of a live gig when one of my favorite bands is playing,” they said.
Research shows that more than 90 per cent of autistic people have sensory processing differences which could mean they are more or less sensitive to things like sound or light.
“Something that might be a tolerable level of sound or light for a neurotypical person might for an autistic person feel like standing next to a jumbo jet or having a torch shone directly in your eyes,” Dr den Houting said.
They said it can often come down to a sense of control over the the sensory input they are receiving which proves the simple but powerful effect of creating spaces like sensory rooms.
Chloé Hayden set up an interview with Marvel Stadium chief executive Michael Green and updated her followers with news he accepted a number of commitments, including the construction of a second sensory room and retraining venue staff.
“I will never stop fighting this fight, and I will never not be thankful for having an army to fight it alongside me,” Hayden said.
“Just the presence of those features creates a sense of safety, that if something unexpected happens, and I do need it, it‘s there,” Dr den Houting said.
“It says something about the attitudes of the organizers and it also sends a message to the crowd to expect to see disabled people here, that we are part of the community.”
Hayden and Dr den Houting are speaking on the Actually Autistic panel at the Sydney Opera House’s All About Women event this weekend alongside former Australian of the Year Grace Tame.
NCA NewsWire reached out to other major Australian music festivals to provide detail on how they were making their venues more accessible but none were provided.
Source: thewest.com.au, Madeleine Achenza