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When Sean Gray launched Is This Venue Accessible? it was a pretty simple and straightforward idea: a Tumblr that shows which venues—clubs, bars, and DIY houses and spaces—in the D.C. area are accessible to people with disabilities. Gray was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler and has used a walker to get around for most of his life. He’s been going to see bands live for nearly two decades, but many times he shows up and can’t actually attend the show. “These bands would roll into town, and I couldn’t see them because I just couldn’t physically go,” he told Arts Desk in 2014.
Many punk, hardcore, metal, experimental, and other popular shows are increasingly taking place at DIY venues, where accessibility isn’t often considered. Gray launched Is This Venue Accessible? in 2014 as a database to keep track of venues’ accessibility concerns. Since then, the website has amassed accessibility information for dozens of venues across 26 cities all over the world. But now, Gray has bigger ambitions: Last week, the site launched a filter that sorts venues by maximum capacity—to help people with disabilities (or anyone, really) gauge which venues may be most comfortable for them—and Gray, along with developer Jake Reid, announced plans to turn the website into an app.
“The app wouldn’t just be a reproduction of the site,” Grays tells Arts Desk in an email, “but would be built on community and integration. It will be a whole new experience and something not really seen with accessibility information apps.”
Gray plans to launch a Kickstarter soon to help fund the development of the app, which he hopes to debut in the late summer or fall. Though the app won’t be a social media platform, Gray says it will allow users to share thoughts on venues and show-going experiences. Launching Is This Venue Accessible? has certainly raised awareness about accessibility issues—something that Gray says wasn’t always considered, especially at DIY venues. “The app I hope will make it easier for people to not only use the info, but also contribute—and get venues involved,” Gray says.
Photo by Megan Lloyd