This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands.
Going out and partying in peace is one of those invisible privileges that the able-bodied are unaware of. You can dance to the rhythm of the music, buy yourself a drink, walk up and down the stairs with ease, and stand all night without (much) fatigue. People with disabilities face all sorts of challenges in this environment, but they want to have fun on the dance floor.
In early October, Amsterdam-based nightlife collectives SKIN and BODY hosted a queer party with special attention to people with disabilities. They hired a sign language interpreter and included an installation that allows deaf people to experience music through vibrations. The venue was also wheelchair accessible and provided well-lit spots for the visually impaired.
The goal was to create a space where queer bodies of all kinds are welcome and enjoy a night of electronic music on the same level. I went to an event and asked a partygoer with a disability about their previous club experiences. And what they want the nightlife industry to offer. Interviewees preferred not to include their surname.
VICE: Hi Peter, why are you here?
Peter: I was born deaf, but at age 5 I had a cochlear implant and now I have some hearing. I’m active in the LGBTQ+ community for deaf people called Roze Gebaar (Pink Sign) and that’s how I found out about this party.
What are your thoughts on facilities for the deaf?
I turned on the implant tonight so I can hear some music. I like installations, but it would be even more fun if there was a floor with sensors that vibrate to the rhythm of the music. This means that deaf people can dance to the rhythm. Genius. They have them at this Dutch festival called Sencity.
You can hear music through the implant, but my preference is to feel the music.
What makes clubbing easier for you?
I wish the people working at the club had a little more understanding of how to treat deaf people. I hope you understand that when the security guard asks you to open your bag, I’m deaf so I have to communicate visually.
People in hospitality are generally very confused about these situations. They may start talking very loudly or in a different language, but that doesn’t help. For example, beer’s sign language gesture is very simple. It would be helpful if the staff knew.
Do you have any tips for other deaf people who want to go out?
Bringing a friend will give you peace of mind no matter what happens. And remember: communication with hearing people is also possible. I always use my phone Just type what you want to say into the Notes app and others will type something. In my experience, many deaf people are open to this. It can be a little scary at first, but it’s okay in the end.
Angelo, 39 years old
VICE: Angelo, why are you here?
Angelo: I was born with one leg, so I like to party, but I have to be careful not to overdo it. You have to pay attention to how much you drink, dance and walk around. I can dance with prosthetic legs, but I can actually dance with many prosthetic legs.
If you move too vigorously, you will get a scar where the prosthesis starts.then i need to rest, Do not walk and use only one leg for a few days until the wound heals. I would rather avoid it.
What is a club that makes it easier to go out?
A place to sit and relax. Ideally equipped with a lounge area. Stairs are generally not a big deal, but the less you have to do something like this, the better.
Is it safe to go out?
These days, yes. I have a metal prosthesis that I wear for everyone to see. I always wear shorts. It’s practical, but it shows people what I’m dealing with. Sometimes someone stares at me, but I don’t mind at all.
VICE: Doris, why are you here tonight?
Doris: I am part of the BODY Collective. We have six girlfriends and I am the only one with a disability. I am deaf and also have Usher Syndrome type 1. This means that the visual impairment is getting worse. At some point, I may go completely blind. At BODY, I share my thoughts on lighting, accessibility, how music feels, places, and more.
how about going out?
I can’t listen to music, so I like to feel music. There is no other way. For me, music is a physical thing. That’s why the installation here is so special for deaf people.
My experience has always been positive. I don’t think going out is perfect for everyone, but I’m fine. While on the go, we usually communicate through apps on our mobile phones. Sometimes I hear people thinking, “You’re deaf, I can’t talk to you.” But in reality it is not.
What can the club do to make it easier for you to go out?
It would be nice if the club could set aside a well-lit area for people who are visually impaired or who use sign language a lot. There are obvious limitations. I fully understand that being visually impaired doesn’t mean you have to turn on all the lights in the club. It’s not realistic to change everything for one person.
Should we have more parties for people with disabilities?
yes and no. I really hope that more people will participate. I don’t want to go to a party that is only for people with disabilities. I want to go to a party where everyone is welcome. In my opinion it’s the best way.