Five Things I Know: Dina Bassile, Groove Tunes

On March 19, Groove Tunes will take over the Corner Hotel in Melbourne. The inaugural event will be an accessible gig, with artists living with a disability on the line-up and several support services, including Auslan interpreters, printed braille tickets, onstage lyric videos and more. NME caught up with Dina Bassile, founder of independent accessibility consultancy and Groove Tunes organiser Tibi Access, to talk about the event and how Australian promoters and venues can make events more inclusive

1. Improving accessibility is easier than you think

When we came up with the concept of Groove Tunes, I obviously wanted to make an event accessible for the disability community. But I also see it as an opportunity for us to show people in the music industry what it looks like to hold an accessible event in a renowned venue. People that I’ve met over time get really worried about accessibility because of money. They think accessibility is a scary thing that’s going to cost them a lot of money, when in reality there are a lot of small, quick wins that you can implement to make your venue or show more accessible.

One of the main ones is online accessibility. Whether you have a disability or not, most customer journeys start online. You can implement different accessible tools onto your website and social media that don’t cost you any money. For example, the alt text on your Instagram post, where you write out what an image looks like so you’re inclusive of the blind and low vision community. Having all of your videos captioned is more inclusive to the Deaf and hard of hearing community. Having FAQs on your website makes a world of difference to the disability community.

2. Grant applications are helping make accessibility top of mind

Accessibility has very much been an afterthought. It hasn’t been until the last 12 to 24 months that we’re seeing organisers and venue owners seeking different ways to be educated about inclusiveness. And that’s where it starts: is accessibility part of your everyday thinking when you’re planning an event? I run a workshop called Let’s Talk Access, which is completely focused on music and arts industry and how to become more inclusive – learning about the quick wins and then putting into your annual business budget: “OK, this year, we’re gonna work on our website, but next year, we’re going to update our ramps or update an accessible bathroom or budget towards Auslan interpreters.”

Advertisement

The really good thing now is grant applications are asking people to include accessibility plans for their event. Sometimes people are concerned about money but we’re also seeing different grants supplying money to support people in hiring interpreters or putting in an accessible bathroom at a festival. There are different avenues to go about supporting that financially.

And people have to think more about accessibility now because it’s actually asked for in grant applications. According to the Australian Festival Association, 64 per cent of Australian festivals do not publicly list their access information. That’s a big percentage. It’s obviously not at the forefront of their mind. So if it’s asked of them and shown to them, it will become a conversation that’s had more often.

Dina Bassile
Dina Bassile of Tibi Access, the organiser of Groove Tunes. Credit: Michelle Grace Hunder

3. People from all sides of the live music business can benefit from training

I’ve had a couple of festivals do my training, but it’s more so independents in the industry, event planners, marketing and management teams, that come through. I think people who run bigger organisations need to step up and do it as well. Audio and lighting technicians can also benefit from training or at least a conversation, because strobe lighting is such a big accessibility barrier to shows. Majority of the time there is no warning for strobe lighting, which can cause people to have seizures and pass out. That stops people from attending live music.

Security and bar staff also require training because they’re the people in front of house delivering customer service. Understanding people with disabilities, and invisible disabilities, is crucial. Because you don’t know what you don’t know. Some people’s perception of disability might be completely different to someone like myself, or my friends and family who’ve grown around me and with me.

4. The pandemic had unexpected benefits for access

Pre-pandemic, people were constantly on the go, running events and in and out of meetings. COVID gave us the opportunity to slow down and understand and learn. During lockdown, more people were doing my workshop and taking a minute to educate themselves, which was really good. Now that things have sort of picked up again, everyone’s ready to get back into the swing of things.

Advertisement

COVID’s impact in terms of access has been good because after all the lockdowns, it’s taught us to be really flexible in our delivery, whether that’s in the music industry, or a doctor’s appointment or having a meeting like this. Prior to the pandemic, we would do all of these things in person, but we now know that it’s possible to host an event online or to livestream our events. That gives people with disability more opportunity. For example, if a person with chronic fatigue is having a day where they can’t leave their house, they know they can turn on their laptop and watch a livestream of their favourite band from the comfort of their own bed.

“Accessibility has very much been an afterthought”

5. Accessible events are stress-free ones

In theatre, there are shows called relaxed performances. So if you think about going to the theatre or the movies, you need to sit in a dark room and be quite proper and quiet. Onstage or on-screen, there’s lots of lights and everything happening all at once, which can become very overwhelming for people who are neurodiverse or people with PTSD. So providing a relaxed performance means that the lights are on, the doors are still open, people can come and go as they please. People who might have a short attention span can make the noises that they need to make and run around and stimulate the way that they need to. And the show still goes on, it keeps its creative integrity.

We go to theatre and live events in general to escape from our day to day lives and to experience things with our friends and family. At Groove Tunes we’re providing an event that is stress-free for people. People can come to this show and know that if the person that they’re supporting or they as an individual are going to become overwhelmed, there is a sensory space with noise-cancelling headphones that they can put on. They can step out and take a breather. They know that we will have volunteers on-site if people need support. Things like that make a difference for people with disability. Making sure that they have a good evening is really important for us.

Groove Tunes takes place March 19 at the Corner Hotel. The Grogans, Matilda Pearl, Irene Zhong, Edward Roussac and Saint Ergo perform. Tickets are available now here

Trending Now