Anyone who knows me for all of five minutes knows that I adore Billie Eilish. I only discovered her in June 2019, when I heard Bury A Friend on the radio, and I’ve been in love with her ever since. I spent months of quarantine dancing around to Bad Guy and My Boy in my underwear. I nearly had the lyrics Somebody new is gonna comfort me like you never do, from Bitches Broken Hearts, tattooed on my hip. I lightened my hair several shades after she bleached hers. My family and friends think it’s weird if I can manage to have a conversation without talking about her.
Before the pandemic completely sidelined her 2020 tour, I desperately wanted to get a ticket to see her in Vancouver, but there were no disability-accessible seats available. The same thing happened for this tour. Why did I think it would be any different?
I was selected to buy a ticket to her Vancouver show in the presale, the day before the tickets went on sale to the public. I grabbed the first ticket I could get because I knew that they’d be gone in seconds. I recently found out that the ticket is not disability-accessible. Given both my disability and recent ankle injury, I can’t stand up unassisted for long periods of time, and there is no grab bar or safety rail in front of the seat that I managed to get. All of the specific disability-accessible seats have been taken, understandably. It’s Billie Eilish – she’s been the hottest ticket around for years.
Billie’s shows are notoriously raucous and she’ll have the whole audience on their feet the entire time, dancing and moshing and jumping, just like she always does at her favourite shows. She creates the experience that she’d want to have as a fan. If I stay seated the whole time in the seat that I managed to grab, I’ll only see the show by watching the screen behind her. My only choices now are to find an accessible seat at the very back of the venue or to sell my ticket.
Billie is twenty years old. It’s not like she’ll never tour again. Even if I sell my ticket this time, I’ll likely have the same issue at every show I want to go to. The venue simply isn’t accessible. The same is true of sporting venues, theatres, ballets, and operas. I don’t think I have ever gone to a sporting event and not needed help with the stairs. The design of these kinds of venues has completely ignored and overlooked the needs of people with disabilities and injuries.
When I was thirteen or fourteen, I got a ticket to see Ricky Martin as a Christmas gift. I went with a couple of friends, and ran into this exact issue – there was nothing for me to hold onto when standing up, and I don’t have the balance to stand unassisted at a concert venue. Everyone was on their feet from the first count of the first song, and the only way I was able to see the show was that a friend held my hand the whole time while I stood. It made both of us very uncomfortable and I felt useless. I know now that this was my own internalised ableism, and that I should have found a way to get an accessible seat. It’s not a bad thing to need help or to ask for it, but I was a teenager, and I hated knowing that my disability was an inconvenience to someone else.
What would I do differently if I could go back to May 2021, days before I ordered my Billie Eilish ticket? I would call Ticketmaster, explain my situation, and ensure that I could get a disability-accessible seat. I was just so desperate to get any ticket at all, at that point in time, that I didn’t stop to consider that I might not be able to use it.
What would you do in this kind of situation?