It all started with a stammer
Many individuals, myself included, face significant challenges and frustrations in expressing themselves verbally, a fact often overlooked by many.
During my childhood, I observed an anomaly in the way my brain processed speech, and it was only later in life that I discovered this phenomenon is fairly common, known as a stammer.
Stammering is a concealed disability, resulting in limited encounters for most individuals throughout their lives. This condition has greatly impacted my interactions with the world, constraining my communication methods and occasionally excluding me from certain experiences.
The reality of living with the condition
Living with a stammer brings forth a world of frustration, as I find myself unable to truly express my thoughts and communicate effectively with those who matter most to me. Each conversation becomes a mental battle, characterised by word swapping and stumbling over certain syllables. I rely on filler words like "eh" and "um" and often need to substitute words entirely to overcome speech blockages.
“I find myself unable to truly express my thoughts and communicate effectively with those who matter most to me”
The anxiety preceding conversations exacerbates the situation, hindering my ability to initiate dialogue. There are instances when I intend to ask simple questions like "How has your week been?" but struggle to utter the first word, resulting in an awkward silence while I strive to overcome the speech block. This often leads to the dreaded comment, "Are you still there?" disrupting the flow and further exacerbating the situation.
Music is my only escape
Due to the social barriers imposed by my inability to speak fluently, I delved into interests that could be enjoyed without concern for verbal communication.
One such interest was music, especially live events. Interestingly, singing and musical expression operate independently from normal speech function. Consequently, I can sing along to songs and revel in music just like anyone else.
Live performances and gigs became my escape from reality, a dependable refuge. Whether experienced in person or virtually, these moments allow me to let down my guard and fully immerse myself in an experience. Surprisingly, many others share this sentiment. Regardless of long working hours or isolation due to disabilities, music and its encompassing atmosphere know no boundaries or geographic limits. It unites people irrespective of race, gender, or disability. Music is the one realm that embraces all individuals.
But there's a barrier that we struggle to talk about
With a heavy reliance on live music as a great escape from my disability, given the abundance of performances held each year, it might seem like everything is fantastic. However, the reality is that there are numerous barriers and obstacles that often go unnoticed unless you have a disability.
Stepping back from the experience, the journey often ends for many when it comes to purchasing tickets.
For individuals without impairments, the excitement builds as they eagerly wait for the on-sale to start, refreshing the page until they gain access to secure their tickets. The rush of adrenaline during those 30 minutes leaves them ecstatic knowing they've secured tickets to an event that will change their lives. Isn't that how everyone feels?
“Event organisers typically overlook the needs of fans who require extra support, leaving us in the dark.”
Unfortunately, for many of us who require additional information or accommodations to attend an event, the experience is different. Event organisers typically overlook the needs of fans who require extra support, leaving us in the dark.
For those with additional needs, the only way to book tickets for these experiences is through a phone line, which, for many of us with disabilities, is not a viable option. So what happens to those who need the additional help? Often, these individuals are left in the dark, not even factored into companies commercial strategies.
It's time for change
After spending many years as a software engineer in the events industry, advocating for accessibility to be prioritised in experiences, I made a decision in 2019. I decided to channel my passion for accessibility advocacy into action by founding Different Breed, aiming to create a future where both myself and others with disabilities can enjoy inclusive events.
Our goal at Different Breed is to start fresh, replacing outdated technology driving current ticketing platforms, and instead, build a future that puts equal experiences first. Over the past four years, alongside my business partner Pauline, we have tirelessly worked to develop a ticketing system from scratch that takes a whole new approach to selling events online and in person.
With unwavering determination and countless hours invested, our two-person team embarked on this incredible journey. We possess the ability to dream big and are committed to challenging the status quo, making a real difference for people like myself and others with disabilities. I am excited to witness the impact this platform will have on revolutionising the industry and creating a truly inclusive experience.