The organizers of Capital Slam take issues around accessibility very seriously and with recent concerns about our venues coming to light, I wanted to explain the situation and talk about the challenges surrounding it.
This is a serious issue for us as we believe that slam is only slam when it is freely open to everyone. The problems we have had finding a good venue have been numerous and we are committed to working until it is rectified. Acknowledging a problem is only the first step to actually finding a solution.
Let me say right up front that I can’t claim that we have ALWAYS treated accessibility as a priority. This is not something I am proud of, but the reality was that we had a venue that we really liked. We knew it was terrible for accessibility but never took steps to correct it.
That is on us. Straight up.
As summer wrapped up this year we found ourselves without a venue, with very little notice. We had to scramble to find a replacement, and fast.
The first thing I did was make a list of absolute requirements for the new venue. It was a short list. One of the items on it was that the venue MUST be accessible. After going so long with one that was not, I did not want to get ensconced in that same situation again. (To show HOW short this list was, we are now in a venue with no sound system. That was not considered a high enough priority to make the list.)
The first thing I discovered in my search is how few decent venues this city has for a regular show. Everything was either too expensive, inaccessible, overbooked or some combination of those. We delayed our season because we couldn’t find a venue that filled those requirements on such short notice.
We thought we found a perfect venue in Cafe Nostalgica. Unfortunately the ‘too expensive’ part reared its head as the management gave us a trial run but decided that our crowd was not spending enough money there to make it financially viable for them. For us to top up their revenue enough, we would have been bankrupt within two months. The venue was nearly perfect (the stage was still inaccessible), but we cannot pay $400+ for a venue twice a month.
Cafe Alt was on our previous short list and when I asked about accessibility I was told by the management there that it is ‘absolutely’ accessible.
We held a show there. Things seemed okay (one of our judges was in a wheelchair and I asked if they had any problem getting in and they said no), but after the Director investigated the required route to get in, they did not feel comfortable calling the venue accessible because issues related to the length of the route and the lack of clarity in indicating the accessible way in.
We have a different venue for our show on the 21st (due to a scheduling conflict at Cafe Alt), so we are at Origin Studio. When I asked about accessibility I was told ‘it will be accessible by then’. (Keeping in mind that this is a brand new venue, so they are still getting things the way they want them.) I decided not to announce it as an accessible venue because while I believe them that the intention is to have accessibility in line by our show, I also think that the one thing worse than an inaccessible venue is one that you are TOLD is accessible and is not. After the problems with Cafe Alt, I am not going to announce it is accessible until that is confirmed.
In short – we are still looking. We consider Cafe Alt our transitory home… as in, it is where we will have our shows until we can find something that better suits our needs, and that big unfilled need is better accessibility.