Last night was the official launch of Why Not People, “a members club established exclusively for people with disabilities” that will host events or create accessible areas at events for wheelchair users, those with sensory impairments, learning disabilities, and more.

Our marketing and communications assistant Laura, who is hearing impaired, went along to the launch gig at East London venue The Troxy to see what it was all about.

Why Not People is a company created by refreshingly honest television and radio presenter Jameela Jamil. Having experienced disability herself following a car accident as a teenager, Jamil has many friends with disabilities, and grew tired of struggling to find places where everyone could go out together and enjoy themselves. Why Not People – which has attracted supporters including Tinie Tempah, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Mark Ronson – is Jameela’s solution to this problem of the dearth of disabled access at music venues.

Upon registering for membership, which is free, I was asked to provide a brief description of any disabilities I may have so that I was able to access the most appropriate tickets and seating arrangements.

I have tinnitus, hearing loss and distortion in one ear, so I described this in my application and was granted access to buy ‘sensory’ tickets for last night’s event, which meant my seat was fitted with a SubPac (more on that amazing bit of tech later).

A totally accessible music experience

Jameela pointed out in her opening speech that The Troxy is one of the only venues in the country that is totally accessible, and facilities provider Aveso supplied a mobile Changing Places toilet, meaning that no one, regardless of the complexity of their needs, would be excluded.

Jameela Jamil's impassioned opening speech

My seat was in the front row of the balcony seating, which meant that I had a fantastic view of both the stage and the audience below. The areas directly in front of the stage were reserved mostly for wheelchair users and their friends. The sight was almost enough to bring a tear to my eye; people who would usually be segregated on a little platform off to the side at a gig had the best seats in the house, and were able to enjoy the experience with all their friends around them.

Jameela ended her opening speech with an impassioned demand for accessibility to be improved in venues everywhere, declaring: "We are done with the awkwardness, we are done with the segregation and we are absolutely done with the excuses." There was certainly no awkwardness or segregation to be found, with strangers mixing and chatting freely, and staff from charities and companies striving for the same cause revelling in being surrounded by like-minded people.

Some class acts

As for the actual event itself, we were spoilt for choice, with dance, comedy and music galore.

The side-splittingly funny and utterly outrageous Romesh Ranganathan spent much of his comedy act doing his best to put off the lovely – not to mention patient! – Adrian, who was signing for him.

The comedy stylings of Romesh Ranganathan - and his patient signer Adrian

We were also treated to the stunning vocals of Aluna Francis and Shingai Shoniwa, mind-boggling dance moves from Flawless, football tricks from the F2Freestylers, and an incredible performance from the headline act of the night Tinie Tempah, who had flown back from Ibiza specially for the event and was celebrating his single reaching number one in the charts.

Tinie Tempah flew in specially from Ibiza to close the show

The SubPac experience

As my hearing difficulties are recently acquired and quite mild, I wasn’t sure what using a SubPac would be like or what effect it might have. A SubPac looks like a very thin backpack that is strapped to your chair, which you then lean against.

Laura's SubPac

SubPacs were originally designed to enable DJs and producers to monitor low frequencies within music, and also to experience from home what their music would sound and feel like when played in a busy club. The interest from the deaf community came about when there was a realisation that the low frequencies produced by the SubPac are picked up by the body when music is played, and that this could mean people who had never experienced music could now do so.

As I suspected, there was no colossal difference in terms of what I could hear, but the SubPac did help me to immerse myself in the music more effectively than I could hope to normally. Being able to feel the pulse of the music’s bass line directly against your back really enhances your experience of the music, and I could see this being hugely enjoyable for everyone. It’s a very soothing, vibrating sensation, and it has been suggested that a major use for the technology could be helping to reduce anxiety in profoundly deaf adolescents. They have already been used by profoundly deaf children with great success.

The SubPac team were lovely, and kept checking that we were all okay and happy with the intensity of the vibration, which is an adjustable feature. I’d love to hear from people with moderate to severe hearing loss – was your experience of a SubPac different to mine?

There are no future Why Not People events scheduled just yet, but with such a huge group of incredible artists and ambassadors on board, I’m sure it won’t be long until the next one. See you there!

Laura Hutchings, marketing and communications assistant.

If you’re looking for someone to review an event from an accessibility point of view, we’d be happy to put you in touch with an appropriate candidate. Please email [email protected] or contact us via Twitter or Facebook.