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The Global Citizen Festival in New York Just Got More Accessible for People With Disabilities


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Many events aren’t designed with people with physical and intellectual disabilities in mind. Global Citizen is committed to make the world more accessible, one festival at a time. You can join us in taking action on this issue and more here

Global Citizen doesn’t want any guests to miss out on Cardi B’s jokes, Janelle Monáe’s whimsical costumes, or Janet Jackson’s dance moves at the Global Citizen Festival in New York’s Central Park this year. 

The annual event taking place Sept. 29 is getting a lot more accessible for attendees who took action and won tickets as a result, thanks to our partner Coty, one of the world's largest beauty companies.

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They can spend the weeks leading up to the festival brushing up on The Weeknd and Shawn Mendes’ lyrics — not worrying if there’ll be accessible bathrooms or an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. That leaves more time to catch up on how Global Citizens around the world have been creating change — and prepare for John Legend’s moving ballads. 

According to the 2016 census bureau, 40.7 million people, or 12.8% of the US population, live with a disability. Even though a 2015 report found 6.2 million people with disabilities in the US had attended live concerts, venues aren’t always accommodating and don’t provide enough accessibility information ahead of their events. Often ASL interpreters aren’t provided for deaf audience members, and service pets are frequently banned

Related Stories Sept. 18, 2018 8 Ways We're Making the 2018 Global Citizen Festival Sustainable

"Coty is delighted to sponsor the ADA accessible area including on-stage sign language interpreters at the annual Global Citizen Festival in New York. Together we want to make sure the festival is inclusive for everyone regardless of their ability. In line with our purpose to 'celebrate and liberate the diversity of beauty' and we have partnered with Global Citizen to help create a fairer and more inclusive world where everyone is free to enjoy and express themselves," Anna Lucuk, VP Corporate Responsibility at Coty, said.

For some music fans, attending a live event can be a challenge before even getting in line. For example, more than 80% of people with disabilities in the UK have run into trouble while buying tickets to live music events, the Guardian reports. Most online ticketing systems have visual challenges which make it impossible for blind patrons to buy seats independently, to say nothing of trying to select seats on a completely visual seat map. As high as 1 in 10 people with disabilities have thought about taking legal action against the inconveniences they face while trying to enjoy festivals and concerts. 

“In 2018, every large-scale music event should be all-inclusive,” Suzanne Bull, CEO of the UK-based organization Attitude Is Everything, said in an interview with the Independent. “Disabled customers should be able to buy a ticket online, they should be encouraged to attend shows with their friends and not have to jump through undignified hoops when things go wrong.”  

Change is happening in the US, too. Sean Gray, a punk scene veteran living with cerebral palsy, founded Is this Venue Accessible in 2015 to help more people with disabilities find accommodating live music spaces in the US. 

Ace Ratcliff, a writer and music lover, published a powerful op-ed in April on her experience attending concerts in a wheelchair. 

“My wheelchair ― my disability ― isn’t what prevents me from living my life to the fullest. Other people do that,” she wrote, explaining what can go wrong when event planners don’t consider accessibility. Ratcliff describes the frustration that comes with obstructed views and what it feels like to be seperated from friends who can’t join her in the area designated for people with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) first passed in 1990, to prohibit discrimination based on disability and provide mandatory guidelines businesses must adhere to in order to accomodate the needs of staff and patrons with disabilities. 

Festival grounds sometimes have a hard time complying to the ADA, since they’re often temporary spaces lacking built in accessibility features. But Global Citizen is determined to stick to it by dedicating an area for people with disabilities to ensure they have the best time possible at the event, in the ADA section where friends and family are welcome. 

Here’s what you can expect at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival. 

For the first time ever...

  • Effective Communication
    Global Citizen will provide a clear view of an ASL interpreter in the ADA section of the park, shown below off the Metropolitan Museum of Art entrance on East 84th Street and Fifth Avenue.
    (Please note: The interpretation won’t be broadcast or available in other sections.) 

ada map.png

  • Accessibility Staffing
    A whole team wearing  t-shirts clearly labeled “Accessibility Staff” will be stationed throughout the ADA section of the park, and can be flagged down by anyone at any point to address any accessibility issues that arise. They’re happy to adjust chairs, provide descriptions of the event sets, or point guests in the right direction toward accessible restrooms and more.
  • Drinking Straws
    Accessibility staff will be equipped with sustainable metal straws for cold drinks. They’re free of charge by request for those who need them, only in the ADA section. Metal straws will be available for purchase elsewhere throughout the park. 

And we’re bringing back…

  • Accessible Restrooms
    The ADA section of the park will be stocked with six accessible toilets. All guests will have access to one accessible toilet in every other section. 
  • Service Animal Policy
    Service animals are welcome, but not recommended. Due to the festival length (6 hours), minimal shade, and a loud venue, we advise leaving service animals at home. Accessibility staff is available upon request to lend aid usually provided by service animals. 
    If guests decide to bring their service animal they will be allowed in the festival but attendees are encouraged to bring materials like water bowls etc. to keep animals hydrated, comfortable, and happy. 

For any day-of accessibility concerns, you can contact Marlo Knapp-Fadani at marlo.knapp-fadani@globalcitizen.org.

Additional accessibility advisory material coordinated by Dave Bahr of Present Momentum Access at dave@presentmomentum.net


The 2018 Global Citizen Festival in New York will be presented for the very first time by Citi. MSNBC and Comcast NBCUniversal will air a live simulcast of the Festival on MSNBC and MSNBC.com. The Festival will also be livestreamed on YouTube and Twitter, presented by Johnson & Johnson. Proud partners of the 2018 Global Citizen Festival include Global Citizen’s global health partner and major partner Johnson & Johnson, and major partners P&G, CHIME FOR CHANGE Founded by Gucci, Verizon, House of Mandela, iHeartMedia, and NYC Parks. Associate partners include Microsoft, Great Big Story, and One Championship.

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