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Why the Rosie Jones Accessibility Backlash is Misplaced

Comedian Rosie Jones has made a name for herself on shows such as The Last Leg and Would I Lie To You?. Her unique style of self-depreciation has made her a household name in recent years and a particular favourite within the disabled community. Rosie has cerebral palsy and raises awareness of disability issues within her comedy. 

She recently came under fire when it was revealed that she occasionally performs in venues with little to no accessibility meaning that many disabled fans are unable to attend shows. 

With this comes the question of whether or not disabled people should be responsible for lack of access or whether this rightful anger has been misplaced. Should it instead be directed at the venues instead of the performer?

My personal feeling is that living with a disability is difficult enough and that Rosie shouldn’t be the one coming under fire here. As she pointed out on Twitter many venues don’t have access – something I have been talking and campaigning about for years – but that doesn’t make it her fault. 

Whilst the criticism of the venue is valid, I can’t get behind tearing down a performer who breaks down barriers on the daily just by talking about disability on a national scale. Many people need to be educated about disability issues, not least non-disabled people, so is it really so bad that Rosie performs to a wider audience? 

Of course, we should be able to enter any venue safely and without hassle but the reality is different.

By asking Rosie to perform in only accessible venues, it would mean that she isn’t able to spread the level of awareness we need to see. I understand wholeheartedly the disappointment and anger many feel but would the backlash be as newsworthy as it’s become if Rosie was non-disabled? My guess is not. 

I’ve been to many events that haven’t catered to my needs but I don’t see that making the news. Mostly because the performer isn’t disabled and nobody cares that I’m there, but surely disabled people shouldn’t be responsible for change at every level? Putting the blame onto a disabled woman instead of the venues and promoters that handle the shows seems incredibly counterintuitive. And it by no means fixes the problem. 

As a community that is consistently left out of discussions around inclusion, I think we sometimes have a tendency to pick at smaller problems rather than look at the bigger picture. If Rosie Jones didn’t perform in these venues her income would be considerably less – yet the venue would still be inaccessible. Has anyone even considered that Rosie herself may struggle to perform in these venues?

Why are disabled people being demanded to be perfect advocates when no one else bothers in the first place? 

What we should be aiming for is a complete overhaul of entertainment accessibility so that both fans and performers can have their needs met. The real headline should read ‘Rosie Jones is made to perform in inaccessible venues due to lack of access’. 

Responding to the criticism the comedian tweeted “I feel like I can show solidarity with the disability community by performing in these inaccessible venues and educating them on how to be more accessible. I also think everybody should be held accountable.”

She agrees with my previous sentiment as she continues: “Very few of my non-disabled colleagues are expected to only perform in accessible venues and then face negativity online when they do”. 

Within the Twitter thread, she also clarified that her tour next year will be accessible for everyone and that this is the only time in which she has had a choice in where she can perform. 

Despite the statement, Rosie also came under fire for her inaccessible Twitter account. She has been called out on many occasions for not using ALT text on images. This is something in her control and definitely something that needs addressing. One Twitter user said they’d asked for ALT text so many times they eventually gave up

It seems a shame that Rosie and her team haven’t addressed this issue when it’s such a simple fix that will help the disabled community overall.

I think it’s fair to say that the comedian has a long way to go in terms of her social media presence but I do think we should be cutting disabled people slack and allowing for more learning and change to happen.

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