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Rolling Stones concert problems lead to push for disability task force

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

The much-publicized parking and other logistical problems at last month’s Rolling Stones concert at Circuit of the Americas has pushed local officials to call for the creation of a task force focused on accessibility issues at area concert venues.

Bruce  Elfant,Travis County tax assessor-collector and voter registrar, spoke at Monday’s Music Commission meeting about the difficulties he had trying to attend the concert on crutches due to a foot injury.

Elfant called COTA in advance to check on accommodations for the disabled, but a golf cart transport only took him to the main gate, with staff offering to use a gurney to transport him to his seat because no wheelchairs were available and a tent to address accessibility issues was unstaffed.

After the show, he was told he would need to wait at least 90 minutes for assistance. Instead he opted to hobble on crutches to an area outside the main gate where a crowd of other disabled concertgoers were waiting for help to get back to their cars.

“We were among the last to leave. They were rude to disabled people and we watched them drop an elderly woman who was disabled on the ground,” he said. “COTA is a world-class venue and I know they can do better. We want them to do better. We want our venues to be welcoming and we want it to be a great experience for all of our citizens.”

Elfant said he has raised the issue of creating a task force with COTA leaders and discussed the issue with City Council Member Vanessa Fuentes. He heard from “back channel” contacts that there should be progress on the matter within the next week.

Members of the Music Commission and Elfant, who previously served as a county constable to help enforce disabled parking laws, discussed using the attention around the problems with the Rolling Stones concert as an opening to look at the broader issue of accessibility at music venues. Their talk included the possibility of appointing members of the Music Commission and the Mayor’s Committee for People With Disabilities to the new task force.

“This might be an opportunity to have this conversation here in Travis County with other venues and venue owners and patrons and people in the disability community to look at what we can do better and how can we help these venues,” Elfant said. “The vast majority of businesses want to do the right thing and they just don’t understand what is required under the (Americans with Disabilities Act) for the things that they don’t even think about but people with disabilities do.”

City staffers also suggested including the Austin Center for Events in the discussions and work of the task force, and identified the Creative Space Assistance Program as one source of funding for venues to make improvements related to accessibility.

“I would like the intention of whatever we do as a Music Commission to be to help understand what went wrong and try to prevent things like this from happening in the future, and to establish best practices that we can help build with COTA and then apply to all venues in town,” Commissioner Oren Rosenthal said.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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