Accessibility is a fundamental right for all people of all abilities and throughout every facet of life. While various efforts are made by governments, organizations and individuals to provide accessible accommodations for infrastructure, education and employment, not much has been done to make live music and other entertainment and recreational events accessible. The ADA has very limited language surrounding this area of need; yet it can be just as important as any other aspect of accessibility. Thus, Accessible Festivals strives to close this gap and focuses on providing resources within the live entertainment and recreational field. By bringing together like-minded organizations and individuals, sharing knowledge and resources, and aligning our vision with one another, we can take the next step in ensuring people of abilities are able to have the quality of life they dream of.
Six months after a car accident that severed his spinal cord and took away his legs, Austin Whitney attended his first music festival. For the first time since his spinal cord injury, he was able to smile and simply enjoy life.
While the accessibility of the festival was limited and didn’t fully provide the necessary accommodations, he was still able to enjoy the live music experience. Realizing how much better of an experience he could have had with the proper accommodations, he decided to devote his life to ensuring people of all abilities can have an equal opportunity to experience live music and recreational activities to the fullest extent possible.
With help from his business-minded childhood friend Oren Shani, Austin combined his legal education from UC Berkeley School of Law and his own personal experience with disability to create Accessible Festivals. Today Austin assists some of the nation’s largest event promoters to ensure they are fully accessible to individuals of all abilities. During the course of his work, he realized that personal interaction is the single most important component of a successful accessibility program. Understanding the true nature of disabilities, and the corresponding needs that arise is essential for providing the ability to have an amazing, life-changing experience, regardless of the situation.
Our vision is to provide the tools necessary for understanding disability on a societal level and ensure no one feels stigmatized due to something that cannot be controlled. A fulfilling life includes having access to choosing one’s own experiences; our focus is to make experiences possible through the majesty of live music, entertainment and recreation. Read more about what we are doing to reach this goal!
Austin is the founder and Board President of Accessible Festivals and the President of Ten Fifty Entertainment. He holds a law degree from UC Berkeley. Today Austin works to ensure ADA compliance at some of the nation’s largest festivals and events. Paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a car accident, Austin understands the true nature of disabilities, and the corresponding needs that arise in recreational settings in-person and on the internet. As one of the only differently abled professionals in the live entertainment industry, Austin combines his personal experience and knowledge toward developing a better way of creating practical accessible environments at festivals, concerts, and other events.
Amy is the co-founder of Inclusion Festival and a speech-language therapist with over fifteen years of experience working with individuals with disabilities and neurological differences in a variety of educational, vocational, and community settings. As a therapist, Amy incorporates joyful, regulatory, and play-based movement such as yoga, juggling, and hula hooping. These activities encourage clients to engage, explore, increase capacities, and effectively communicate through meaningful, experienced-based activities that promote mindfulness, encourage creativity, and improve overall wellbeing. She is also the founder and owner of Circles of Communication, a private practice that offers integrative speech-language therapy and alternative education programs in Central New Jersey. Amy is an excellent communicator with proven success in event planning, public relations, strategic partnerships, and fundraising. Across all domains, she is committed to promoting awareness, acceptance, and community inclusion for all abilities, and to educating others about the value of recreation.
Leah is the co-founder of Inclusion Festival, a special education teacher, and a registered yoga instructor with experience working in a variety of settings including public schools, private studios, and home-based instruction. She is passionate about sharing the benefits of yoga with individuals of all ages and abilities, though she has particular interest in supporting those with disabilities. Additionally, Leah co-founded My Best Fest, an online music festival guide, which led her to on-site festival consulting services. This also entailed collecting survey feedback from festival participants, writing reports for festival promoters detailing positive and constructive feedback, and providing recommendations for future festivals. Leah is committed to improving the quality of life and access to community resources for people of all abilities through direct service and event planning.
Board of Directors
Matt maintains a multidisciplinary approach to existence, pursuing various musical endeavors while moonlighting as an attorney, BBQ pit-master and global trekker. As an attorney, Matt has provided legal counsel to many artists and musicians in New York City’s vibrant artistic community and he has also helped organize several non-profits, continuing to work with them on financial matters and ongoing corporate governance. With Accessible Festivals, Matt is able to pair years of experience as a touring musician with his legal training to provide a unique perspective to the organization and help expand its efforts to bring live music and recreational activities to everyone.
Chantel Diaz coordinates programs that promote Diversity, Equity & Inclusion within AEG, in order to foster an open and welcoming environment for employees and patrons alike. Her work with AEG is dedicated to Goldenvoice and its regional festivals, such as, Coachella, Stagecoach, Hangout, and more. She also works with music venues in the Greater Los Angeles area including The El Rey, The Fonda, The Roxy, The Novo by Microsoft and The Shrine Auditorium. She is passionate about developing partnerships and connections with Accessible Festivals, other Diversity, Equity & Inclusion professionals, and key stakeholders in the entertainment industry.
Taraleigh is a live music fan, journalist, social media influencer, and self-help guru who has dedicated her life to inspiring, entertaining, and helping others. Her popular workshops that teach other music lovers how to beat the “post-show blues” and live with intention, vulnerability, and authenticity have made her a staple of the festival scene and beyond. In 2018, Taraleigh published her first book, How To Rock Your Life: Maintain The Magic Of Live Music In Your Everyday Experience.
Adam brings with him years of business and non-profit expertise, previously in the role of Executive Director of Autism Speaks and Voices Against Brain Cancer. He is passionate about the healing capabilities of music and recreation. Adam will help steer Accessible Festivals and provide oversight of executive goals.
Kunj Shah is the founder of Live For Live Music – a music media, marketing, and production company. Originally based in Brooklyn, and now based out of Denver he has 9 years of experience producing concerts and festivals across the country. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he raised $500,000 for various nonprofits through a multitude of virtual festivals he produced. He is committed in having live music help those in need.