Making inclusion the headline act
Rapper Kray-Z Legz tells us about navigating the music scene as a disabled person and why representation is so important.
My childhood was just like any other. And I certainly caused some mischief. I remember a time in my early teens when I disobeyed my dad. He’d told me to wait outside the pub for him where he could see me. But a water fight with my friends sounded much more exciting! So off I went full speed with my mate on the back of my wheelchair to join the fun without my dad’s permission. Needless to say, I was grounded for two months!
But why am I telling you all this? Well, the main point is – growing up, I was always treated the same as everyone else. There was no leniency in my house because I had a disability. No extra sympathy. And that’s exactly what I wanted growing up. And still do now! In a truly inclusive world, disabled people should be treated like everybody else.
Let's celebrate disability
That’s why the International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPwD) is a great opportunity not just to celebrate disability but raise awareness about it too. It’s a chance to show people that disability isn’t a negative thing. I think a lot of times, people can associate disability with something like a broken toilet. You know, like ‘out of order’, no use. It can make people think that we’re not capable and should be closed off from society. But really, it’s the exact opposite.
I went up North a few years ago to do an event, and there’s a slogan that has stuck with me since. “Don’t dis my ability.” And I think that’s a great way to describe it. Disabled people have so much to offer. Everyone is different, everyone is unique – and that’s something to celebrate!
Why we should celebrate IDPwD
IDPwD is a great way to celebrate the achievements of disabled people. But also address the challenges we face too. And we all know we have a long way to go when it comes to inclusion. I absolutely love performing. But a lack of disabled representation in the industry can sometimes mean I’m treated differently as a disabled artist. I don’t want to be treated like I’m an inspiration or put up on a pedestal.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to have the opportunity to make an impact and draw attention to talent within the disabled community. But I don’t want any sympathy votes. How great would it be to have more disabled artists on event and festival line-ups? Representation is so important. Disabled people shouldn’t be a novelty, and we should be represented on every bill.
I don't want to be inspirational
And you know, that can extend from the stage to the crowd. I love going to music events, especially big concerts and raves. But a lot of the time, I’ll have people come up to me at events and say how inspirational it is that I’m there in the crowd. They’ll act like they’re shocked or in awe that I’m there. And often, they’ll tell me about disabled friends or family members they might have who don’t have the confidence to go to events like that.
It’s at events like that where I’ve made some of my best memories and had some fantastic experiences. And it saddens me – but doesn’t surprise me – that not everyone has had the same experience. A lot more needs to be done to make venues and events more accessible to disabled people. I don’t know about you, but often when I go to things like that, the disabled section will be segregated. I’m often directed to viewing platforms set back from the crowd. But that’s not for me! I want to be in the thick of it with everyone else! In the heart of the party! I think venues and event organisers need to realise that many disabled people want the same experiences as everyone else – and those options should be available too.
So as we take the day to celebrate IDPWD, it’s also an excellent opportunity to use our voice to continue fighting for a fairer, more inclusive world. We need to highlight injustices and everyday inequalities. And demonstrating why representation should always be ‘the headliner’.