Almost everyone enjoys a night on the town. But for adults with disabilities, finding a safe, inclusive, accessible venue for music, dancing, socializing and romance can be a challenge.
Club 1111 in Baltimore, Md., makes the elements of a vibrant nightlife accessible to all. The only nightclub for individuals with special needs in Maryland, Club 1111 is also believed to be the only one of its kind in the United States!
On the second Saturday of every month, The League for Disability’s Baltimore headquarters is converted into a nightclub. According to the Baltimore Sun’s Yvonne Wenger, “the classrooms become dance floors with disc jockeys playing pounding club music. Merchandise, like sunglasses and blinking rings, is stacked up and ready to be sold, and volunteers wait in a makeshift spa to do fingernails and put on temporary tattoos. A lounge with dim lights is set up for chilling.”
A program of The League for Disabilities, a nonprofit that offers a variety of support services including day treatment, vocational training, camping and recreation, Club 1111 began as a fundraiser in 2015. As news of the club spread across Maryland, the crowds grew. Some nights as many as 700 people from all over the state visit Club 1111. Admission is $10 per person but caregivers and accompanying family members are admitted free.
According to Wenger, “most club-goers have intellectual and developmental disabilities, about a quarter use a wheelchair and roughly one in 10 have visual impairment.”
At Club 1111, adults with disabilities report that they feel free to be themselves, without fear of stigma or judgment. Those with medical or behavioral challenges, their families and caregivers can feel comfortable knowing that a nurse and behaviorist onsite at Club 1111 can intervene should an emergency arise.
“Hallways and doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs,” writes Wenger. “The flashing lights on the dance floor are programmed with the advice of a neurologist so they won’t trigger seizures. Sodas come in plastic cups with lids and flexible straws so they’re easy to drink and won’t be spilled.”
Ideally, The League for Disabilities would like to see people who live with disabilities engaged in a fully inclusive society. Yet, obstacles remain, particularly when it comes to socialization at bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Many aren’t wheelchair accessible and don’t have accessible restrooms. As one woman from the U.K. told Amelia Abraham of Vice, “I’ve got disabled friends who tell me they weren’t let into nightclubs because they were leaning on friends and the bouncers thought they were too drunk. Or because staff says people in wheelchairs are a health and safety violation, like their chairs are going to create an issue if there’s a fire.”
Said a man interviewed by Vice’s Abraham: “When a club has no access, you feel hugely rejected, all the while knowing your friends are having fun without you.”
At Club 1111, these issues don’t exist. It’s hard to understand why more organizations and businesses don’t open nightclubs geared toward the needs of people with disabilities. Hopefully articles in publications like the Baltimore Sun and Vice, and blogposts like this, will raise awareness about the need for them.