Jon Hetherington has been a fan of Beyoncé since he was about 9 years old, recalling his love for the artist during her Destiny’s Child days, The New York Times reports. Despite his affinity for the icon, up until this year, Hetherington had never seen her perform live. Born with cerebral palsy, it’s a little harder for Hetherington to get around. Still, he’s developed a love for live music, as evidenced by the six times he’s seen Lady Gaga.
But Hetherington admits it is oftentimes difficult to navigate getting to and from these shows, not to mention accessibility issues at venues. During a recent trip to see the opening show of Janelle Monae’s tour in Seattle, his flight was delayed 20 minutes as they tried to load his wheelchair onto the plane. And when the show ended around midnight, no accessible taxi ever showed up despite multiple calls, Uber and the police were unable to accommodate, Hetherington’s GPS stopped working, and his wheelchair lost power after wandering around the city from midnight until 9am trying to get back to his hotel.
“I figured if this happened at Janelle, what was going to happen at Beyoncé? I thought, maybe I just don’t go. Am I going to get stranded again?,” recalled Hetherington.
But just two weeks later, he pressed forward for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see The Queen that he had been waiting 25 years for. Equipped with his Renaissance World Tour outfit and his prized tour ticket in hand, he headed to the airport in his home state of Eugene, Oregon. However, when it was time for him to board, Alaska Airlines crew members informed the 34-year-old that the plane could not accommodate his chair, which was reportedly four inches too tall and unable to collapse. Gate agents were apparently helpful, attempting to get him on another Airbus. However, that flight would get him to Seattle 12 hours too late for the concert. The best they could do was offer apologies and help him file a disability complaint.
“This is a systemic issue, this is ableism, this is what I’ve dealt with my whole life. I was demoralized by the whole thing…We have not built our society or this country in a way that is fully inclusive. Day to day, we’re kind of ignored and invisible…I’ve been disabled since birth, ableism is a feature of my life, I’m used to it. I can’t even do the ‘normal thing’ of booking concerts and having this experience. Everybody else can just do that. That’s what’s frustrating,” explained Hetherington.
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Overwhelmed, Hetherington took to his social media platform to shine a light on the issue and notify the masses that unfortunately he would not be going to see Beyoncé as a result of the whole ordeal. But that was before the Beyhive stepped in and got word of Hetherington’s situation. Immediately, they started tagging the “Renaissance” singer, her management company, and any personal contacts they had to see if the Queen herself could rectify the situation. And in true superhero fashion, she did.
Last week, Hetherington finally got the opportunity to take part in the festivities. Representatives for the singer reached out to him to arrange his transportation, flight, and, of course, a new concert ticket. For Hetherington, the moment was surreal. Not only did he get to finally see the show he’s been waiting his whole life for. He also got to meet Beyoncé and her mother, Ms. Tina Knowles, sharing that it was an honor and he will cherish the words she shared with him forever. He recapped and gave an update online as well, thanking the Beyhive for making it all happen.
“Beyhive, you made this happen. You pushed and tagged like the internet has never seen. Tonight, for the first time ever, I had a seat on the floor for a concert. Welcome to the RENAISSANCE,” wrote Hetherington.
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