Whether it’s catching a local music festival, marching or rallying for a cause, or navigating a bustling street fair, crowded events can be stressful for people with disabilities. We compiled a list of things to consider before, during, and after attending an outdoor event to help make your experience as stress-free—and safe—as possible.
Please note: While we have tried to consider as many aspects of events within the community and outdoor spaces as possible, we in no way presume these tips cover everything that may arise when trying to access events. We strongly suggest you do your own research before heading out to any community event. (And don’t forget the sunscreen!)
Before the Event
WATCH THE WEATHER
For individuals with a spinal cord injury or related disability, it can be harder to regulate your body temperature. It’s always a good idea to plan for the weather and specific location! Think about the area of a city you will be at or passing by for the event. Is it near a body of water? What time of year is it? Are gusts of wind to be expected? Will it be in the sweltering heat? If you think ahead of these environmental factors, it may be a lot easier to plan your clothing choices and avoid temperature-related issues.
WALK OR RIDE?
Consider researching the accessibility of the event ahead of time. Some events that involve walking for periods of time (i.e. marches, protests, parades) operate an accessible vehicle for folks with mobility issues. Some events, such as performances or parades, have designated accessible viewing areas for disabled attendees and their friends. Many events do list their accessibility features on their websites or Facebook event pages. If you have trouble finding the info feel free to reach out to them directly via email or phone! You can typically find this on the event website.
If taking transit, it’s always helpful to look up your available route(s) ahead of time. This can save some of the confusion when trying to find a bus stop through a large crowd of people.If driving to the event, find out where the accessible parking spots nearest to your destination are.
Charge your phone fully (and your power chair) before heading out to the event in case you get separated from anyone you are with and need to find them in the crowd. Your phone is also very valuable if you need to find alternate driving or transit routes due to unexpected changes that can occur the day of!
During the Event
LOCATION, LOCATION, (ACCESSIBLE) LOCATION
Once you’re at the event, it may be beneficial to locate any accessible areas right away to ensure you can find them later on in the day or if it gets uncomfortably busy. Some events only offer accessible spaces on a first come, first serve basis so it never hurts to be early.
KEEP COOL, CALM AND HYDRATED
Ensure you have plenty of water with you or available nearby, and don’t forget your wallet! If you have trouble regulating your temperature due to SCI, you may want to ensure you have a plan for any overheating that could occur. Know where to find shade, potential indoor escapes, and the nearest place for a cold drink!
Check if there’s an accessible bathroom that works for your specific needs. Make sure you know where the bathroom is, and enjoy all the drinks your heart (and bladder!) could want. What if the bathroom isn’t really accessible, or there isn’t one whatsoever? In this unfortunate case, it will take more planning on your part to base your time around this. You could try to find another bathroom nearby the area you are spending your time at, or plan your need to use a bathroom around the time to go home.
After the Event
KNOW YOUR GO TIME
You may wish to consider leaving the event early to have an easier time getting back to your mode of transportation and avoiding traffic. While this may not be ideal, it can save you a lot of trouble with the crowds or traffic jams when everyone decides to leave all at once.
MAKE AN EXIT PLAN
Know the easiest route out of the area. It might sound simple, but once you’re amongst huge numbers of people, it can become disorienting to find your way while also avoiding peoples’ toes and other confused passers-by.