On the 5th, I attended Ottawa's Folk Fest. This was my first opportunity as a designer to be aware of the disabled in a festival setting. Before then, I had honestly been blind to the concept. This event led me to understand the great need for accessible design. I didn't see any obviously disabled people at the festival but that doesn't mean there weren't any. Of course, there are the less visibly disabled individuals but this may also indicate a seclusion of the physically disabled.
As the night progressed, I became aware of the grotesque inaccessibility of the event. One of the main aspects that struck me was the possibility a disabled person’s difficulty to enjoy the same show as an abled person. I was sure this is what I wanted to focus upon as my major project. I’m passionate about music and passionate about festivals and I’m sure many disabled people share this same mentality. I wanted to provide to these people, the same experience I was fortunate enough to experience.
Another serious issue thought about whilst attending Folk Fest was way finding and maneuverability. The first obstacle we came across walking to the festival grounds was a massive hill. As an abled person, I can’t even imagine how a physically disabled person would overcome this. The grounds themselves were all grass with mild terrain. This could potentially cause some discrepancies as well.
I left feeling empathetic but with no vision as to how to address these problems.
My research was slow to begin because of a serious lack on information. It’s no secret that the disabled of any caliber often go overlooked. His was especially evident in a festival setting. Jasmine kindly forwarded me an organization called Attitude is Everything (http://www.attitudeiseverything.org.uk/about-us) . They “ support the music industry to make live music events more accessible” to the deaf and disabled. Attitude is Everything offers training and auditing for festivals in order to rate them on an accessibility scale. They also implement raised wheelchair stages to help physically disabled attendees to see and enjoy the festival.
I also looked in CDAC- Carleton Disability Awareness Centre (http://cusaonline.ca/cdac/) and found that “Carleton [was] one of the most accessible universities in Canada. This fact holds very true even throughout Ottawa as a city. I wanted to look into what Carleton was doing to help its students because university is a place to get involved and active and it can be difficult as a disabled person. CDAC provides students in need with the ability to become a part of things like “Able Arts, Wheelchair Challenge, Wheelchair Basketball, and Jokes On Wheels”. I hope to utilise some of these resources in the future of my major project.
Next week, we’re meeting with Dean Mellway and Barry McMahon to talk to them about their disabilities and their roles in the festival community.