With so much input the days before, I went to class with an open mind and no direction. I was excited to get firsthand information from potential users. Dean Mellway and Barry McMahon, 2 physically disabled gentlemen came to talk to the festival group about the needs of the disabled in festival settings. They briefed us on what they did for a living and got into their daily struggles as disabled people. We were told to go into the project as if we knew nothing about the topic but I truly knew nothing about being disabled so the meeting was very informative. Barry, a member of the NCC (National Capital Commission http://www.canadascapital.gc.ca/) and Dean, a professor at Carleton explained the difficulties they faced as avid festival goers. They emphasized two major issues they face at festivals and in daily life.
The first was about way finding. Barry referenced Canada Day back in July and talked about how when everyone was leaving, people were unable to see him and people were hitting him accidentally. He came to a curb and his wheelchair wants able to go over it so he had to turn around and go against the crowd which proved to be even harder. He suggested using indicators to highlight the accessible routes so disabled people don’t get disoriented in the mix. Dean also addressed the hill going up to the Ottawa Folk Fest and festivals with their events on hilly terrain. As a disabled person in a manual wheelchair, hills are huge problems and they can cause someone to skip an event because of potential hazards.
The second issue revolved around the accessibility of the washrooms. Dean who is in a manual wheelchair says he has no problems using the designated disability washrooms if there are any but Dean who is in an electric wheelchair cannot. His wheelchair is far too big to fit into a washroom and turn around. Because festivals often only have portable toilets, Dean is sometimes forced to skip events.
Other important things to think about:
Don’t seclude people, integrate them. Don’t make them feel like they’re different. They may have different needs, but they want to be treated like everyone else.
Don’t only design for physical disabilities. Other disabilities exist that get even less attention than being in a wheelchair.