Over the last week I attended the Animation Festival on Sept 22, 2013, and volunteered at Rock the River on Sept 28, 2013.
Here's a little recap of my experience!
The animation festival was held indoors at various location, the location i went to was the Bytown Theatre. I learned that the accessibility within a indoor location for a festival is dependent on the accessibility of the building, and there is not much that can be changed without a big structural change in the building. Because the building was old, there were no automatic doors, which made entry into the building more difficult for people with accessibility needs, as well seating would only be behind the back row as that was the only space that would allow for a wheelchair. This would create seperation from family members.
Rock the River
Volunteering at a festival was a very different experience from attending a festival. I arrived at 11 am and stayed till about 12 am. Most of that time, I was standing on my feet. Throughout the day I was wondering what of the various task I was doing could be done by anyone with disabilities. As well, I was observing the audience for anyone with disabilities.
The task I did that day included marking people's hands as they entered, the first 1250 would be allowed to go into the main stage, wherease the next 500 would be in the gym area. I also assisted in cleaning up the main auditorium after the first performance, and passing out books at the end when people were leaving.
Here's a little summary of what I did that day.
11 am: arrive on site, signed in, eat lunch
12 pm: found the coordinator that I would be working under
12 - 3 pm: marking people (mainly families with children) as they entered
3 - 4:30 pm: clean the main stage area, clean the face painting area, monitored one of the jumping castle areas
4:30 - 5 pm: dinner
5 - 7pm: marking people (mainly adults and youths) as they entered
7 - 10pm: watched the door for people entering and existing, keeping track of numbers of people within the building.
10 - 11:30pm: Pass out books to people exiting the building.
A main issue I noticed was the importance of communication! I was not as informed as I should have been being in the position that I was in. Since I was placed at the entrance, there were many questions that I was not prepared for. Especially, as the instructions were constantly changing, it was difficult to have a consistent answer. For example, I was told there were no in and out priveledges, but there were so many exception to that rule! It got to a point, where people was just entering and exiting as they please. Or there were no entry into the building after 2, but the exception were if someone had familiy member still within the building or if young children needed to use the washroom. A lot of times, us volunteers at the door were told to make the call to see if the reason is reasonable.
Since the rules were changing, it felt that the 'in and out' rule only applied for the first 2 hours, in order to get a sense of the numbers within the building. Afterwards it was difficult to enforce, or to keep track. For example, we had to keep track of how many red marked people (main stage audience) were permanently leaving the building, so that we could move the "blue marked people" (gym audience) into the main stage, this was difficult as people may forget their colours especially once the marks washed off, people leave very quickly and may not be in the mood to even show you or tell you the colour they were, so we had to guess at times. Seeing that this method was not really working, at the door of the main stage area they developed a new system, which made the work we were doing unnecessary but we weren't sure if we should sitll have continued. In that light, I wish there was more training on the day about logistics and rules, so everyone would be on the same page. But considering that this was the first year the event was held indoors, there were lots of things that were not expected.
In terms of people with disabilities, I noticed that those with disabilities were allowed to enter the building first, and be seated half an hour to an hour before the doors opened. Especially when the audience is mainly youth, I felt that was a good plan, since things got really crazy once the youths entered. One of the rows had seats and spaces between every two or three seats allowing for family or friends to be seated with those who were in their wheelchairs.
Crowd control was another issue, during intermission, it was extreamly difficult to get through the hallway from one end to the other. One of the audience member who was in a wheelchair, was having even more difficulty travelling through the crowd, and seemed to be stuck in one place for a while. If this could have been managed better, in the tight space with the amount of people, that would have made for a better flow within the building.
Of the tasks I was assigned, I felt that being at the entrance marking people, or passing out books could have been done by anyone with a physical disability. I felt that passing out books may even be done better if I was in a wheelchair, cause then I could hold a lot more books in my hands/ lap, and would not miss anyone exiting while trying to unpack and get more books.
Honestly, I had a really amazing time volunteering, though there were times that was confusing, but I feel that anyone can be a good volunteer as long as they have the mindset that they are here to help and to assit, and to have a smile on their face and be welcoming. Anything else, if you don't know the answers to questions, or are confused you can always ask the supervisor, or direct the person to someone else who has the answer.