A Look at Accessibility at Summerfest 2018 --RSS Feed

By Brian Peters, Community Access & Policy Specialist.
I had the opportunity to visit Summerfest on July 3. Known as the World’s Largest Musical Festival, it obviously is the perfect destination for a deaf person on a staycation, right? I didn’t go in my official capacity as the IndependenceFirst Community Access and Policy Specialist, but I am always analyzing accessibility wherever I go, and I knew I would write this blog. The day I went was also “Senior Fest” and I saw quite a few people with mobility devices such as wheelchairs, scooters and walkers.
Summerfest offers advice on various accessibility needs on its website. It has a section regarding sign language interpreters for performances. It said that a “minimum of two weeks prior notice is required so that an interpreter can be secured and materials/lyrics can be obtained from the artist.” That’s a reasonable length of time, similar to what we suggest organizations use as a lead time for accommodation requests. Unfortunately, I first read that on June 28, just five days before the day I was planning to go, and sent an e-mail that evening. I didn’t expect to be able to get an interpreter for the day I planned to go, July 3, but I thought perhaps I could go to shows where there were already interpreters scheduled. Unfortunately, the only two shows with interpreters scheduled on that day were Bishop Briggs and Steven Tyler, both the final shows of the evening at 10 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. I fully expected to be in bed by then, so, no. But kudos to whoever stayed up late for that show—I hope they enjoyed it.
The person I contacted at Summerfest expressed a willingness to try and schedule interpreters even though I contacted her much closer to the date of the show than two weeks ahead of time. Unfortunately, the e-mail I sent on Saturday with the name of the show my sister wanted to attend seems to have gotten lost on its way to her, so we had no interpreter, thanks to my late attempt to secure an interpreter combined with the internet goblins that waylaid my e-mail.
Summerfest was more of a food fest for us as we sampled many different food vendors. We also visited some other exhibits and vendors. I checked out the accessibility of the exhibitors. Some were good, some were bad. Some vendors had NO accessibility for people with mobility disabilities. I saw a person in a wheelchair looking up from the ground trying to peer into a trailer with an exhibition. A reason accessibility is a challenge is because many exhibits are designed into a trailer towed by a truck, and that creates a height that is difficult to make accessible. Vendors of mobile exhibits need to understand that it is their responsibility to provide accessibility or accommodations one way or another.
The L.L. Bean exhibit, however, had not one, but two interesting approaches. The back end of their trailer flipped down to create what looked like a ramp. There wasn’t enough space at the end for a landing, however, due to a food vendor’s tent. But then I noticed that the other entrance with stairs had a BraunAbility lift. I asked a salesperson what they do with the lift and the woman smoothly explained that they pull out the steps to provide access to the lift.

L.L. Bean Exhibit with Lift
The BraunAbility lift at the L.L. Bean
exhibit shows how to make an 
exhibit in a trailer accessible.
Most of the permanent buildings on the Summerfest grounds for food vendors had good accessibility, although the mobile vendors varied, many having high windows for ordering and passing through food. The Briggs and Stratton Big Backyard stage had an area near the stage for people with wheelchairs and scooters. I also noticed similar areas in the other stages for accessibility.
Summerfest is very accessible in general, but could do better in some areas, particularly with outside vendors. (Call me! I do accessibility surveys, and I can do disability etiquette presentations for staff and volunteers, too.)
When visiting community events such as festivals, people with disabilities should always check the event website for accessibility information as some requests for accommodations can take time to meet. If there does not seem to be enough information on the website, contact the organizers and let them know they need to do better! Also let them know if you are dissatisfied with the accessibility or accommodation so they know improvements are needed.
I assist business owners and managers with increasing accessibility and providing disability etiquette training to staff, and I also assist people with disabilities who encounter access barriers in their communities. Please contact me at 414-937-5912 VP/Relay if you would like to discuss improving access to customers and employees or advocating for access barrier removal.

| Tuesday, 7/10/2018 - 12:44 PM | 0 comments
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