How to attend AND enjoy!
Has this ever happened to you? You want to go to the local MeetUp group, or there’s a concert in town, or there’s a festival that has beer and bacon! Or there’s an outdoor concert on the beach! What about that cute little craft fair sponsored by the local church, or the pumpkin patch you want to take your kids to so they can pick out a pumpkin! Or a convention that will help you in your business, career, or personal growth. You’d LOVE to go to, but you’re apprehensive about attending.
All of these events can be very challenging when you’re on wheels if the people who organized these wonderful opportunities for social interaction didn’t think of those with restricted mobility. This can lead to social isolation and can be a major issue affecting the mental health of people with limited mobility.
So, we have put together a guide that you can use and maybe think of some new ideas for how to manage your next “where I want to go, what I want to do, and how to have fun” list because frankly, you should all have one.
“The purpose of life is to nurture joy, which involves those aspects of humanity that enrich the soul.”
First of all, let’s talk about how to find events near you.
Facebook has an “Events” section where you can find new and upcoming events nearby. You can either be spontaneous, and look for something the day of, or you can plan ahead for the upcoming weeks and months.
Most cities and towns have an informational website where they keep an ongoing “Calendar of Events”. This is a great place to look for local events and to get involved in your community.
Local News Channels & Newspapers
News reporters often cover stories relating to upcoming events and “guides on what to do”. Keep an eye out for featured events in your local papers, magazines, or news channels.
Meetup.com is an online platform that helps you meet new people, learn new things, and pursue your passions with a local group. There are all kinds of groups you can join, such as single groups, age specific groups, music type groups, Mom groups, Dad groups, football groups, etc. If you have an interest, there’s probably a group for you! Whether you want to go watch baseball with other singles, drink some beers at the local pub, or beat a drum by moonlight with your local spirituality group, MeetUp.com is a good place to start. If you’re not feeling the group idea, and would rather go somewhere with a few friends, Meetup.com is still a great resource to find out what’s happening in your area.
Now that you know where you want to go and what you want to do, here’s how to make the most of it.
Indoor Events (Conferences and Conventions)
Contact the event organizers and request accessible features in writing, such as low top tables at conference receptions and networking events. Convention coordinators can also provide volunteers to assist with reasonable accommodations, such as pushing you through large hotels and venues. Dr. Rosemarie Rosetti is an expert in conference and event accessibility, and she advises organizers on access needs; you can hear her advice on this PUSHLiving Podcast episode.
If you want some powered options to help you navigate thick hotel carpets and the long corridors back to your ADA hotel room, Scootaround is an amazing resource. With over 2,500 North American locations, they offer mobility rentals seven days a week for when you’re traveling; whether you’re attending a conference for business taking a vacation cruise for pleasure or whatever the need may be.
Scootaround offers the super slick WHILL Model Ci as a rental, which is a great option for keeping a small footprint and looking state of the art while networking! The Model Ci easily disassembles into three pieces for increased portability, and has game-changing intelligent technology that allows it to be controlled remotely with an iPhone app and Bluetooth.
All you have to do to rent one of these amazing personal electric vehicles is visit their website and fill in the details of your travel location, travel dates, and your equipment preferences, and the chair will be delivered there! They also have 24/7 customer support if you feel more comfortable making a reservation over the phone, or if you encounter any issues with your rental – true piece of mind protection! If you’re looking to buy, they also have you covered with their wide array of mobility devices and accessories available for purchase.
Outdoor Events (Festivals and Concerts)
If you’re attending an outdoor event, you need to do a bit more research and planning. You should view images from the previous festivals or concerts on the event’s website or Facebook page to understand the location, seating options, accessibility options, the surfaces you’ll be rolling on (soil, grass, sand), covered/uncovered areas, and any other barriers to your enjoyment.
You should email the event organizer and tell them your needs in advance, such as requesting accessible pathways and viewing platforms/areas. AccessibleFestivals.com is a great resource for a list of accessible events and advice on attending.
To make any outdoor terrain issues more ‘pushable’, consider adding Freewheel, off-road tires, or you could rent or purchase a WHILL Personal EV, powerchair or scooter to put POWER behind you!
Heavy Duty Powerchairs
WHILL Personal EV
For concerts, you need to be even more tedious in your research and planning. We all know how hard it is to purchase accessible seats before they’re gone (often purchased by those who do not even qualify), so to get your tickets, make sure to sign up for the pre-release ticket notifications through either the venue’s website, the musician’s website, or a 3rd party ticket broker (like Ticketmaster).
Tips from Ticketmaster:
- CheckTicketmaster.com for presale opportunities, fan club presales, special credit card presales, and Facebook Ticketmaster presales, among others.
- Get the Ticketmaster app and create an account in advance of ticket purchases. Buying Ticketmaster tickets on the app is the fastest way to buy tickets online, and tickets are held back to prevent bots from buying all and reselling.
- Check frequently; presales and special offers for different credit cards come and go quickly.
- Save the direct link to the concert you want to attend and mark your calendar for the day general tickets go on sale.
- Call your local box office directly and talk to a representative. Sometimes tickets are held back for certain groups or categories, and they can then be released to you.
Ticketmaster just announced the recent soft launch of a new pilot program at two venues in the UK that’s making ticket purchasing for disabled music fans much easier. The new program gives fans the ability to attach the details of their disability to their online profile, and once it’s validated, these users can purchase accessible tickets for all future events without having to re-do the vetting process. In addition, accessible seats are clearly marked on the concert venue’s map.
Ticketmaster’s MD, Andrew Parsons, told the BBC, “The feedback has been really, really positive,” said Parsons. “We’re very keen to roll it out to a host of new venues now, and I’m challenging all of our teams on that.”
Here’s to this new program coming to a city near you!
For outdoor events, you also need to plan for the weather, and with rain or snow, staying dry is key.
Waterproof ponchos are a great option, as well as waterproof leg covers, waterproof insulated boots, and waterproof gloves.
In addition to precipitation, you must be conscious of potentially high temperatures at outdoor events. To beat the heat, neck coolers can help regulate your temperature, and small spray bottles can create “sweat” for those who have impaired autonomic temperature controls.
There are also products made of special fabric that when wet, will help cool your core temperature. You should wear clothing that’s moisture wicking and breathable, as well as apply sunscreen with an SPF of 50. A sun canopy or umbrella that attaches to your wheelchair is another way to protect yourself from the sun, and these can be rented from Scootaround as well.
Thinking ahead and preparing will make your experience much safer and more enjoyable if it’s going to be a hot day.
In addition to the potential rain, snow, and high temperatures you’ll be battling at outdoor events, you should be wary of low temperatures as well. Keeping warm in the cold can be an aspect of both outdoor and indoor events. Conferences and conventions are typically known for being kept cold to keep attendees alert and to combat the heat from so many warm bodies in a confined space.
Wearing multiple layers is a great strategy for staying comfortable. If you get hot, you can take layers off, if you get cold, you can add them back on. You should pack scarves, hats, gloves, tights, and long underwear. Insulated boots and compression socks will also keep you warm, as well as help with circulation. Invest in a thin, non-bulky, high-tech jacket like these on Popular Mechanics’ Best Winter Technology list. No one wants to worry about carrying around a big, bulky, winter jacket when you’re at an event trying to enjoy yourself.
What Else to Bring
Whether you’re inside or outside, pack wipes, sanitizer, snacks, water, chargers, fully charged extended chargers for when there are no outlets, and an extra cushion for long car rides or for getting out of your wheelchair.
- Keep all medicine in a backpack or in your under-chair compartment.
- Keep money, credit cards, and valuables hidden inside jacket pockets or cross body purses to prevent theft.
- Take note of where event staff or security/police officers are posted. Make them aware of you by saying hello and telling them where you will be seated.
- If someone is behaving in a way that makes you uncomfortable (such as trying to make you dance with them when you already declined, grabbing your wheelchair or touching you), notify the event staff or security/police officers and/or look directly into the eyes of someone close by and say specifically “please help me”. This specific approach is recommended by experts to prevent group apathy.
- Keep an “in case of emergency” contact list in your wallet or somewhere emergency personnel will find. If you suffer from Autonomic Dysreflexia you can download and print cards from the Christopher Reeve Foundation to keep in the same location as your emergency contacts.
- Stay hydrated by using a cup holder, backpack, or under-chair storage.
- You should also bring hydration enhancers that can be added to your water, like these Drip Drop Electrolyte powder sticks, which simulate the contents of an IV bag for hydration. According to research, “While water does a pretty good job of quickly hydrating the body, beverages with a little bit of sugar, fat or protein do an even better job of keeping us hydrated for longer.” This study tells us much of what we already knew; electrolytes — like sodium and potassium — contribute to better hydration, while calories in beverages result in slower gastric emptying and therefore slower release of urination. Be careful if you don’t sweat due to your level of injury, as you don’t want to increase swelling. Check with your doctor to see if this can be added to your hydration plan when drinking alcohol or exposed to high temperatures at events.
Now, I want to make one thing clear. Sometimes, no matter how much you plan, things will not go perfectly. Sometimes, it will be a total bomb, it won’t work out at all, and you might even have to go home (that’s actually happened to me). But remember, you have to push yourself beyond your limits, you have to push beyond the fear and anxiety of what could go wrong and you have to just get out there. You never know who you’re going to meet, what you’re going to learn or experience, and good or bad, it might just make a great story.
Now go rock, roll, and PUSH your way to joy and success!