Friday, 30 August 2013

The Accessible Ex

It's not easy being green..... 

Local fall fairs, festivals and exhibitions bring back some pretty wicked childhood memories for most of us.  We live in a region where most of these activities signal the end of summer, the return to school for the little ones, and the beginning of the busy day to day schedule.  The rides! The food! The games! The smash up derby!  The music! The midway lights, sights and sounds!

The Pilot

Stop! Stop! STOP!

For some of us, and some of our children, the fair is a completely overwhelming experience that is not fun. The noise is too noisy, the rides are too fast, the lights are too bright and the crowds are confusing.  The rides are not easy to get on if you are in a wheelchair or have movement difficulties, and the crowds of people waiting behind you are often not very kind. I am not angry when I say this, I truly understand that waiting really stinks sometimes. But I also understand the other side of that- because we often wait longer, or go at times when there will be fewer crowds, just so that nobody has to wait for us. Sometimes, we don't go at all.

It isn't always easy to ask for special consideration.  In fact, it never is. And as a special needs parent it never really ends.

I was a bit surprised when we received an invitation to an event called "Terrific Thursday".  Families with special needs kids were invited to attend the Quinte Exhibition event, held before the official opening of the fair. This was a sensory sensitive event!  No music, no crowds, no bright lights.  The event was held in partnership with the Quinte Ex, World Famous Rides, the YMCA and the Belleville Fire Department.  Lunch was provided by Boston Pizza.  WOW!
First time ever! 

It felt almost too good to be true.  The volunteers from the YMCA registered us at the gate.  The Firefighters were stationed at every ride.  I got all teary watching them gently carrying participants out of wheelchairs and into rides. Because I'm a big sap, I cried even more when they took the time to make sure that my kids were safe and strapped into each ride.  As I said before, it's hard to ask for special consideration. But there, in that space, I didn't have to ask for anything. I didn't have to explain anything. We could just be. I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of volunteers that took time out of their day to make our day so perfect.  It was an amazing experience for us as a family, and one that we will never forget.  To the organizers and volunteers we offer our humble thanks.
The ride won't move until everyone is strapped in!

This is community.  This is accessibility. This is something that we so desperately need! 

So what I am asking from you, Quinte Region, is this type of event something that you would like to see more of?  And if so, what works for you?  We have very very few things locally that are geared toward kids with special needs.  I want ideas!  I want plans!  Leave me a message below and let's chat!

Thank you so much!