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Accessibility, ADA, and Wheelchair Tips For Music Festivals

by Laurie Kammer May 31, 2016

mud
Mud doesn’t have to stop you =)

Some of you may be aware that MOST music festivals are full-on obstacle courses. Now consider what that would feel like for someone who loves music, camping, and dancing…..but has extra physical challenges. This blog post is going to give you a new perspective on life at music festivals from the ADA standpoint. Hands-down, no matter what your abilities, you and I both know that being among the environment and vibes of a festival is one of the most enjoyable experiences a person can have. I’m going to give you a small dose of my personal journey and lead you to some other resources out there that will hopefully offer you even more perspective and broaden what’s possible for you and your loved ones.

I’ll start with me. Hey there ~ My name is Laurie,

LaurieHoopUkeleLittleHippie
Working Philly Folk Fest at Little Hippie before my injury

I’m currently a Creative Contributor and Social Media Manager for Little Hippie. I’ve been a true lover of music, festivals, camping, and dancing all my life, and I have been working with Taylor at Little Hippie since I was in my senior year of college. Wow, that was about 10 years ago! The time spent in and out of the Little Hippie van and vending booth prepared me in ways I would have never understood at the time. Being a festival vendor is both hard work in labor as well as a creative challenge. You are always dared to be more and more present so that you don’t miss an opportunity to connect more with customers. Survival and Thrival lessons were well learned and cultured during those years…..

Well, about a year after I stopped vending at music festivals I injured myself from a 15 ft fall out of an unstable tree-house. Yup ~ a true hippie injury….and you’re not allowed to ask me why I was up in a tree! Of course I was up in a tree! Well, this was 5 years ago now and I am truly proud to say that although I live with a complete spinal cord injury from my waist down and spend every day in a wheelchair, I KNOW that is is entirely possible to make things work out so you can get back out and do the things you loved before your injury.

Laurie and Taylor in the adapted Little Hippie booth at Gathering of the Vibes 2012
Taylor and I up late-night with glow toys at the Gathering of the Vibes

I’ll never forget the day Taylor came to visit me in the spring of 2012 in New Jersey, a year after I fell from the tree.

dad
My Dad and a crucial part of the journey…

She sat with me for lunch and planted the seed of hosting me at the Little Hippie Booth once again for the Gathering of the Vibes festival in CT. It had been a year since my injury, and I hadn’t seen much outside of the facilities in which I had healed.  I was just getting “back on my feet” and I missed my festival family who had sent me lots of support throughout my recovery.  Taylor knew how much I wanted to see everyone again and she convinced me I could make it happen, since I had always been the make it happen girl.  This time I would be invited as a guest and if I wanted to contribute as a vendor I could. I remember the feeling of nervousness and excitement that washed over me as we planned all the details. The ramp into the trailer, the wooden floor, the double air mattress, solar shower, commode chair, everything seemed to line up.

I want to share my YouTube video with you of that experience, which also happened to be my birthday weekend, and how it is an experience I’ll always remember. Not only was I reunited with the vendor community and all the bands I loved, I was cared for as a teammate and even if I had challenges, the fun and laughter were far greater. Please take time to watch this video ~

shower
Showering with the solar shower on my travel commode chair!

What to pack to make it happen

Here is a short list of items I needed to make my time enjoyable and easy. This is based on having a Spinal Cord Injury and I know there are many people like me out there who may have more to add to this list! PLEASE leave a comment below and let’s keep this conversation going to help everyone out there who is dying to get back to the music and good vibes! It’s not only fun, it is Healing to be around friends and music.

What I brought for my first festival experience:

bedme
My comfortable set-up

I had the fortune of camping with a vendor which did make things easier, however I feel these items would work in your own private campsite too. As you saw in the video, I used the trailer as my own personal changing and bathroom area and Taylor had a special ramp made for me so that I didn’t have to truck to the portos. I suggest that before you choose a festival, it would be a good idea to consider your bathroom needs. Sometimes you’ll have a REAL bathroom, sometimes a porto-john, and sometimes Nada! For me, this is the most important and nerve-racking detail. It is so important that I keep myself clean and “flowing” so I was blessed and grateful for this experience.

friends
New and Old friends!

At other festivals, I have make-shifted my own bathroom using a tarp, sticks, and a plastic commode seat. I suggest checking out bigger tents or more specifically, “bathroom” tents to make your own, there are so many to look at online. I have also used my transfer board to get into the floor of a van and sleep on a futon mattress. Challenges have been few, but significant in moments…. Yes, I have had bowel and bladder accidents while at festivals. I have even fallen out of my wheelchair! All in All ~ what you need to have with you is your own Creativity, your Willpower, your Perseverance, and a group of Supportive Friends or Family.

trailer
My bathroom and changing room

More resources
As for other resources out there, I have found two great websites that are helpful for learning more about attending festivals with disabilities, asking questions, and looking at the broader range of disability at Music Festivals. Disabilities come in many variations, and they don’t always involve a wheelchair. Many festivals have sign language interpreters on stage, free ear plugs to prevent hearing damage, and special walkways for any physical impairments.

help
I had help from the fellas at the Vibes to take myself and my things to our car, sychronized help is always there when you are open to it.

The first website is http://101mobility.com/blog/music-festival-accessibility/ – Here you will find a guide including festivals and what they offer for people with disability. Unfortunately this list is by far not long enough yet, but we are hoping that over time more people will shift their viewpoint of what is possible and start pitching in to help make these beautiful experiences accessible for  everyone!

There is an amazing mission and website called “Accessible Music Festivals”  – Here you will find a similar story to my own, starting with a spinal cord injury and leading into making festivals an accessible experience for ANY impairment or challenge. Please watch Austin Whitney‘s video and join in and contribute to this amazing mission. You can become a worker with their team and help people out at festivals. It will be an enriching experience AND you’ll be at a festival! WIN-WIN!

Pregnancy & Accessibility 
Last, but by no means least, I also want to add something I feel is important and that is about pregnancy. Just because a woman is pregnant and healthy doesn’t mean that she should not be able to use a bigger or closer or more accessible feature of a festival. The above mentioned site, Accessbile Music Festivals, refers to pregnancy as something they are trying to get out to the scene and I’m all for it. Having the option would make a lot more women able to attend these life changing events in a safe and fun way, and we at Little Hippie are of course all for pregnant women at festivals!

Now off you go Little Hippies!!! Let me know what you create! All my love and best of luck to you on your journeys! Let’s keep the conversation going. I want to hear your ideas!

team
Gathering of the Vibes, 2012

XOXO, Laurie at Little Hippie®

 




Laurie Kammer
Laurie Kammer

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