TL;DR: Accessibility Policy of local music festival needs revision to avoid failing those with "invisible" disabilities.
I want to approach last night's personally humiliating situation with a caring and understanding disposition. I mean, maybe people fake handicaps to get special treatment? That's really unfortunate for people like me who have a (sometimes) invisible disability.
I do not have a ParaTranspo account and driving was not an option with the extreme road closures. My partner and I decided to Uber to the location but were dropped off fairly far away due to said closures. Hundreds of people including police and security witnessed me "doing my best" to walk (which was more of a painful hobble) from Scott and Preston down to Wellington.
Once there, we were told by a security person to talk with the accessibility volunteers working a gate that was fairly close by.
"Yes!" I'm thinking. "Finally, we can get in and sit down!" Because at 30, I have to sit down at a concert because it's too painful to stand for a length of time.
July 13 EDIT: We were instructed by a police officer and festival security to speak with staff at the Para Transpo/Accessible Entrance gate to gain nearer entry to festival grounds. At that gate, volunteers told us we couldn't enter without proving my disability. Look down and to the right for some of the things security asked me for. None of these items are listed under the festival's "Accessibility Policy" so there is no way for festival goers to know.
As a result, we had to walk to the main gate which was much further away. It was very painful.
I don't want to relive the experience that keeps playing over and over in my head this morning... It was humiliating, spirit breaking and poorly handled. This is the same shit I've been dealing with my entire life - "where's your proof"?
Being a meticulously over prepared person by nature, I wasn't expecting to be caught off guard. I checked and double checked what was OK to bring into the grounds. We Ubered as close as we possibly could to spare me pain and energy (I have a limit). I did not know I needed any of these extra things to prove what was last night (and what has been this last couple weeks) visible: my disability.
If it wasn't my favorite artist playing I would have left.
I was so upset that I cried while limping to the main gate.
I cried while security watched us enter the main gate.
I cried when my partner was approached by the leader of the accessibility services team with bracelets to the accessibility area for concert viewing as a way to try to make up for our shitty start to the night. (???)
Things security suggest I do:
- Bring them my handicapped parking permit
- Provide a doctor's note
- Call my manager, a coworker or former coworker to corroborate my claims of being physically handicapped
I'm 30 and have had Rheumatoid Arthritis for 28.5 years. I have good days and bad days. My body has been at war with itself, literally eating away at joints from my toes to my neck (everything except my back is affected). Not only does RA wreak having on bones and joints, the three decades of drug use has killed my stomach, esophagus and organs used to filter said medicines.
Despite spending a lot of my childhood in hospitals (CHEO, SickKids and Hugh McMillan) I didn't grow up focusing on the things I can't do. I focus instead on the things I can.
I can use my voice to ask YOU the public and concert/festival/venue organizers to be better at not making people with a lot going against us feel like you're against us, too.
Please clearly post or state that in order to benefit from an accessible entrance or accessibility services, one must bring proof of one's disability. In my case, going home to retrieve proof was not an option physically.