With the thread about LGBTQ+ inclusion/safety and Championships, I had my own flashback to last year’s championships and their abysmal inclusion of those with disabilities. Particularly those with mobility issues. I saw there would be ADA seating available this year for one person and guest - but that was the only mention of ANYTHING disability related. Nothing about teams seating together or other needs. I am hoping teams with special needs get to put that in the Registration.
What about other events? I was happy to see that Bedford was able to reserve seating for team members at the FIM Jackson event. And the pits were very close to the field. Clearance and walkways were a bit tight for wheelchair access. But the field, pits, and lunch were on the same level, and the handicapped parking were guarded to make sure access was preserved for those who needed it.
FIM Lansing was pretty well set up, spacious pit area from my POV as a volunteer
Absolutely no closed captions which continues to disappoint.
How were your events? Any great innovations in access?
We had a problem with accessibility at the St. Louis regional at the Chaifetz Arena. One of our mentors wanted to bring his mother-in-law who uses a wheelchair but the only wheelchair accessible entrance was at the top of a tall hill and off limits. This was a significant problem especially since in the reveal video, one of the drivers was in a wheelchair. At Chaifetz, this driver would have not been able to participate because of the small aisles, stairs, and lack of planning. We ended up having to sign her up as a volunteer and she had a blast.
However, there was one part of the venue that pleasantly surprised me. Tucked to the side was a quiet room intended for helping prevent sensory overload. Despite being a little cluttered and not exactly calming, this was a great place to catch a few breaths and process privately.
Overall, have seen a great increase in awareness of mental health and support for the LGBTQ+ community but some improvements (mobility awareness and reminders about Neurodiverse needs) could be made.
I think it’s worth keeping mind that there are things that events can do to help increase accessibility, and there are things that are really up to the venue and out of the event planners hands (aside from finding a different venue, which may be difficult for a number of reasons).
I know at Great Northern in week 2 we made accommodations for a student in a wheel chair. Knowing ahead of time, we located their pit to be more accessible (on a corner near the field instead of in the middle of the aisle) and prepped the ramp that comes with the field in the event they would be on the drive team (I seem to recall someone needing to replace the wheels on it). Fortunately for that event, everything is in one big room - pits, field, practice field, sponsor booths, and a large lunch area. Obviously stands are stands (and accessible from field-side, only separated by a curtain), but there’s plenty of room to walk/stand around the field if needed. Really the only thing that isn’t in that one room are concessions, which are up a level behind the stands (from what I understand… I’ve never actually gone up there myself). I never had a reason to interact with that student, but I certainly hope he felt that the venue was accessible, and that the volunteers were approachable should he have needed anything!
Every event I’ve been to this year has had a quiet room available. I hope people have found it useful!
I’ve only been to one event so far this year: FiT Belton.
I’m still recovering from a nasty illness that left me struggling a bit. For this venue, they made a point to make more space between the field and score table so I’d have room for a wheelchair if I needed it. My walker was allowed by the field throughout the event. There was a stool immediately next to my station so I could sit and let the heart rate relax a bit. There were also chairs moved to useful areas around the score table so I could use those between matches.
Beyond that, I had received several offers to drive me the hour or so to the event and check-ins to make sure the accommodations they had in place were sufficient for me to feel like I’d be able to work through the event.
It’s not a team experience report. But, it was nice as a volunteer experience.
Thank you so much on behalf of that student and others!
One of my FTC teams has a student with a powerchair and vent and my own son (FTC) has mobility issues that requires frequent rest and limited stairs for him to make it through the day. We have an email we send to the EC several times before an event (as soon as we know we are attending, a week and a day before) so we can ensure that accommodations can and will be made. And the FIRST Volunteers from the EC on down have been AMAZING at making sure everything is awesome and accessible for all my students (pit location, spectator area, medical area.). Both will be in FRC next year, and I don’t expect for them to have anything but a great time at events.
My own experience is that accessibility for spectators is not great. We had a parent with a broken leg at champs that missed a day just because the only stands available were just utterly painful. My youngest son (who has been to more FRC events then most seniors) really struggles especially at venues with stairs. FiM Saline last year was great for those spectators as the track was on entry level and you could set up a chair for someone in a cast. But it was murder on anyone who wanted to go to the pits (long crowded hallway, a gazillion stairs).