BuskerFest Accessibility


It's tradition. Every year around this time, I post something that shamelessly points out that it's my birthday and closely connected to that, often in the same post, I rant about BuskerFest. This is the four-day festival celebrating street performers that takes over my neighborhood to the point where it's hard to go anywhere is as a regular resident and nigh on impossible as a person using a wheelchair.

This year is no different. However, this year the ranting post and the one with photos from BuskerFest that are not related to accessibility issues will be split up. Today, I rant. Tomorrow, I share the fun.

The ranting part involves two targets. One is clueless people. Of which there were many. We started the festivities by catching the end of a performance that involved fire. My latent pyromaniac loves such things, so we decided to check it out. Even better, the grand finale involved the performer jumping through a ring of fire on a skateboard. The reason this was so terrific (aside from the jumping through a ring of fire) was that he needed to have a good run in order to make the jump and asked the crowd to open up and create a clear path. All of a sudden, instead of just black smoke above people's heads, I could see the ring of fire and I quickly got out my camera and focused on the flames. Whooosh! Someone on a skateboard flew past me and equally whoosh! The crowd close up the circle again. Giving me this photo of the daredevil act


Trust me. Somewhere behind all those arses is some nut bar jumping through a circle of flame.

A bit later, the ant herder and his charges went by (don't worry, this will make sense tomorrow) and I was just about to get a terrific photo of the guy when some woman felt compelled to walk in front of me so she could see him better.


Nice shirt, lady. Not exactly my intended shot, though.

And then there is BuskerFest itself. Last year, I wrote about how they had implemented an Accessibility Strategy to address complaints from people such as myself who are in effect completely excluded from participating in this event. Last year, I even gave one thumbs-up (no need to get crazy) to the efforts, had a good time and didn't get to crabby about the whole thing. Want to hear how this year went?

On Thursday during the setup, I walked home from the grocery store and came to a point on the sidewalk that was being blocked off by a street vendor cart and some luggage. I cleared my throat meaningfully, thinking that people were just in the middle of moving things around, but was told that they'd let me through, but after that, the sidewalk was being blocked again. I commented all friendly like that there are a lot of people with disabilities in this neighborhood who might want to use the sidewalk, to which they cheerfully replied "walk-through is on the street!" Nevermind if you wanted to go to the bank or the supermarket…

  
Later that day, I crossed the street where the entrance was set up. Set up so close to the curb cut that when you were behind a small group of say, about four people (as I was at the time), a wheelchair could not get up to the sidewalk. And the light was changing. On a very busy street.



But what about the people who were designated to look out for people with disabilities and help them navigate the grounds and get a spot near a performance where they could see what was going on? I saw one such station and one such person (who didn't see me because they were busy looking at a performance) and I was there for two hours. Granted, I wasn't looking for someone, but the accessibility helpers were dressed in T-shirts the bright blue of the accessibility sign with a giant symbol of a wheelchair, so they wouldn't be hard to spot. All the years of living with a disability have taught me to instinctively spot that color and that symbol.

To be honest, I really don't think that you can make a festival of street performers terribly accessible. The nature of the beast is that people are going to watch performances in tightly packed circles, so that limits to what you can reasonably expect.

 

However, you can expect that entrances will be placed in a location that do not block wheelchairs from getting out to the sidewalk. You can expect that sidewalks will not be blocked. And you can expect more people in blue T-shirts.

And by the way… Hanks and Wine Bar still don't want my business.



You can still enter the Birthday Contest - it closes at 6 PM tonight.
   

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