If you know me, you know I love going to the California State Fair! This year I wanted to pay close attention to accessibility at the Fair. In particular, I wanted to find out what challenges wheelchair-users have encountered.
(Disclosure: I received a media pass which included parking and admission. I also attended Media Day, held the day before the Fair opened. Some of the information listed below came from that event.)
I attended the Fair with the intention of writing about accessibility. Many of the questions listed below were answered by personnel at the Media Center and/or by Guest Services.
My Facebook Query
Hello, FB friends. I’m doing a little crowd-sourcing here.
I will be attending the California State Fair this year with a media credential – which means I will be sharing on Social Media and also writing about the Fair on my blog.
Because my focus is mainly on accessibility, I want to know what accessibility issues / options YOU may have a question or concern about.
I’d like my media contribution to be helpful to people who use wheelchairs, walkers, or other assistive devices. I can also do a little research about special-needs food offerings (but I will do so with a disclaimer).
So if you are a regular Fair-goer, or are thinking about / planning to go this year, let me know what accessibility questions you have that I might be able to explore for you.
I asked, and people responded!
LORA: It was difficult to take my mother on the overhead tram ride because we had to push her wheelchair up that steep ramp.
KERRI: I will be there [on] the 13th-15th for concerts, but I’m in a manual wheelchair, and the venue never changes. The steepness of Cal Expo is nearly impossible to push alone.
So I asked the Media Center: If someone in a manual wheelchair needs assistance getting up the steeper slopes (i.e., to the Monorail entrance) can they solicit the help of Fair staff?
The response I received was this: We do not have anyone on Staff. However, if someone has special needs (needs help in a wheelchair) then an aid can accompany them to Fair and does not pay for admission.
Side note: I was surprised to notice an elevator in Building A (which houses the County Exhibits). This would allow patrons to get upstairs – giving them access to the shopping vendors in Building B.
Accessible Restroom Stalls
LORA: Also it was tight in some restrooms to get through to the one disabled stall.
KERRI: It is really hard to find an empty accessible bathroom
Agreed. The accessible stall in the restroom is often furthest from the door. If there’s a crowd – either waiting in line or using the sinks – it would be difficult to navigate to the stall.
Horse Arena and Common Courtesy
KATHY: I am a wheelchair user for the past 27 years. I am a regular attendant of the California State Fair.
Last year I had a problem seeing one of the horse shows. They put a platform up for people in wheelchairs. But all of the able-bodied people stood right in front of us even though they could see perfectly that we were sitting there. None of us could see anything. We would ask people to move and they would completely ignore us and there was no one around as far as staff who could assist us.
I didn’t ask Media or Guest Services about this problem, since the Fair cannot fix thoughtless people.
My own [snarky] suggestion is that the wheelchair-users should bring water pistols to squirt the offenders.
(Of course, since it’s usually really hot at the Fair, those thoughtless people might enjoy being sprayed!)
Concerts at the Golden 1 Main Stage
KATHY: The seating for the concerts is another issue. They have a separate area up a little higher for wheelchairs. But the area is so small. When you get a bunch of people there there isn’t enough room for everyone to be able to see around each other. They need to have a larger space for people with disabilities.
KERRI: That concert platform is fine IF they let you sit up there, but there needs to be accessible seating closer to the stage.
So I asked Guest Services: Could you tell me if there is any special wheelchair-accessible seating for the concerts at the Golden 1 Main Stage? There appears to be a platform area near the reserved seating section, but it’s not marked and I don’t know whether it’s for wheelchair users.
And their response: There is wheelchair-accessible seating for sale if you’d like to guarantee a reserved spot. You’re also welcome to the area on the platform that is reserved for our guests in wheelchairs – this area is free of charge and is available on a first come, first serve basis.
(FYI while I was at the Fair last week I asked one of the Security personnel where wheelchair users can sit during the concerts. He said that a folding chair can be removed on the concert floor] so the wheelchair can fit at the end of one of the front rows. As you can see, that’s not the same response I received from Guest Services, but this is another option.)
FRANCISCO: I would love to see Deaf awareness day or what Deaf accommodations the fair makes.
According to the Media Center, all of the concerts on the Golden 1 Stage have a sign language interpreter.
Renting Mobility Devices | Keeping Them Charged
MARY ANN: Do they still offer wheelchairs near the entrance that can be used or rented by patrons who can’t walk long distances?
Yes, they do. There are at least three stations that rent wheelchairs, scooters, wagons and strollers. One friend noted that the price is a little steep. However, I think if you have mobility issues and these devices can help you save your energy and enjoy the Fair then the price is reasonable.
CARRIEANNA: Are there any charging stations? Can you charge your phone somewhere, or could I charge my chair somewhere or a scooter or something like that?
When asked, Guest Services pointed out that the State Fair map shows where four wheelchair recharging stations are located within the Fair. (I never would have noticed, and I was glad Carrieanna asked this question.)
(When my phone battery was low I used one of the recharging stations.)
Other Special Needs
Parking Lot Transportation
This year SMUD debuts its electric self-driving shuttles, called Olli, at the California State Fair.
From the Media Advisory I received at Media Day: “SMUD is partnering with Cal Expo to showcase autonomous driving shuttles at the California State Fair. Known as Olli, this self-driving, electric shuttle seats up to eight people and a “safety steward” to ensure a positive rider experience. It will provide guests with a free ride from the parking lot to the main gate . . . It’s programmed to stop at specific locations to pick up and drop off passengers, and is outfitted with sensors that will stop when it senses obstacles approaching its path.
“The public can ride Olli during the State Fair by registering at http://www.rideolli.com.”
We rode on the Olli during Media Day. It was comfortable, air-conditioned and the safety-steward was knowledgeable and pleasant. And Olli is wheelchair-accessible, with a ramp for entrance and tie-downs for safety. (And did I mentioned that it’s air-conditioned?!)
Special Diet Foods
I asked about gluten-free food options at the Fair, and was told that “While there are many gluten-free options (anything that is primarily meat or sugar based), we were not able to list it in the [State Fair] app prior to Fair starting.”
(I downloaded the App and didn’t find any listing of gluten-free foods.)
However, for those of you who don’t eat animal products there is a vegan food booth. Frik’n Vegan Foods LLC, is in California Building B. Their food is delicious AND they have gluten-free nachos!
It’s a start! Yay!
I hope this information is helpful and will encourage wheelchair users and others with mobility challenges to go enjoy the California State Fair.
(Photo credit and copyright: Jeri Murphy Photography)