Beautiful things happen when everyone is included
The Ottawa Fringe Festival has returned, and I’ve been having a blast so far.
Before I get into the good stuff, I must mention Para Transpo.
I had planned to attend the Ottawa Fringe Festival last Thursday night with my friend; My ride was booked for 4 pm. After waiting thirty minutes, I called Para Transpo to see where my ride was. By the time someone picked up the phone, it was 4:50. The person on the other end of the line told me that my ride would be there in two minutes.
Based on my experience with Para Transpo over the years, I can tell you there’s no such thing as two minutes or five or ten minutes.
Most callers who work for Para Transpo say a random number of minutes to get me off the phone.
The Para Transpo operator said my ride would be there in two minutes. I had enough nonsense, so I cancelled my ride. The main show that I wanted to see started at six that night. I don’t live far away from the Ottawa Art Gallery, but for all I knew, my driver could have had another pick-up or drop-off in a remote part of the city.
I was angry and frustrated with Para Transpo, but what else is new?
Life still rolls on.
That’s enough of the negativity. It’s time to focus on the positives regarding the Ottawa Fringe Festival.
I was a bit nervous about the Ottawa Fringe Festival this year due to my past experiences.
Several years ago, I volunteered at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and I’ve been to a few shows since. In my experience, I didn’t find it to be very wheelchair accessible, especially the shows at the University of Ottawa.
Thankfully, things have really improved since then.
When I arrived at the Ottawa Art Gallery, I was welcomed by volunteers.
They directed me to the box office, so I could pick up my tickets, pass, and pin. It was a simple process, and the person at the box office was accommodating and respectful toward me.
My first show on Saturday night was The Emergency Monologues. I won’t describe the show, but it’s hilarious. I highly recommend checking it out.
Go to https://ottawafringe.com/show/the-emergency-monologues/ for more info and showtimes.
The Emergency Monologues offers an ASL interpreter for their shows, which is incredible.
ASL is American Sign Language, which is used for hearing impaired people.
As I mentioned earlier, the Ottawa Fringe Festival has improved its accessibility and has made us feel welcome, which is severely lacking at other festivals,
In terms of accessibility at this year’s Ottawa Fringe Festival, they offer:
– ASL interpreters
– Audio Description of the shows
– Open Captioning
– Reduced capacity performances,
One more thing to mention is that the Ottawa Fringe Festival has a new access initiative called “Listen Everywhere.”
For more accessibility information, please visit https://ottawafringe.com/shows/ to see what accessibility features are currently available for each show.
Figuring out how to get to certain stages and areas of the building can be confusing. Volunteers are located everywhere and will help you if you need directions.
Also, the bathrooms that I used were both really accessible, and both had big stalls.
While I’m on the subject of accessibility, some of the elevators at the Ottawa Art Gallery are really small, but that’s directly due to the design of the building.
Before I end this week’s article, I want to talk about an amazing moment that I had at one of the shows this past weekend.
On Saturday night, I went to see RAVEMOMS.
RAVEMOMS is exactly what it sounds like.
DJ Karen and VJ Sharon guide you through rave culture, including the history of the rave scene,
Audiences are encouraged to dance if they wish. Dancing is optional, and audiences are welcome to sit, enjoy the show, and leave the performance if they want to. It’s entirely up to you, and it is a judgment-free zone, which is fantastic in itself.
For the first few minutes of the performance, I sat in the front row, observed, and danced a bit to the music. In my mind, I was secretly plotting when or if I would roll onto the dance floor.
….and yes, yes, I did.
Part of the reason I decided to join is that Ottawa has a severe shortage of wheelchair-accessible dance floors. I have no idea when my next chance to bust a move will be. I almost typed, bust a wheel, but no, that would be a bad thing.
I took advantage of the opportunity and got on the dance floor.
So, I’m dancing, enjoying the house music, and loving the vibe.
Various people danced with me and welcomed me to join their groups.
Near the end of the performance, a beautiful moment happened.
Suddenly, most of the audience circled me and just started dancing, cheering and clapping.
At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but then I realized it, and I drank it in while I continued dancing and showed my genuine appreciation for the moment.
As a person with a disability, I have difficulty feeling welcomed in the community, especially regarding wheelchair accessibility and safe spaces to move around and be my true self.
I want to thank everyone at the Ottawa Fringe Festival for making me feel welcomed and included.
Of course, I want to give a HUGE shoutout to RAVEMOMS for always being a safe space for myself and everyone else. I HIGHLY recommend checking out RAVEMOMS at the Ottawa Fringe Festival.
For more information, including showtimes, go to https://ottawafringe.com/show/ravemoms/
If any audience members from the Saturday, June 17th show happen to read this, thank you so much for including me and creating such a beautiful moment. I’m genuinely grateful, and I needed it. I hope to see some of you at one of the many ongoing shows.
I will return to the Ottawa Fringe Festival later this week and on the weekend.
I hope to see you there.