Caitlin Klarich ‘21
We all enjoy going to arenas for different events such as music, sports, etc., however, people usually do not pay attention to how accessible arenas actually are. Researching different disability-friendly arenas was somewhat hard. To be completely honest, there weren’t many that were FULLY accessible. Sure, they had wheelchair entrances as well as seating but that was about it. While I was researching, I thought of terms spoken about during this course. The first being barrier-free design, to highlight how many arenas only take a certain type of disability into account, such as those who only use wheelchairs. The second term is compliance knowledge, to touch on the idea that many of the architects who design these arenas, only take into consideration what they need in order to meet legal codes, such as those regulated by the ADA. I would also like to touch on the term of Universal Design and how it is or is not used when creating arenas for those with a disability in the past and now. I think that this concept will always be a work in progress, for we are always evolving and creating ways to be even more disability-friendly when looking at design. Lastly, the term Social Progress is important in regards to “the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens.” Citizens are different. Not every human is the same. Therefore, this idea of Social Progress is something that we as humans need to focus on daily. This means that we need to include everyone, especially those with disabilities that may get overlooked. However, after some research, I found the Toyota Arena located in Ontario, California to be a positive arena.
After browsing through their website, I found that they have many features which are disability friendly, to more than just wheelchairs. Firstly, they have sign language interpreters. Although they cannot guarantee this for every event, they mention that they do their best to accommodate each and every hearing impaired guest. This interpreter would offer their skills to the hearing impaired guests so that they can join in the fun as well. In regards to hearing, they also offer assisted listening devices as well. Another interesting addition to their stadium teamed with Caption Colorado to create the closed captioning applications for iPhones or Androids in order to read the arena and emergency announcements shown or broadcasted throughout the games. The arena takes into consideration that not everyone may have the ability to own one of these devices, so, you can check out Androids for the event that you are attending and return it when you are finished. Lastly, each row of the accessible seating areas have at least one outlet box just in case some may need to charge their medical equipment and/or wheelchairs. The arena also offers wheelchair escorts, wheelchair or walker storage, disabled parking, a pick off or drop off area, elevators, signs with braille, accessible emergency evacuation, accessible restrooms and allows the use of service dogs. The specific accommodations that I previously highlighted are additions that I have not heard of or seen in a stadium yet! Every stadium should at least have all of these resources to assist those with disabilities.
QUICKEN-LOAN ARENA (AKA ROCKET MORTGAGE FIELDHOUSE)
However, an arena that is known for being disability friendly and exceeding certain expectations is that of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yes, they cater to all of the ADA’s guidelines in being disability friendly, however, prior to 2017, they were not friendly to ALL disabilities, specifically those that may not be seen. During an Autism Awareness night, a young boy with non-verbal autism was turned away due to the speaker that he must wear in order to communicate through his iPad. He could have chosen to take it off and stay for the game but that is extremely limiting and horrifying for a young boy who wanted to see his all-time favorite team play at home. His mother then tweeted at the arena and when they saw, they urged her to DM them the story. The higher-ups at the Quicken-Loan Arena, now known as the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, immediately went to work to fix this issue that is extremely serious. Once they found the answer to this issue, they were known to be the first Sensory Inclusive Arena in all of American Sports. They decided that they will give those who are dealing with conditions such as autism, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease, and early-onset dementia a sensory bag. Within each bag, there will be sound bending headphones, fidget toys, weighted lap pads, and feelings thermometers. However, if the event that they are attending suddenly becomes too overwhelming for them but they don’t want to exit just yet (they may not be let back in if they do), they can go into a sensory room where they can calm down. Additions such as the ones mentioned are extremely important when creating arenas that are supposed to cater to all. This situation reminds me of a term mentioned in class named, Epistemic Activism. This term is cohesive with this particular story because it proves the idea that architects are mainly a thing of the past. Different professionals, such as the higher-ups involved with the Quicken-Loan Arena, are now involved in order to allow for accessibility and differing perspectives on how to design a building. Just because you may not be able to see a disability, does not mean it is less important.
Writing this article really enabled me to become more educated on an important topic that I previously did not know much about. I believe that there is a lot more to be done with this specific topic and it could be done even on campus, at SJU. For example, we could try to focus on making Hagan Arena more accessible than it is now. Maybe the school could take ideas such as the captioning app that Toyota uses or implement sensory bags and rooms like Quicken-Loans. There is much to be done everywhere but it would be interesting to see how we could focus on improving our school before others. The first step is stating the issue and talking about it. The second is putting our words into action. This means that we need to include everyone, especially those with disabilities that may get overlooked.