I'll start off by saying that Coachella has, for the last 3 years, been one of the most inspiring forces in my life. So much so that the thought of missing it is something that doesn't even compute for me. I think Goldenvoice/Paul Tollett have redefined what a music festival should be (namely, that its humane!). However, last year I lost my ability to walk and have had 4 surgeries since, including a hip replacement. I went to the festival and camped last year before my hip replacement surgery, so I was still relying on a cane and shuttle service to get around. ADA really came through for me, I would have been completely unable to enjoy the festival without their help. However, it was by no means a flawless experience. I was going to make a post listing some suggestions for improvement last year, but never got around to it.
Being more able to walk now after surgery (though still not close to 100%), I thought that I could forego ADA assistance this year. I opted to stay in a hotel and take the shuttle as opposed to camping. Little did I know that the shuttle stop is well over a mile from the actual festival, something that was never mentioned on the website. The amount in which I can walk is finite. After a few miles, my hip starts to give out and shoots radiating pain down my leg with every step. By this point painkillers do nothing. If I was just going to the festival with a normal amount of walking to/from, I would have been more than fine. On the second day, we decided to drive hoping that the walk to the entrance would be minimized. I must have mentioned to 10 security employees that I was disabled and needed ADA parking. My handicapped placard is clearly displayed on my license plate. Somehow, I got directed to a lot that was even further away than the shuttle stop. After the fest I went to the campsite info booth to ask for an ADA shuttle and they said they could do nothing for me because I didn't have an ADA wristband yet. To make matters worse, several different security guards sent me on a wild 3-mile goose chase, sending me back and forth between different lots and only to be told by another security guard that I'm in the wrong place. This guard said "Yes, the lot you need to go to is right down this street only a few hundred feet away, but I can't let you through here, you need to go all the way back to where you came from, then cross over through another lot". I begged and pleaded; I was limping, sunburnt, dehydrated, tired, and at this point, thoroughly annoyed. His response? "I had a pregnant woman that twisted her ankle ask me to let her through and I had to tell her no." Is this really how Coachella wants its disabled patrons to be treated? I'd venture to say no.
1. Shuttles/rides: First off, telling people that the shuttles are primarily designed for people in wheelchairs does not make any sense. If someone can't walk, then they can't walk. Second, there has to be a way to streamline the ability to get shuttles once the festival is over. Both years that I attended while being disabled, I was never able to get a shuttle after the festival, which is really when people need it the most. One year my boyfriend had to carry me back to our campsite because I was told the wait would be upwards of 2 hours. There really should be a way to reserve a ride for a set time, and be able to give contact information in case the driver is gonna be early/late. Third, if someone is taking the hotel shuttle, how on earth are they supposed to get from the shuttle stop to the ADA tent at the front entrance to get a wristband?
2. Bathrooms: This doesn't apply to me as much anymore, but being someone who has spent A LOT of time in wheelchairs/on crutches, I can empathize. Can you imagine trying to use a portapotty in a wheelchair/crutches in 100º heat when the floor is flooded with piss and shit? Theres gotta be a better solution. Yeah, theres handicapped port a potties, but everyone else uses them so they're just as gross as the normal ones. An easy solution may be to just have a single bathroom at the medical tents that can be used only by those with ADA wristbands.
3. Inform more employees on options for the disabled: The biggest problem I've encountered is simply no one knows what they're talking about, or knows who to ask. I'm sure most of you have been misdirected in some form or another by security, I talk to people about this same problem every year. Most of the time the clueless ones are from CSC security or Staff Pro, which is understandable because they're just contracted workers. On the rare occurrence that I find a coachella employee, they know the answer or who to ask but sometimes still can't find me a solution. The Coachella employees are also far more empathetic and will genuinely try to help me, even if they can't. However, almost every time I've talked to someone from CSC/StaffPro they are rude and basically treat me like I'm lying about my condition simply because I don't LOOK disabled (theres not many 25yr olds with hip replacements I guess).
Overall, I think Goldenvoice/Coachella does a much better job assisting the disabled than most other events. I also attended LA Rising when I was using a cane, and everyone was incredibly helpful. I just think these are issues that could be streamlined to not only help festival patrons, but also make it more efficient for ADA employees.
Now that thats off my chest, thank you Coachella for some of the best times of my life. You're worth the pain.