Katie Cotton has lots of people in her immediate circle who live with disabilities. It has helped inform her perspective and guide her interactions with those who may need special accommodations.
So when her employer Bandwidth stepped in to sponsor AccessAbility Day at the State Fair — a first for the fair – she was thrilled for what that would mean for others. And even for people who might not see themselves as needing a special accommodation for accessibility.
“Almost every single one of us will need accommodations at some point in our lives. Some of us are born with disabilities, some of us tear our ACLs playing soccer. We all age,” Cotton said. “AccessAbility Day is for everyone! It matters so that no matter where you are in life, or how you need to get around and experience the world, you can experience the joy of the fair. You don’t have to sit it out.”
Cotton’s point is well taken, as the World Health Organization states on its website that “almost everyone is likely to experience some form of disability ─ temporary or permanent ─ at some point in life.”
On AccessAbility Day, Sunday, Oct. 17, the fairgrounds, vendors and midway will lower the sounds and lights from 9 a.m. to noon to lessen the sensory stimulants for people who can become overwhelmed by them. During the day, guests will also have access to the Bandwidth Chill-Out Zone to provide a safe retreat from outside stimulation.
This is the second fair Powers Great American Midways works where the music and lights will be turned off for part of a day for those who need a less stimulating environment, said Marc Janas, a spokesman for Powers Great American Midways.
The Dutchess County Fair in New York has been offering a similar day for the past three years and interest has grown steadily, Janas said.
Janas said the event has been well received in New York and the carnival provider has been happy to lend a hand for this special day. “It has not been difficult for us to participate and we’ve had positive feedback from fairgoers. Each year interest in the day has grown.”
Turning down the music and lights can have a big impact, as can having a designated quiet space, Cotton said.
“Even if you don’t experience sensory overload, most people know what it feels like to be panicked or anxious. You feel your heart race, you get overwhelmed. That fight or flight response kicks in,” Cotton said. “For some people, that’s what over stimulation feels like.”
“Turning down the stimuli that are overwhelming makes a huge difference. So does having calming spaces to retreat and recover. Man, what a game changer for these families. So people can come and have fun without worrying about getting overwhelmed and panicked.”
Another helpful item for AccessAbility Day is a flier outlining activities available to families. Cotton said for many families there is a lot of planning that goes into attending an event like the fair to ensure an enjoyable experience for everyone.
Having a flier that easily pulls together information on accessible activities, takes a little of that planning mode off the table.
Cotton said at the end of the day, the goal of accessAbility Day and providing certain accommodations on that day is pretty simple.
“It is not so everyone experiences the fair in the exact same way. It’s about making sure that single person that comes to the fair gets to experience equal joy.”
Following are links to important resources for AccessAbility Day:
Bandwidth is a global company headquartered in Raleigh, and it’s the software platform behind your Zoom meetings, your voicemail from your pharmacy, and the text from your dog-walker. Why would a big tech company partner with a local state fair? In a word, community. Bandwidth wants to keep growing deep roots in the local community, and serving it and loving it the whole way. We’re building a new global headquarters, growing rapidly and hiring a lot of new people. The North Carolina State Fair is the one event that connects our entire state each year. So sponsoring the Fair and accessABILITY Day is the perfect complement to our mission at Bandwidth — which is to connect people, by developing and delivering the power to communicate.