State Fair Expands Accessibility for Visitors with Disabilities

The Ohio State Fair will include three new programs to ensure more visitors are able to enjoy the annual event, which begins on Wednesday, July 24.

This year’s fair will have wheelchair/mobility charging stations, technology to connect people who are blind or have low vision to an agent who can help with navigation, and a dedicated sensory-friendly morning for individuals with autism.

“I am pleased that Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) is helping to expand access to the fair by providing wheelchair/mobility charging stations and navigation aid technology. The fair also will offer a dedicated sensory-friendly time to visit,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a news release. “These resources will help even more people celebrate Ohio’s products, businesses, people, and history. Whatever you are looking for, you can ‘Find It Here’ at the Ohio State Fair!”

The wheelchair/mobility stations are in marked areas in the Bricker MarketPlace Building, Kasich Hall, Lausche Youth Center, Natural Resources Park Pavilion, Taste of Ohio Cafe and the WCOL Celeste Center.

“The Ohio State Fair is a great way to recharge from work and enjoy the summer,” OOD Director Kevin Miller said. “Since visitors usually spend the entire day at the fair, it’s important that charging stations are available to keep wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices going strong.”

Also made available with support from OOD and theNational Federation of the Blind of Ohio, fairgoers who are blind or have low vision can useAira-- which stands for Artificial Intelligence Remote Assistance -- to connect, for free, to a remote agent via a cell phone or through specially-fashioned glasses. Both the application and the glasses allow the agent to access visual information, which is especially helpful for navigating a large, unfamiliar area. The agent is also able to locate users through GPS and direct them to places of interest.

“Thanks to the efforts of OOD and the Ohio State Fair, people with disabilities will be able to enjoy the fair in a way that has not been available to us before,” said Eric Duffy with the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. “We hope this is only the beginning of an effort to build a more inclusive Ohio."

In collaboration with the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI), the Ohio State Fair will turn down the lights and volume in an effort to host a sensory-friendly morning event on Wednesday, July 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fairgoers will have an opportunity to ride the rides with no flashing lights or music, visit the fair’s educational activities, take a break in the OCALI Quiet Room, and explore the many activities in the shade of theOhio Department of Natural ResourcesPark.

“We know the fair can be a bit overwhelming for some people,” Ohio State Fair General Manager Virgil Strickler said. “By offering some quiet opportunities and soothing activities, we’re supporting an enjoyable morning for all families.”

"At OCALI, we believe in a world where everyone deserves access to their community. These new features at the fair help to create a common experience with unique considerations that allow greater access for all people,” OCALI Executive Director Shawn Henry said.

These additions build on the following efforts the Ohio State Fair already had in place:

- Buildings and most restrooms are accessible.

- Motorized and non-motorized wheelchair rentals.

- Sign language interpretation (by advance request).

- Free assisted-listening devices for use at the WCOL Celeste Center, Main Street Stage and the UnitedHealthcare Gazebo Stage.

- Accessible seats for concerts in the WCOL Celeste Center (purchase directly from Ticketmaster by toggling the switch with the wheelchair icon or selecting a seat with a wheelchair icon).

“We’re thankful for partnerships with OOD and OCALI to make the fair an inclusive and welcoming space,” Strickler said.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on July 23, 2019.  Copyright 2019 Hannah News Service, Inc.