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Disability hardships sour BayFest outing


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POSTED: Thursday, August 20, 2009

I attended my first BayFest on Saturday to enjoy the Black Eyed Peas in concert. I will explain my reasons for my disappointment and frustration with this experience.

First, the traffic situation was poorly handled. As a person with a disability, I had someone drop off my friends and me in my accessible van. It took us over two hours to get onto Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe once we got onto the highway leading into the base. Once on base, the people directing traffic were overzealous in their efforts to direct traffic and did not bother to listen to our inquiry to go to the disabled parking section. We followed their directions and went to an area that was unpaved and uneven. There was no area for my driver to drop me off due to the lack of accessibility.

Once we were finally directed to the correct parking area, designated for disabled parking, it was a nice open and paved area. I was dropped off. In the venue, there was little direction as to where to go for the concert. It was poorly lit and lacked proper signage. We entered the concert area and inquired about seating for persons with disabilities, and were told that there was no section. This is the first concert I've been to in recent memory that lacked designated seating for persons with mobility challenges. We ended up sitting all the way in the back, and could only see the screens during the concert. We could not see any of the performers “;live”; whatsoever.

After the concert, the traffic situation became a safety hazard for me. My ride was not allowed to enter the area for disabled parking, and had to wait in a lot at the Kahuna Bar and Grill, near the entrance to the base. This meant I had to ride my motorized wheelchair to meet my driver, about a mile away. There are no curb cuts on most of the sidewalks (a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990), so I had to remain on the road, traveling alongside vehicles. This was a dangerous situation, but one of necessity since I could not access the sidewalks, my safety was seriously compromised. No alternate solutions were provided to my driver or me.

In short, my experience at BayFest 2009 was not a pleasant one. I will not attend future BayFest festivals and feel that the government and Tom Moffatt Productions don't care about persons with disabilities, which is ironic considering that a Marine base has many veterans who serve our country and come back with disabilities. Shouldn't all people be thought of and properly accommodated?

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Kailua resident Brian Kajiyama, M.Ed., is academic manager of the University of Hawaii-Manoa football team. He wrote this as an open letter to BayFest 2009 organizers and Tom Moffatt Productions.