CTV News Calgary Video Journalist
Published July 11, 2023
The Calgary Stampede has made considerable efforts over the years to make sure it is welcoming and inclusive to everyone.
Though work has gone into improving accessibility for those with mobility issues, one visitor warns some planning is required before you head to the grounds.
Stampede Park has very few curbs, and paved pathways and ramps that assist wheelchair access to all buildings.
“One hundred per cent, it’s a good time, we just have to be strategic on how to do it, and know where we’re going and work through it that way,” said Darby Young, owner of a successful accessibility consulting firm, Level Playing Field, and a seasonal worker at Stampede since she was 14.
Level Playing Field is also the consultant on the BMO conference centre expansion.
Young has mild Cerebral Palsy and uses a scooter to get around.
She points to special seating at the Coca-Cola Stage and expanded washrooms as further evidence of progress.
“This allows for anyone with a disability that has got a mobility device to sit up here and watch the concert,” she said.
But Shannon Sims says she had a different experience.
Also a lifelong Calgarian, Sims is only able to walk short distances before her legs begin to give out.
“It makes it so difficult, I end up losing feeling in my leg and almost face-planting along the way,” she said.
On Saturday, Sims was on her way to the Saddledome to watch Alabama perform, only to discover her scooter wasn’t working. She had her husband drop her off at the BMO entrance to the park where she thought parking would be the best.
“We didn’t know the best place to park to access the grounds because parking is all so far away from the Saddledome,” Sims said.
What she didn’t know, was there is a designated accessible parking area immediately outside Stampede headquarters by the north entrance. Wheelchair rentals are available just inside security.
Instead, she had to walk across the grounds through an area where benches had been removed in order to allow for congested crowds to move more freely.
“There are definitely some challenges, but I think that the way the layout has changed over the years has made it a lot more accessible and easier to manoeuvre,” said Jack Smart, accessibility consultant with the Stampede.
He’s worked to remove barriers around the grounds for the past decade.
He encourages people to ask staff for help.
Stampede also encourages people to download the Calgary Stampede app, which includes an updated map helping people with specific needs find what they’re looking for.