5 Tips for Going to Shows and Events With MS Disabilities
Going to a show to see a band or a play or a big event may be your idea of having fun, and MS-related challenges — especially mobility — don’t have to be game-changers and keep you from the spectacle of it all, especially with a little planning.
Bars, bands and you
Find bands on their way up or regional acts that play small, intimate venues, bars and smaller halls that host general admission live events. All can be really fun, but waiting in line with MS-related issues can be hard — and standing for an entire event may be harder still.
Call the venue before you buy your tickets. Let them know you have MS and what your needs are. Try to call before the venue gets busy for the day (think: mid-afternoon before the after-work crowd) and as far ahead of the event as possible. Chances are, you are not the first person to call with these issues and through personal experience, I have found most venues to be extraordinarily helpful and accommodating.
Write down who it is you spoke with when you called and then call the venue — and ideally, speak with that person — the day of the event to make sure you know where to go, who to ask for and what to expect.
The big show
Going to see a show or concert in performance halls or sporting and music events at stadiums may present their own challenges in parking and getting to your seats, but all of those events are at venues that are both ADA compliant and prepared to accommodate people with special needs (like you!).
When in doubt, “Call ahead” should be your mantra!
Charlie Henry of Victory Field, a baseball stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana that seats just over 14,000 people, says there’s a process designed specifically for fans with disabilities, beginning with buying tickets in the disability section. “Fans purchase as many tickets as they need like any other section of the stadium based on how many people are coming with them,” according to Henry. “The row is empty to make way for wheelchairs and other devices, and we fill in with free-standing chairs based on however many seats are needed.”
Of course each venue may accommodate disabled fans differently. Henry urges fans to do their homework and check out each venue’s website for more information about enjoying events with disabilities. “Call ahead. Look online. Figure out what to expect before you get there,” Henry says. “The staff at Victory Field is like most venues in that we want to help fans with questions and provide a memorable experience once they’re here.”
Finding venue disability services and contact information is pretty straightforward: use keywords “Yankee Stadium Disability Services” in Google and the first site you’ll find is this one. And a Google key word search of “Royal Albert Hall Disability Services” leads to this.
Alcohol and MS
There are all kinds of very good reasons to avoid alcohol if you have MS. Alcohol’s affect on the central nervous system may exacerbate MS-related issues, including balance, dizziness and the feeling that you need to pee every three minutes. That doesn’t even include interactions with all the medication you’re taking. And, with or without MS, alcohol undermines the quality of your sleep — and you don’t want that.
But if you decide to drink, common sense rules the day. Understand how alcohol influences your stability, mobility and judgment before you decide whether to drink.
Sometimes letting someone else do the driving may make sense, especially when it comes to mega-events attracting mega-crowds.
Both Uber and Lyft have a checkered past when it comes to providing services for the disabled. Judging from the looks of their websites and apps — and by looks only — they seem to be getting better. Note too that their services vary by city and area. UberWAV — Uber wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAV) — are available via in app functions while the Lyft app lets users enable “access” mode via app settings. Requests sent with “access” enabled, “specially outfitted” vehicles will be dispatched in lieu of standard Lyft vehicles.
Taxi companies may also offer wheelchair accessible vehicles and other companies specifically serving the disabled may be available, too. Public transportation may be an option (though getting to it and to your venue may present some challenges, too).
As with everything else, it is always best to test these modes of transportation before you decide to rely on them.
There are only a million different ways to book a hotel room. But if you want what you want — and need — out of a room, Karin Willison, who writes about traveling with a disability at The Mighty, says calling hotels directly (along with finger crossing) may be your best bet. “I always make my reservations by calling the hotel and asking them specifically to reserve the roll-in shower type of accessible room,” she says. “That’s the only way to somewhat guarantee you will get the right room, but mistakes can still happen.” Read more traveling with disability tips from Willison here.
When you gotta go…
Managing bladder and bowel functions can be a trick when you have MS. Facilities — especially in bar and smaller venues — can be um, spotty. Try these management tips from the Cleveland Clinic (these are longer-term solutions, but may be helpful in a pinch). Getting to the venue early may give you a chance to scout out facilities ahead of time, too.
Up and at ‘em!
Whatever you do, try not to let MS (and its challenges) keep you from getting out and attending events, not just for yourself, but for the ones you love (who may want to go to them just as badly as you do).
After all, these are the times of your life…and you don’t want to miss them!
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