‘Frustrating’: BC Couple Highlight Barriers to Accessibility at Rockin River Music Festival


A young Lower Mainland man unable to walk since an ATV accident in 2017 hopes to spark positive change after encountering accessibility barriers at the Rockin River Music Festival last month.

Mitchell Garrett, 27, and Haley Brown, 25, said they had a great time at the event, other than a few “hiccups” with security personnel over communication about access to the accessibility.

“It was really unfortunate to have that experience,” Garrett told Global News on Sunday.

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Shuttles to and from the festival site in Merritt, BC were not accessible.

Garrett, who suffers from paralysis in both legs, said his buddies lift him into the shuttle on most trips, but when they weren’t there he had to climb the steps himself.

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The couple asked one of their drivers, Brad Mackay, to film a video of Garrett maneuvering himself into a bus seat to highlight the need for wheelchair accessible services.

“Unfortunately, it’s something I got used to living with a disability,” Garrett said.

“This world is suitable for people who have a valid body and we just live in it.”

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With no accessible stalls in the festival restrooms or near the beer garden, Garrett said he asked security if he could go behind a door for privacy.

He said he was told to urinate in the open or leave.

“It was very frustrating,” Garrett recalled.

A few days later, the couple encountered the same guard at another gate when Garrett also needed to relieve himself.

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“I didn’t ask for permission because I knew he wouldn’t let me and that’s when it all went downhill with that security guard,” he said.

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None of the festival staff, they say, knew where the nearest accessible facilities were, and Garrett said he had no choice but to hide behind a security fence.

Brown twice apologized to the guard, explaining the desperate situation Garrett was in.

“That’s when he said – for no reason – ‘Your boyfriend is disrespectful, he has no brain, and that’s why God put him in a wheelchair,'” Brown told GlobalNews.

“It was tough,” added Garrett.

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Brown said Garrett was really good at brushing things off and not letting behavior like this get to her, but she was upset by the hateful comments.

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“I was heartbroken, it really affected me deeply,” Brown said.

“The security guards are there to make you feel safe and this guy, several of them, made us feel threatened and unwanted and like we shouldn’t be there because he has a disability.”

After sharing the experience on social media, Brown said Rockin River festival staff apologized and took their concerns seriously, promising to do better next year. Global News requested comment from Rockin River Music Festival but did not receive a timely response.

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The company that provided the festival’s security personnel did not respond to a Global News request for comment. Guardteck’s website, however, says it prides itself on its “professional and positive approach”.

The couple said some of Guardteck’s staff were amazing, but think all festival security should know where the accessibility features are – as they are the first point of contact for attendees – and everyone deserves equal access.

“Any place intended for an able-bodied body should also be intended for someone who uses a mobility aid,” Garrett said. “That’s pretty much what it’s all about.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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