Vancouver Pride planners say pandemic brought lessons on improving access for all

·2 min read
Attendees take in the Vancouver Pride Parade from an accessible viewing platform Sunday afternoon. (CBC - image credit)
Attendees take in the Vancouver Pride Parade from an accessible viewing platform Sunday afternoon. (CBC - image credit)

This year's Vancouver Pride Parade might have looked a little different for some participants.

The celebration's organizers said the event's return after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic prioritized making the parade more accessible to all.

To do that, they worked with advocates for disabled communities to ensure the event was more inclusive than in the past.

Lee Keple, interim executive director of the Vancouver Pride Society, said the society had reflected on what could be done to ensure the event was enjoyable for everyone.

"To be honest, we thought about the ways in the past that Pride has been centred to certain demographics, and has certainly been ableist," said Keple. "And our staff thought we should change that."

It also came about from having to cancel events during COVID-19 and hold some online.

"Simply streaming our programming, we got a lot of great feedback from people who weren't able to attend live and in-person," they said.

"It really challenged our thinking, and we decided as a society to step up our accessibility features."

Parade interpretation for blind, partially sighted people

This year's measures included three accessible shaded viewing platforms that featured sign language interpretation and visual description, a "low-sensory chill zone" at Sunset Beach, and shuttles to help people move around throughout the events around downtown.

For the first time, VocalEye Descriptive Arts Society — an organization that makes arts and events more accessible for people who are blind or partially sighted — provided a live interpretation of Sunday's parade.

Participants were given a hand-held receiver and an ear piece, explained Amy Amantea, community outreach coordinator for VocalEye.

"I put the ear piece next to my ear, and I am listening to my describers behind my shoulder who are telling me all the things they see — all the fun colours, all the costumes," Amantea said.

Keple said it's just one way the annual events are hoping to improve accessibility. They said it's most important that future planners hold onto these lessons learned during the years the in-person events were cancelled.