Festival & Rave Safety for the Disabled & Chronically Ill
By Saylor Gibbs
My name is Saylor and I love live music! I am also disabled and chronically ill. I woke up six years ago with burning pain in my belly that spread throughout my entire body. Since then my body has been at war with itself and it has completely altered my life. As someone who loves to rave and attend music festivals, I am always searching for ways to have an amazing time AND keep myself and those around me as safe as possible. I work every day to raise awareness for the disabled and chronically ill and I try to teach people that you can be sick and/or handicapped and still have fun, feel beautiful, and empower others in doing so.
If you or anyone you know is looking for ways to stay safe but rage on, then you’ve come to the right place! I’ve compiled the following tips and tricks on rave and festival safety, and even if you are not disabled or chronically ill, these guidelines could help save your life and the lives of others.
- Do your research ahead of time!
Most events have ADA accommodations such as ADA shuttle services, ADA viewing areas, handicapped accessible bathrooms, and medical support on-site. When you purchase tickets for your next event, check to see if there is an ADA option on your ticket. If you can’t find it, don’t stress! Just present yourself to the staff upon arrival and ask them where you can get your ADA credentials (i.e. a wristband). It is also recommended that you research the layout of the event so you know which entrances are handicapped accessible and where the medical tents are should you need emergency medical care. You can contact the event coordinators or venue security to ask about handicapped accessibility at your next event.
- Don’t be afraid to use mobility aids!
I take my cane or my walker to every event I attend. Most venues will have handicapped accessible entrances/exits as well as security checkpoints that can accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Using a mobility aid also lets those around you know not to step on or bump into you, which helps prevent accident and injury.
- Know your emergency resources!
Familiarize yourself with the venue map so that you are made aware of all the resources at your disposal. A sure-fire way to ensure you get the best care possible is to introduce yourself to the EMT team when you arrive at the event, especially if you have a complex medical history like myself. Now, I know medical ID bracelets aren’t the pinnacles of festival fashion, but wearing one could save your life! If you do not have a medical ID bracelet, I recommend setting up Medical ID on your phone so that whoever is treating you gets the right information.
- Use the buddy system!
Designate one to two emergency contacts that will also be at the event. Should the unspeakable happen and you are unable to advocate for your own care, having emergency contacts on site will ensure that you are getting the best care possible. It is often very scary when our health spirals out of control and we are miles and miles away from home. Just make sure that those you ask to be your ICE contacts are aware of their responsibilities so that you don’t have to worry about them choosing fun over helping to save your life. Now, this isn’t to say that fun is off the table! Safe fun should be accessible to everyone, regardless of your medical history.
- Bring properly labeled medication!
If you have a health condition that requires you to regularly take medication, make sure you bring the medicines you need in properly labeled receptacles, otherwise, you run the risk of your medication being taken away. Plus, having properly labeled meds give medical staff the information they need should they have to treat you. I also recommend bringing a comprehensive list of the medications you are taking to streamline emergency care. Certain medications carry certain risks, especially if combined with other drugs, both legal and illegal.
- Know your drug interactions!
I’m not here to tell you what to do or to kill your fun times, but I urge you to do your research on drug interactions before you ingest anything. Never take drugs from people you don’t know, don’t let your drink out of your sight, and say NO to anything that feels shady or anything/anyone who makes you uncomfortable. As with any medication or drug, there are always, always risks. Knowing these risks and being safe about what you choose to ingest could save your life. Drinking water and staying hydrated is important, of course, but it could also put you in danger. For example, excessive water consumption in MDMA and methamphetamine users has been linked to leakage of the blood-brain barrier due to increased water retention. Cocaine changes your brain chemistry so that your body will want to forgo food and water in favor of ingesting more of the drug. Not only does this leave your body depleted, but it also puts you at risk for more serious complications. Most importantly, if you or someone you know may have been dosed with any kind of drug, go to the medical tent on-site immediately.
- Last, but not least, PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE!
Eat right, stay hydrated, wear comfortable clothes that don’t restrict your movement, and track your sleep before the event.
For the disabled and chronically ill, preparing for the event is almost more important than actually being able to attend. Depending on the severity of illness/disability, it can take weeks or even months to adequately prepare your mind and body for the kinds of stress that are involved with attending raves and festivals. Up to four weeks before the event, I shift my diet and exercise as well as my sleep schedule. The more I do to ensure my body has the proper nutrients and proper rest, the more I can feel good and enjoy my event!