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Saturday December 3rd

N.C. State Fair to hold accessABILITY Day aiming to include people with disabilities

The State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., captured on Thursday Sept. 29, 2022.
Buy Photos The State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., captured on Thursday Sept. 29, 2022.

On Sunday, Oct. 16, the North Carolina State Fair will be holding its second accessABILITY Day, which is set to include activities and events for people with disabilities.

This year's state fair will run from Oct. 13 to Oct. 23. The fair typically showcases many activities, including rides, carnival games, hog racing and fireworks. This year, the fair is dedicating a day to make its events and activities as accessible as possible.

From 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on accessABILITY Day, acoustic-only music will be played on stages, public address announcements will be made only in cases of emergency and lights and sound on rides and vendor booths will be turned off.

A “Bandwidth Chill Out Zone” will be offered all day, where guests can enjoy low lighting and soft music.

Max Gitterman, a participant in Special Olympics UNC, said he hasn’t been to the state fair in a long time, but is excited to go again soon.

He said, however that he can sometimes become anxious around new groups of people.

“It would be great if they had a one night open where the crowds are not so big and the lines so long," Gitterman said.

Heather Overton, the assistant director of public affairs at the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, said accessABILITY Day was a huge success last year, and she is excited to offer it again.

“For years we have been brainstorming ways to make the N.C. State Fair more inclusive,” Overton said. “We did come up with a way to make the fair more accessible to those that might have sensory issues or have a hard time with loud noises, with lights, with things that a lot of us might love about the fair.”

In addition to the decreased light and sound stimulation, Overton said there will be opportunities for people with disabilities to compete in games.

“That day we will have on the spot competitions," she said. "Specifically designed to be inclusive where guests can win ribbons,” she said.

Overton said the fair has also been in contact with special education teachers and other advocates around the Triangle to make accessABILITY Day as inclusive as possible. 

“We've had conversations with many in the community and advocates on steps that we can take to be welcoming to all North Carolinians regardless of ability,” she said.

Elizabeth Flowe is the president of Special Olympics UNC, which hosts sporting events for people with developmental disabilities. 

Beyond sporting competitions, the organization aims to enable change and build a community that is inclusive for all. Flowe said she will be encouraging Special Olympic UNC athletes to attend accessABILITY Day as a group. 

“I'm just thankful they're doing it to begin with because... you just want to make sure everybody feels like they belong and feel like they're included,” Flowe said.

Flowe said she also thinks the Bandwidth Chill Out Zone can be helpful for people with developmental disabilities.

“I think that's really important because anybody can get overstimulated from anything," she said. "Especially if there's a lot of people, or even if there's no lights or music, you'd still be overstimulated by anything.”

Vice President of Special Olympics UNC Shruti Madhav said it is important to recognize that people with disabilities often have a more difficult time in social situations. 

“I think that sometimes they have a hard time voicing that they're overstimulated," Madhav said. "So we really have to have perspective of that and recognize that their attitude or their way of action is because it's not necessarily controllable." 

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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