The Red Hot Chili Pipers, an ensemble from Scotland consisting of pipers, guitarists, keyboards and drummers, playing on stage.

How Milwaukee Irish Fest Stays Inclusive

A look into ways the local festival stays ADA-compliant

ABLE’s logoSummerfest, Wisconsin State Fair, Petfest —it’s the prime season for festivals and events in Milwaukee and the next big one is the world’s largest Irish music festival, Milwaukee Irish Fest! Whether you’re of Irish descent or not, this is an event you don’t want to miss. The food, the culture and most of all, the music, are all things you have to experience firsthand.

But what does that look like for people with disabilities? I reached out to the folks over at Celtic MKE, the host and organizer of Milwaukee Irish Fest, and here is what I found out.

Since Milwaukee Irish Fest uses the Summerfest grounds, the location is already ADA-compliant. The stages have designated viewing areas for individuals in wheelchairs and backstage areas are accessible by lifts. All public restrooms have accessible stalls and sinks and those needing private restrooms or changing rooms have access to the Respite Center. Food vendors also provide assistance to anyone needing it and paratransit vans have designated spaces for drop-off and pick-up.

For the blind and visually impaired specifically, new this year are audio versions of the four-day schedule which were provided in partnership with ABLE. ABLE is a service that believes print should be accessible to everyone, including people who are blind, visually-impaired or print disabled. Their service includes the transcription of print materials of all types into audio, digital and braille formats for individuals, schools, organizations and businesses. Irish Fest is also working to create new websites that will be accessible to all users.

When asked what people who are blind or visually impaired will especially appreciate about Milwaukee Irish Fest, Board Member Colleen Kennedy, who has also served on the Summerfest ADA Committee for over a decade, said it has to be the music.

“Since Irish Fest is most famous for its music, the 17 stages and expansive lineup would be the biggest draw! Irish Fest offers free tickets for individuals with disabilities, and a plus one, through the Milwaukee County Office for Persons with Disabilities. These tickets may be used at any time during the festival, rather than a limited day or time. Providing these tickets helps us promote inclusivity because this festival is for everyone.”

To learn more about Milwaukee Irish Fest, please visit their website at IrishFest.com.

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