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Halifax New Year’s Eve celebration at Grand Parade aims to be accessible for first time

The New Year's Eve celebration at Grand Parade is coined as the largest in Atlantic Canada. Work is being done to make it fully accessible to everyone looking to attend. .
The New Year's Eve celebration at Grand Parade is coined as the largest in Atlantic Canada. Work is being done to make it fully accessible to everyone looking to attend. . Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

A well-known accessibility advocate in Nova Scotia has been working alongside the municipality to ensure that one of Atlantic Canada’s largest outdoor New Year’s Eve celebrations, happening at Halifax’s Grand Parade, is fully accessible to anyone wanting to attend.

“This is the first year for it,” said Paul Vienneau.

“We’re going to build on this, but immediately we’ve got a sort of fenced-off area downstage right in the front, for disabled folks of all descriptions to sit.

“Between Barrington Street and this section there [are] no clumps of cable to have to get over,” Vienneau added. “We made sure that was clear.

“I’m going to have these latex-free balloons for deaf people to experience the vibrations.”

People with accessibility challenges will have a section dedicated to assisting them with enjoying NYE2020 in Grand Parade.
People with accessibility challenges will have a section dedicated to assisting them with enjoying NYE2020 in Grand Parade. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Vienneau serves as the accessibility consultant for the Halifax Regional Municipality, working to inform city staff of ways to improve accessibility throughout the municipality.

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READ MORE: Public bodies in Nova Scotia get one year to develop accessibility plans

Looking ahead to the end of another calendar year, Vienneau had his eyes on one of the premiere events.

With years of experience working as a musician and different shows under his belt, he decided to push the city to make the Grand Parade outdoor concert accessible for those in need of different supports.

“I believe this city needs to be the example,” Vienneau said, “and so all of the events that we have should have as much accessibility [as possible] and that includes sign language interpretation and access to the stage and things like that.”
Paul Vienneau is working with the city to make the outdoor New Year’s celebration at Grand Parade fully accessible.
Paul Vienneau is working with the city to make the outdoor New Year’s celebration at Grand Parade fully accessible. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

NYE 2020 is billed as the largest outdoor New Year’s event in Atlantic Canada and will showcase a wide range of bands and music.

But for people with mobility challenges, going to shows and events isn’t often possible or appealing, Vienneau says, due to the restrictive nature of the environment.

Public bodies in Nova Scotia get one year to develop accessibility plans
Public bodies in Nova Scotia get one year to develop accessibility plans
“In a [wheelchair] there’s not really a safe place,” he said.
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“If it’s like a rock concert, there’s no super safe place and it’s hard to find good sightlines. If you get down front you get crushed, or at least elbowed a lot and if you’re safe in the back you can’t really see anything.”

Vienneau hopes to get the word out to those in the community with disabilities that if they’re looking to attend the celebration, there will be more options than ever before for them to do it enjoyably and safely.

“I believe I’m just going to put together a little group of friends at all the entrances and if they see somebody who is obviously disabled, they can point them in the right direction to the section, or even just to let them know that we have this,” he said.