Safe Mardi Gras Parade Guidelines for People with Disabilities

It’s that time of year again, when Mardi Gras brings people from all over the U.S. and elsewhere for a few weeks of non-stop fun in New Orleans. The volume of people can be a bit scary for anyone, but for people with disabilities, the crowds may seem unnerving. However, there are some safe ways to enjoy it for everyone, whether you have disabilities or not.

A Mardi Gras Parade is one such way to participate in the Mardi Gras festivities, yet without having to get lost among the larger crowds in the evenings. When bringing someone with disabilities, knowing and following the rules is a good place to start, however, it is good to have a plan.

Just a few years ago in 2014, the City of New Orleans updated the parade rules, so make sure to check the website if you want to find out what you can and cannot bring. Here are some other Mardi Gras Parade tips for caretakers and their disabled companions:

  • Get there early. While the parade routes look empty from the onset, it doesn’t take long for the crowds to fill the streets. Before you know it, you might be too far back to see. This is especially necessary if your companion is wheelchair bound, as it might impede their visibility if there are no more front-row seats. The recommended time should be 3 – 4 hours in advance.
  • On that note, bring a few activities for your disabled companion. Also pack some extra water, snacks and sunscreen to ride out the length of time. How about a game of cards or chess? Or just enjoy people-watching. Of course, if the day is too hot to be left out in the sun, you could also ask a person to reserve your spots.
  • Be sensitive to loud noises. Parades are naturally loud, but don’t park your lawn chairs right next to the most obvious disturbances, such as the stages with speakers, etc.
  • Be part of the fun. Dress up and allow the companion with disabilities to choose appropriate “fun” Mardi Gras attire.
  • If you can, scope out some wheelchair or handicapped-accessible parking lots in advance. You don’t want to waste time driving around, looking for a spot, or you may end up walking too far to make the parade-watching worthwhile.
  • Don’t go into the French Quarter. This is too dangerous with the adults and their risqué acts, lewd behavior and intoxication. People prey on disadvantaged people, so it’s best not to enter into the French Quarter section if you are taking care of kids, adults or elderly people, whether they have disabilities or not.
  • Be attentive. Listen to your intuition and choose the safest, most convenient places for your companion’s optimal parade-viewing position. Putting yourself in their shoes can help you navigate through the crowds and find the perfect place to enjoy the Mardi Gras parade.

It can also help if you ask those close to your companion with disabilities whether or not they would be up for the experience. Ultimately, a Mardi Gras parade is designed for everyone; of all ages!