Aug 16, 2022 - News

New Iowa State Fair rules burden aging, disabled Iowans, critics say

Man on scooter
Gary Carr on his scooter (left). Carr takes a break on a bench at the fair. Photos courtesy of the Carr family

The Iowa State Fair is enforcing a new rule this year that limits the size of scooters fairgoers are allowed to bring in, citing safety concerns.

Why it matters: Some older fairgoers and people with disabilities say the new rule has become an unexpected burden that prevents them from using the mobility devices they already own.

State of play: Gary Carr, 78, has COPD and has regularly attended the fair over the last 50 years.

  • Carr uses a three-wheeled scooter and an oxygen tank to help him get around the fairgrounds.

Yes, but: On opening day last week, Carr and his family learned his scooter is now eight inches too long.

  • He was told to leave it behind or rent one for the day for $65, his wife Sharon tells Axios. He chose to walk and carry his oxygen tank which resulted in slow movements and lots of breaks.
  • "It's embarrassing for him, period," she said.

Mike Bowlin of Indianola said his wife has used the same scooter at the fair to ease her bone on bone ankle pain for the last decade, but this year, they were also told it's too long.

  • Their family has been at the fair every day this year, but Mike's wife only got to go once when she borrowed a friend's scooter.
  • "This is our vacation," Bowlin said.

The other side: The new rule was created because of concerns regarding the larger scooters and the ability of fairgoers to navigate around them, said Mindy Williamson, spokesperson for the fair.

  • Officials were also concerned about scooters bumping into other people and vendors.

Details: The new dimension, 36 inches by 52 inches, was based on rules at other similar-sized events, Williamson said.

  • Staff also consulted with the Iowa Attorney General's Office to see if the rule was legal and compliant with ADA policies, Williamson said.

The bottom line: Fair officials want people of all abilities to enjoy their time, but expect the rule to stay, Williamson said.

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