4140 George Washington Lane NE
Seattle, WA 98105
Over the years, I have seen beautiful, hilarious, moving, and thought-provoking performances at Meany Hall’s UW World Dance Series. These performances have opened my understanding of what it means to be a human being moving through time and space. They also reveal the inspiring range of creative expression that the human mind is capable of producing, and, therefore, even the dances that are bewildering have a way of making me glad to be alive.
In some ways, sitting in my wheelchair and watching these gorgeous performances each year is agonizing, underscoring how unlike those graceful human bodies on stage my own body is. In other ways, though, taking those performances into my heart and mind extends what I can do and celebrates the movement I share with all humans. Lucky for me, then, and for other wheelchair travelers, that Meany Hall is completely accessible.
If dance isn’t your thing, Meany hosts a World Music Series, as well as a number of other performances and events, all of them easy for those of us in wheelchairs to get to and enjoy.
Parking: Underground pay-for parking with multiple handicapped spots is available in the Central Parking Garage, which you enter at 15th Avenue NE and 41st Street. You will want to park near the Meany Hall sign painted on the wall. Our favorite spot is just past the Meany sign and the upper level handicapped spaces, down the little hill, and to your right. There are two handicapped parking spaces right there next to the door that leads into the building. That door leads to a corridor and another door into the building. There’s an automatic opener on that second door, too!
From there, you crowd into an elevator with others coming from the parking lot and go up one floor to the Meany Hall entry.
Entrances: The paths from the parking garage into the theater are ramped. There are no thresholds to worry about and no stairs. The doors into the theater from the foyer will be open. You will enter the lobby at the same level where your seats will be—which is “main B.” Below your level is an area where refreshments are served, accessible via an elevator located at the west end of the lobby floor. That elevator also takes you to the restrooms one level below the refreshment level.
Seating: Wheelchair spaces are provided at two ends of level “B,” with seats for companions also available. There is ample space for chairs, so people don’t stumble over your feet getting to their seats further into the row. Facing the stage, if you are sitting in the wheelchair space on the right, you have no blocks to your view of the stage and quick access to the elevator at intermission. My seat is at the far left, facing the stage, and it is just slightly blocked by the curtains, but I have never felt that I was missing the action on stage.
When Meany staff are expecting many wheelchair users, as they were during this year’s Axis Dance Company performance (http://axisdance.org/), they create more wheelchair spaces by removing some of the seating. Then they call you up—if you are a subscriber—to see if you’d like a more centrally located wheelchair space. You’ve got to love them for this!
Restrooms: The lines at women’s restrooms in any theater during intermission are epically long, so the process of going to the bathroom even for walkers includes a dose of panic that you won’t make it into a stall before the warning bell to get back in your seat has rung. This is especially true if you have to travel far to reach that stall. At Meany, it’s a long trip.
You need to get out of your seat, into the lobby, over to the elevator, and down to the lower lobby where the restrooms are. I have a (very handsome) male pusher, so waiting in line in my chair with him is somewhat awkward. Standing in line with my cane isn’t an option either because I can’t stand very long. So it is important for me to get to that bathroom before a line forms, and I have mastered that trick.
My beloved pusher leaps up at the first hand-clap at intermission, grabs my unlocked chair, and runs out of the theater with me to the elevator. While people are still applauding, he is unloading me at the bathroom door, so I can hobble into the handicapped stall before others get there. The handicapped stalls in the restroom are great—roomy, with grab bars, and easy-to-reach toilet paper. Getting to the sink, however, is a challenge. Hobbling with my cane and needing handholds, I have to walk across a sometimes-splashed open floor and a line of people to get to the sink. This is where hand sanitizers come in handy!
Photos of interior space online: Yes
Photos of entrances online: No
Reservations taken: Call before you buy tickets and talk to someone about your wheelchair needs. People in the ticket office are amazing. When you talk to someone, tell them Spoken Wheel highly recommended them!
What the wheelchair pusher has to say: There’s good handicapped parking near the doors and automatic door openers to get to the elevators, which are nice. Getting from parking to the elevators can involve some uphill pushing. The main floor entrance is flat and easy to navigate. Everyone who works there is very helpful. Getting to and from our seats is very easy. Because the restrooms are on the lower floor, when intermission comes you need to bolt out of there while the applause is still ongoing.
Overall: Five wheels for excellent access if you remember to head out fast at intermission for the bathroom!
Photo credits: The featured image of seating from the stage and the image of the Axis Dance Company, uwworldseries.org