Radical Inclusion: Coachella & Special Needs

I attended the 1st Coachella Music Festival in 1999. (One year after my 1st Burn.)  But I wonder, “would I still feel welcome there?”  Not sure if my perception is accurate, but the stereotype of judgmental Instagram fashionistas and Kardashian-studded VIP areas proves a good contrast to the Radical Inclusion vibe we try to cultivate at Burning Man.

At Burning Man, we welcome the Stranger.

But it goes deeper than that. There is another type of Radical Inclusion that is illustrated by a new art project, “Stair Ramps to Heaven.”  Not all Playa experiences should be tailored so that *everyone* can experience them. However, when possible, it is a nice exercise to ask, “Could this art be enhanced to make it available to more people?”  Creating ramp access for mutant vehicles is a perfect example of that.  (So is including captions in videos, as seen above)

In this video I get deeper into both these types of Radical Inclusion and invite everyone to share ways we can be more Radically Inclusive.  (Full txt transcript here.)


I am not an employee of Burning Man. Just an enthusiastic Participant, like you. Check out all of my Tips & Tricks videos like

Radical Inclusion: From Jesus to Jedi’s to Juggalos


About the author: John "Halcyon" Styn


Halcyon is a 21-year Burning Man participant and co-founder of Pink Heart camp. He is author of "Love more. Fear less." and producer of the Burning Man short film, "The Pink Path." He's won Webby awards for his over-the-top personal site & his "Love On Demand" video podcast HugNation.com. Halcyon co-founded the San Diego based "1st Saturdays" homeless outreach program based on Burning Man Principles and coaches people how to be radically self expressed in the default world. You can find his full Playa Tips & Tricks series at www.PlayaPrinciples.com

9 Comments on “Radical Inclusion: Coachella & Special Needs

  • p.s. “mobility challenged” includes wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, elderly, pregnant, etc.

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  • As the founder of this project, I just want to say thanks to all who have helped, built, transported, recruited, sweated, labored, fundraised, contributed and generally supported my vision. We are still fundraising and still recruiting groups to build ramps for us. We provide plan designs, build specs and seed money. Find us on Facebook or PM me.

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  • lizard queen says:

    Special needs are for the visible and all of which is invisible to the general public. I have to say, after the 2017 BM event, I didn’t want to come back to this event. I drove my car around the event due to my disability. People wanted to know why my car wasn’t an art car — when it was in clear view my disability placard. For some reason, many think that driving a car means I should entertain them. Then there were those who stood in front of my car so I could report to them why I was driving and not walking. People screamed at me. Blamed me for “blocking their view” when it took only one easy step to either side to regain their view. I was told my headlights “bothered” them. I was screamed, screamed and screamed at. Someone took my chair and threw it behind my car when it was in their way of walking. I was told I couldn’t stand outside of my car – least I interfere with someone leaning, sitting on my car’s view. When did Burner’s have this feeling of such privilege and rights above all else? We all paid for our tickets with cash dollars. No one should be given priority above another for space. When did the principle of kindness and understanding or compassion go out of style in favor of entertainment and full on justification. Some people wanted to be the BM cops, ruling in favor or against me as a disabled person and my right to want to attend BM. I thought most Burners had some sense of understanding or at least trying to understand another’s perspective. I don’t really want to attend BM again. It was one of the worst experiences ever to have folks feel they are so beyond privilege that they felt it completely reasonable to harass, intimidate, and bully a person like me who just wants to attend an event, and have some fun. The fact that I had a car and they did not – gave them privilege to do anything they wishes no matter how egregious.

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    • The Dread Pirate Lee says:

      As someone who can neither walk nor ride a bike any significant distance myself, I have zero sympathy for you. If everyone with a disability placard was allowed to drive a car on the Playa it would suck, and be seriously dangerous. I am stunned that the DMV Hotties would license you to do that. You do need permission from the DMV to drive a disabled vehicle. It’s a privilege that they make every effort to accommodate, but you did not mention having an authorized Disabled flag/sticker – which is mandatory. A placard is meaningless on the Playa.

      My advice… Rent or buy a golf cart. Build or buy an electric trike. If you can’t afford an obvious mobility solution, join Mobility Camp or some camp with an art car you can ride. Your sense of entitlement is an embarrassment to the disabled communities of Burning Man. Radical Inclusion does not mean Radical Entitlement. Everyone I’ve met at Burning Man has gone out of there way to accommodate anyone with special needs.

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    • roissy says:

      I have sympathy for your experience…
      But there may be two issues, One, it is not clear you went through the simple DMV process for accreditation to drive on the playa. Two, I fully agree with the headlight complaint. I have been driving on playa for 17 years, driving into regular headlights are like driving directly into the sun, you can’t see anything else. And the effect is MUCH WORSE during dusty conditions. This is my major complaint about LEO’s, especailly when they just set and park leaving their headlights on.

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  • roissy says:

    I noticed David Best always had a ramp (along with stairs) on his Temples that had an elevated platform.
    I made a comment to him about it, his reply was. “If a person in a wheelchair can’t make it up, nobody is going to make it up.”

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  • Super Suz says:

    Thank you for talking about the Stairramp to Heaven project and about what inclusivity now means to you after meeting your new hearing impaired friends. Lysa Morgan aka Dazzle was recently a guest on Into The Fire, a burner podcast. Here’s the link to listen to her talk about her projects for 2018, including Stairramps to Heaven. https://intothefirebm.com/2018/02/03/dazzle-brings-it-to-brc/

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  • Rat Lady says:

    There can be issues. Disabled window flags help. But even at Mobility Camp, there have been those who seem to enjoy making life more difficult for we who have some difficulties already. One year at the Burn, two girls in full native american headdresses (Based on their actions, I’m guessing NOT Native Americans themselves) stood in front of our wheelchair accessible rig, so that our wheelchair passengers could not see the man. We nicely asked if they could move to one side and they responded by spreading out more to block more of the view! Eventually they got bored and moved on. I don’t know if this is lack of acculturation for newbies, or just plain meanness, but spend one hour in a chair on the playa and you will gain a new respect! Better yet, come by Mobility Camp and try our obstacle courses!

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  • Keith Michael Anderson says:

    Thank you for sharing the work that you do on the playa for ADA campers. My twin brother would be stoked to have the ability to share in the burning man experience. I am excited to see the ripples of this type of culture out into the rest of the world. Again thank you for sharing this with me. It’s a powerful work and will change many lives able and disabled. Peace and blessing be with you always.

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