News source from CTV News
Published Tuesday, October 23, 2018 7:00AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 23, 2018 7:17AM EDT
Some of the traditional fixtures of a haunted house — flashing lights, loud noises and creaky stairways — can often force people with disabilities to avoid the Halloween tradition.
Robin Grainer, the self-proclaimed haunt overlord of Frolic’s Haunt in Toronto, is aiming to change the way these spooky attractions are built by forming one of the first fully accessible haunted houses in Canada.
“We are the only haunt built by disabled people for disabled people,” Grainer said in a recent telephone interview with CTVNews.ca. “There weren’t any accessible alternatives for older kids in Toronto, so we set out to fill that niche.”
Frolic’s Haunt is heading into its second year and has increased the variety of attractions from a single haunted house to an entire haunted yard on Grainer’s property.
“We had people last year who were in their late teens who’d never been able to go to a haunted house and always desperately wanted to, but they couldn’t,” Grainer said. “We had kids in line shaking, not because they were scared, but because they were so excited. This is something they’d been looking forward to for so long.”
Grainer has more than 15 years of costume-making experience and several years of amateur carpentry experience. Grainer leads a group of volunteers who work year-round to put on the one-day event.
“This is not a professional thing,” Grainer said. “This is purely a group of people who get together because we love doing this and we love providing an option for the disability community.”
For Grainer, Frolic’s Haunt is all about being as accommodating as possible for as many people as possible, while at the same time sending chills down their spine.
“(There are) a lot of very effective things that you can do in traditional haunted houses that we can’t do here,” Grainer said. “We still manage to give a really good experience despite that and I think the fact that we’re accessible more than makes up for the ways in which we can’t do it how it’s traditionally done.”
The hallways at Frolic’s Haunt are wide enough for a wheelchair, sign language interpreters are available for those with hearing impairments and there are creepy items to touch designed for people with visual impairments. The house also allows service dogs, provided the actors are given advance notice to stay back if the dog might not be comfortable with people jumping out at them.
Frolic’s Haunt lists nine types of disabilities they can cater to on their website.
Grainer is a member of the Canadian Haunters Association, a group of 108 mostly amateur Halloween enthusiasts from across the country who create haunted houses on their properties. Chris Ainsworth, founder of the organization and president of the Ontario chapter, said he believes Frolic’s Haunt is Canada’s only haunted house designed for people with disabilities.
“This is what puts (Grainer) up on the pedestal because (Grainer’s) gone above and beyond what people would even think of doing,” he said. “(Grainer) put on a really, really impressive haunt last year.”
Grainer says accessible haunted houses could soon become a trend as other haunters have reached out for tips on how they can accommodate more people.
“Our end goal is to make ourselves obsolete because other haunts become accessible,” Grainer said.
Due to the planning and volunteers needed for such an event, Frolic’s Haunt is only open for one night, Oct. 27. In order to welcome more families to the attraction, the viewing times are split into two blocks, “low scare hours” from 5-7 p.m. and “high scare hours” from 7-9 p.m. For more information on Frolic’s Haunt, visit their website.
Grainer says organizers will be forced to cancel if it rains.
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