Dreaming of An Accessible Escape Room

I want to go to an escape room with some of my favorite people, but I don’t think they would have a good time. And so, I dream of an accessible escape room. “Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of an escape room?” No, because what is accessible to everyone is the way to leave, not the leaving itself. “Why would people with disabilities want more challenges? Isn’t the world a puzzle room they have to navigate?” I believe in an escape room not because our lives are boring but because puzzles are fun. An escape room isn’t about being in a room or leaving the room, precisely-it’s about being in another world for a while. Even though during the pandemic we didn’t want to go be stuck in another room, two years after lockdown we can’t get enough of it. An escape room is the steps of the puzzle, a sequence of opening your mind so that your thoughts can’t get in the way of your creativity. An accessible escape room makes this experience possible for everyone.

I have quite a literal escape room in mind. My escape room has white walls. The best part of an escape room is that everything is tactile–of course, it is here too. All locks are brailled, all designs are raised. You can move into and around the whole thing in a wheelchair or a walker. When they say nothing is up high, they mean it. Phones aren’t prohibited and QR codes mean you can access some clues on whatever device you use. Of course, it would also be great to have clues delivered in ASL, or maybe a character who gives information through a mock videophone. Maybe there’s even some kind of clue in a signer’s body or the handshape a character uses for a particular sign.

I might need a complex, not just one room. That’s OK-what’s “accessible” doesn’t mean it will be accessible for everyone, and the gamut of accessible options will be bigger than one room. It would be great to have an escape room with no sound at all, or where you could turn up and down the background noise. What if the room had fidgets that, when you spun them, revealed new areas?  It would be great to have an escape room that matches different levels, or an escape room where the steps are clear and you get to complete fun tasks to get out. An accessible escape room shouldn’t make you feel like you just don’t get it, it should foster “Aha!” moments and, if we’re creative, these can happen for anyone who might be interested.

I know there’s more I’m missing, so maybe one room in my complex could be an evolving room for guest artists, and we could make it so that you don’t just experience an escape room too, but you could make your own if you wanted.  

What kinds of rooms form the shapes of your dreams?

Notes: While thinking about my BIG DREAM for escape rooms, I wanted to see what else is out there now.

Some (not all!) escape rooms will highlight wheelchair accessibility. It is worth asking these rooms where this simply means a wheelchair can navigate the space or if all clues will be at a height that works for wheelchair-users.

It appears that Florida-based assistive tech company TPGi will come in and set up an accessible escape room. Link to TPGI escape room page: https://www.tpgi.com/accessibility-solutions/accessibility-escape-room/.

It would be great if companies seeking an escape room experience did not have to incur the cost but maybe TPGi could partner with existing escape rooms (sigh).

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