High Caliber drives forward accessible entertainment

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The front entrance at High Caliber Karting and Entertainment. This entrance is one of many at the facility. Photo by Amy Cho.

High Caliber Karting and Entertainment, located at the Meridian Mall at the border of East Lansing and Okemos, has been a leading business in bringing accessibility to entertainment.

Most notably, High Caliber offers a “Handicapable” go-kart for those who are wheelchair users. The Handicapable go-kart replaces the two gas and brake foot pedals with hand pedals near the steering wheel to grant complete control of the kart through hand controllers.

The Handicapable go-kart features two hand pedals near the steering wheel for complete control of the kart. This allows wheelchair users to race by controlling the go-kart with their hands. Photo by Amy Cho.

Jacki Krumnow, the director of marketing at High Caliber, explained that the Handicapable go-kart was established due to the owner of High Caliber, Jordan Munsters, getting into a large car wreck that put him in a wheelchair for a long time.

Due to this event, Munsters was able to see the gap between his establishment and accessibility, leading him to take action to integrate an accessible go-kart into his business.

“He realized there was this huge gap that we had at High Caliber, where the individuals who could technically be having fun go-kart racing and everything like that could not because of the access of the accelerator and brake being on the pedals,” Krumnow said.

Jacki Krumnow, the director of marketing, explains the hand pedals near the steering wheel of the Handicapable go-kart. The Handicapable go-kart is kept in the car garage in the race track area at High Caliber. Photo by Amy Cho.

In addition, Ashley Sanders, the assistant general manager at High Caliber, said that accessibility is important in recreational establishments because people with disabilities are being underrepresented in society.

​​“People with disabilities are the highest minority in America right now, and they’re being so underrepresented in a lot of our places,” Sanders said. 

Similarly, Matthew Balcarcel, an experience creator at High Caliber, said that accessibility is important because having fun shouldn’t have to be limited.

“Oh, you want everybody to have fun no matter what their disability is or what they can or can’t do,” Balcarcel said. 

Scott Rothermel, a frequent Handicapable go-kart user at High Caliber, said that the go-kart is simple to use, and likes to race others with it.

“It’s great. I mean, for the most part, it’s easy to use, both the gas and the brake. I can compete with pretty much anyone else, it just comes down to your driving ability,” Rothermel said. “So the fact that I can’t use my feet on the pedals, the gas and brake pedals, like everyone else, it truly is almost a moot point because I can turn really fast laps.”

Balcarcel, who also uses a wheelchair, said that the Handicapable go-kart works well and, other than minor hand cramps, has been able to use the go-kart for his own entertainment like any other visitor. 

“It’s important because there’s people out there like me. I mean if High Caliber didn’t have this accessible go-kart, I would be sitting on the sidelines watching my friends drive around while I just sat in my wheelchair,” Rothermel said.

High Caliber’s lead technician, Kevin East, demonstrates using the Handicapable go-kart. He races around the indoor go-kart track at High Caliber. Photo by Amy Cho.

In addition, Krumnow explained that High Caliber differs from other recreational establishments due to the fact that they have been actively trying to make more amenities accessible throughout the whole facility.

“We just want to have as much fun and create joy throughout the Lansing community,” Krumnow said. “For us to miss the mark so large, it meant a lot for us to be able to like figure out the individual things we could do to make accessibility more available at High Caliber so people could have fun because a lot of those individuals don’t know how or where they will fit in, so it’s really wonderful that we have those options for them now.”

Sanders added that High Caliber is continuously trying to gain knowledge within and around the community.

“We actually go out and try to learn what’s needed,” Sanders said. “We do go to those accessibility summits, we do go to different things in the Chamber of Commerce and places like that, where we seek out that knowledge, so then we can serve that community better.”

Throwbowling station at High Caliber. It is one of the accessibility-friendly games offered at High Caliber. Photo by Amy Cho.

Andrew Bunch, a Lansing visitor who has raced in regular go-karts at High Caliber, said that he’d never heard of a Handicapable go-kart before visiting.

“It’s awesome. I hope people are aware of it because that alone would probably make me want to come knowing that there’s accessible options for fun,” Bunch said. “I hope people are using them.”

Krumnow explained that she would like to add more accessible amenities that allow for the facility to be more inclusive of neuro-divergent customers in the future.

“I would love to be able to have us be a more autistic-friendly location,” Krumnow said. “I have been having conversations with some of the leaders in the Lansing field to figure out how we can implement possibly a quiet hour period of time, where we open up the facility for a couple of hours, once a month or once a week, and invite them to come out where the lights are all on, turn down the music, and hopefully be able to facilitate a really fun time for those individuals and families who might not come to us otherwise.”

As for Rothermel, he wishes to see other entertainment places that offer go-karting follow in High Caliber’s footsteps and implement more accessible features in their go-karts to foster inclusion in the community.

“It would be nice if other businesses saw this model that High Caliber had put together, this accessible go-kart, and the fact that someone like me who’s paraplegic can use it and go out and have fun with their friends,” Rothermel said.

For more information on High Caliber’s accessibility features, visit their website here.