How British Music Festivals Are Gearing Up To Be More Accessible For Wheelchair Users

The Brits often refer to the “great British festival” as though it is some sort of rite of passage for visiting tourists, but until recently, and unfortunately, festivals have – by their nature – excluded wheelchair users and others with disabilities.

Everyone knows the British weather can be temperamental – it’s often more likely to be a mud bath in place of a green field that festival-goers pitch their tents on. Festivals also encompass a lot of space; usually farmland. At the now disbanded V Festival, festival-goers reported walking “for hours” from the parking lot to the camp and then stage areas. And while this doesn’t deter festival-goers, the mud and the rain has made festivals the ultimate ‘no no’ for anyone who has trouble getting about.

But fortunately, festivals are becoming truly accessible for everyone, at long last.

This poster, created by Webster Wheelchairs, is a mock-up of a traditional British music festival poster. It shows from the top-down the most accessible festivals in the UK for wheelchair users and the disabled.

You might have already heard of the top festival, Glastonbury. It is the largest greenfield festival in the world and one of the most famous. So it is an absolute delight to say that the organizers are working so hard to make their events more inclusive.

At the moment, Glastonbury and Bestival are the only festivals that have accessible paths leading to the campsites and the stages. Even if it’s been pouring with rain, wheelchair users are still able to get about with relative ease. Now, Glastonbury is a well established festival (Bestival less so, so hurrah to them), so perhaps it’s no surprise that it’s finally laid down the pathways, the same can’t be said for most of the other British festivals.

But many others are following in Glastonbury’s lead and at least doing something with their limitations to increase accessibility. Latitude, Hyde Park, Bestival and the Isle of Wight festivals, for example, all offer free taxi and/or shuttle bus services for those with disabilities.

With Glastonbury as a key influencer, the idea is to give everyone a chance to see their favorite artists.

All of the major British festivals offer a complimentary personal assistant ticket (PA) to assist a person should they require it – not too bad considering some festival tickets can cost hundreds of dollars each. All of them now have accessible showers and toilets and – the best bit – viewing platforms for disabled and wheelchair users to give them a good view of the stage. The PAs can also join them on the viewing platforms.

Seven of the top festivals are actively working in partnership with Attitude is Everything, a charity that actively seeks to improve the experience for the disabled and for deaf people. This has led to the installation of hearing loops on all the stages, or, special sound systems that do not interfere with hearing aids for the hard of hearing.

Other amenities that festivals are introducing include: medication storage facilities; disabled camp sites with non-disabled guests allowed (not just PAs); sign language interpreters; high-dependency units, and wheelchair charging stations.

Why it’s important for festivals to be more wheelchair friendly and accessible for disabled people.

Festivals are important cultural events that bring hundreds of thousands of people together in celebration. If a person is unable to attend due to a condition that is beyond their control, it can quite literally feel like a party in which everyone else is invited. Not to mention the fact that festivals provide opportunities to see certain artists that may be extremely difficult to see otherwise. 

Fortunately, Glastonbury is really leading the way and using its clout to really press for change. It is my hope that one day, and one day soon, any person – no matter what their condition – will be able to sign up for a ticket without the word “accessible” even coming to mind.   

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