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  • Writer's picturePeta

What makes a festival or event accessible?

What does it take to ensure the accessibility of a festival or event? Spoiler, there is a lot more to it than installing a ramp.

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Episode Transcript:

Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast. The podcast, answering your questions of what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peta and I'm your host. I had cerebral palsy and I'll answer any question that you have. I'm a completely open book, and I believe education is the only way for people to truly understand what it's like to live with a disability. This week's question was a really fun one. I thoroughly enjoyed researching it. So I hope you enjoy it if you'd like to ask me a question. There are three ways you can do so. One by my Instagram, which is at Peta, which is spelt P.E.T.A H.O.O.K.E or via email or via my website OK, without any further ado, let's get into it.

[00:01:21] This week's question came from Kerry, Kerry asked me,

Kerry [00:01:26] "Peta, do you go to summer festivals and if so, how accessible are they?

Peta [00:01:35] Well, no, to be honest, I have never really gone to a festival, and that is inherent because of my disability. Now, I'm not saying that's the case for all people with disabilities of course not. I'm sure there are many people with disabilities out there that love to go to festivals but from my experience and my perception of festivals, a majority of them are completely inaccessible; to me.

[00:02:06] While it is more than reasonable for all members of the community to expect access to festivals and events, I believe event organisers often fail to recognise that people with disabilities want to attend these sorts of events. And to be honest, I don't even really think these organisers realise that they are in breach of disability discrimination acts because they don't believe that people with disabilities attend events and festivals.

[00:02:39] So for the purposes of this podcast today, I'm going to pretend to be an event organiser. What are the things that event organisers need to be aware of to ensure that their event or festival is accessible?

[00:02:57] Firstly, choosing the right venue, making sure the venue is inherently accessible. Providing information about the event to people with disabilities and how they can attend and of course, this information should come in accessible formats. How people can travel to the event, what happens when you arrive at the event and what to expect, how to enter the event, how a person is set to move around the event, particularly with different abilities. Assessing goods and services at the event. Using facilities, including toilets within the event. How a person with a disability obtains further assistance and emergency management.

[00:03:45] Choosing the right venue, probably to you sounds pretty simple, if there's a ramp at the front, then the venue is accessible, right? Accessibility doesn't mean just a ramp. It's about including things like hearing loops for people with hearing impairment, looking at whether there's an opportunity to have sign language at the event and have Auslan provided at the event, having spaces for people who have sensory disabilities and need to go away and relax in a quiet space. And often accessibility can have a flow-on positive effect to those attending without disabilities, for example, it's important to provide shade or weather protection at an outdoor event for people who are in wheelchairs that can't get wet like myself or for people with skin conditions and skin sensitivity. However, many of us are aware of how damaging the Australian sun can be, so weather protection and sun protection can positively impact somebody with a disabilities experience at a festival, but it also can impact those without a disability.

[00:05:11] Even I am continually learning about what accessibility means. A little story for you. Recently, I tried to go to a comedy event. The venue was listed as accessible, however, when I rang the venue to book tickets. They said that my wheelchair was too heavy to use the lift. That was the first time that I'd even heard anything like this, that my wheelchair would be too heavy to use an approved lift in a public venue. But it was an old building, and because my wheelchair is 100 kilos, my wheelchair could not go in this particular lift. The venue, I don't know whether it was kind or whether it was naive, they offered to help lift me up the stairs. But of course, I was so not comfortable with that. Not only for health and safety reasons, but also I would become a spectacle, and that makes me feel really uncomfortable. I have the right to access a venue if anybody else does and this was a great oversight of the venue and the event organiser. So while that's probably illustrated to you why finding an accessible venue can be more challenging than you thought. I also want to talk about the importance of good communication that is accessible for everyone attending an event.

[00:06:57] So, as I said, that could mean having an Auslan interpreter. That could mean having Braille on signs, that could mean ensuring that signage has really good colour contrast and if you don't know what that means; colour contrast is the difference in light between font or anything in the foreground and its background. Making sure the signs can be read from all different heights, as someone who is sitting down, moving through a space, I sometimes don't see a sign because they're put at standing level. So making sure that it's all different things like that for wayfinding and also emergency management.

[00:07:43] For many people with disabilities, including myself, the car is the only option for me to get to an event. So when there's limited to no car parking and they haven't thought about accessible car parking, it is so stressful. And not put a too obvious point on it, it is a good idea to make sure that public transport is accessible for those of us who can access the system.

[00:08:15] Talking about assessing goods and services within an event triggered my memory. I have attended the flower show here in Melbourne a number of times with my mum. Last time we attended, the only options for food and drink was through food trucks, which in theory sounds great and trendy and awesome. But food trucks are so tall, the benches to be able to order something is often too tall for many people standing. Let alone me having to yell from basically what feels like the floor up to a person in a truck. I've had people not even see me standing in line and look over my head and ask the person behind me what they wanted. And once you order, how do I pass over my credit card or my phone to pay and then how do I reach the food? No wonder I tend to spill things on myself because I'm trying to reach something way, way above my head. There are some portable Changing Places Toilets that are in festivals now, which is absolutely great. But if they aren't available, it means I personally can't go to the toilet. So whenever I attended the event, it's generally a fairly short day out.

[00:09:48] Emergency management is also something that really worries me because there's really nothing in emergency management that ensures people with disabilities are going to be safe. On all the lifts it says do not use in emergency and in case of fire. So what happens when you're on the second floor and there is a fire? Well, technically, I'm meant to go sit in a stairwell and wait to be rescued, but that's it. There's nothing in law at the moment that illustrates best practice for evacuating somebody with a disability.

[00:10:33] Often festivals take place outside, so things like the grass are really difficult for somebody in a wheelchair. My wheels get super muddy. I can skid, I might not be able to gain traction and the worst feeling in the world is to get stuck. Also, the fact that everybody stands up at these events, how am I meant to say over anyone when I'm at everybody's waist height? People can't even really see that you're there. So many people have actually fallen on me when I've gone to concerts. And of course, things like crowds can be very difficult for people on the autism spectrum.

[00:11:22] Thankfully, though, they're starting to be Australian music festivals specifically for people with disabilities and designed for people with disabilities. The first one that comes to mind is the Ability Fest, which I haven't yet gone to, and I'm very excited to go one day. Which is organised by the Dylan Allcott Foundation. It raises money to support young Australians with disabilities. And everything the Ability Fest does is designed for inclusion, it has elevated platforms, really good pathways, a quiet zone, companion ticketing, ramps, accessible toilets, staffed by disability aware volunteers and it's meant to replicate a typical music festival experience in a more disability-friendly environment.

[00:12:20] There's also a festival called Sound and Vibes in South Australia. It's run by a non for profit organisation working to raise awareness, find a solution and create opportunities for young people with disabilities. And again, this festival is all about being accessible and inclusive.

[00:12:41] The Feel The Bates Music Festival in New South Wales is specifically tailored to young people with disabilities. And tickets are just ten dollars, so another area of inclusion is making sure that these things are affordable. The music is volume controlled, so people with sensory disabilities are less likely to become overwhelmed. There's no strobe lighting and there are quiet zones as well. So those are the three main accessible festivals. For people with disabilities.

[00:13:17] People with disabilities are also campaigning to make the art sector more accessible. For example, Eliza Hull, who is a Singer-Songwriter here in Australia, she's involved in The Accessible All Areas Music Festival. Where last year, three out of four musicians had a disability.

Accessible arts in New South Wales recently hosted Making Live Music Accessible. They brought together music industry experts and discuss how to make the music industry more inclusive for disabled people. Emily Collins, who is the managing director of Music New South Wales, said.

Emily Collins [00:13:59] "Our industry needs to tackle these issues with more energy and direction. There is a willingness to change, but people don't know where to start".

Peta [00:14:09] And I agree with her, there needs to be more education for people who are event organisers to understand the needs and abilities of people attending their event and for them to realise that people with disabilities actually do want and can attend those events.

[00:14:30] The industry has a long way to go, but I look forward to its improvement. If it means that I get to dance and enjoy and have fun. Then yes, let's go.

[00:14:47] Thank you for listening to this week's episode. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did can I ask you to rate and review the episode if you listen on Apple podcasts? Or if you listen on Spotify, could you please click that little heart? It all helps other people find the podcast. Until next week. thanks so much, guys. Bye.


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