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Music festivals are among the most popular entertainment events in cities all around the world, particularly when the weather is warm. Large groups of people gather, sometimes for several days at a time, to enjoy music by a range of artists and across a range of genres.
Music festivals often pose significant limitations accessibility.
Festivals often take place on grassy areas, which can be difficult to navigate using mobility devices such as wheelchairs. Mosh and enclosure areas do not provide seating space for attendees, which means that seated wheelchair users can disadvantaged, even endangered, by a predominantly standing and overly enthusiastic crowd.
Often, festivals are serviced by portable toilet facilities with limited adapted bathroom access, which is a major contributor to festival inaccessibility.
Fortunately, our society is moving towards a more inclusive future and is beginning to understand how important accessible entertainment events are, which means that disability-friendly music festival attendance options are on their way to the mainstream.
Accessibility is increasingly becoming a music industry priority, and festival organisers are taking steps to plan and include improved access solutions.
Festivals are beginning to incorporate better wheelchair zones and adapted bathroom facilities. Some festivals even provide small sensory-friendly areas for attendees who live with Autism or other sensory processing disorders.
Planning Ahead and Requesting Support
If planning to attend a music festival as a person with a disability, it’s important to plan in advance and request necessary supports ahead of time. Make plans for:
- Transport: Will you taking public transport or driving to the festival? What accessible public transport or parking options will be available?
- Ticketing: Are you entitled to a discount or Companion Card entry? What will you need to provide to the organisers to claim it?
- Venue Access: Is the venue accessible for you? Are there particular shows or events that will offer access provisions? What accessible and inaccessible pathways and viewing areas will you need to be aware of?
- Food and Drink: Will your dietary needs be accommodated for?
- Sensory Needs: Are designated sensory or quiet zones available? Will you need to use them, and do you know where they are located?
- Visual and Audio Access: Will you need to rely on audio descriptions or visual aids, or will you need to rely on audio induction loops or sign language interpretation? Are these things available?
- First Aid: Do you know where the relevant first aid providers will be located? Are you prepared with any and all relevant medical information that may need to treat you safely?
Australian Music Festivals for People with Disabilities
Organised by The Dylan Alcott Foundation and Untitled Group, Ability Fest calls itself Australia’s “most inclusive music festival.” The one-day event is a fundraising initiative, raising money to support Alcott’s foundations, which runs a grant program to support young Australians with disabilities.
Ability Fest is designed for inclusion. It features elevated platforms, pathways, quiet zones, companion ticketing, ramps, and accessible toilets, and it’s staffed by disability-aware volunteers. Like most music festivals, Ability Fest is 18+. Its purpose is to replicate a typical musical festival experience in a more disability-friendly environment.
South Australia’s Sounds & Vibes festival is a relatively new introduction to the Australian music scene. The festival was run by KYD-X, a not-for-profit organisation working to raise awareness, find solutions, and create opportunities for young people with disabilities to experience the same things as their able-bodied peers. KYD-X recognises music events as important cultural experiences, so it worked to create a festival that was accessible and inclusive.
The Feel the Beat Music Festival was a small-scale event run by The Disability Trust at The Cube, Campbelltown Catholic Club and featured a wide range of musical genres. The events was specifically tailored to young people with disabilities and provided tickets for just $10 each. Music was volume controlled, the venue was ground floor and accessible, and adapted toilets were available onsite. No strobe lighting was used, and a quiet zone was available for attendees to use as needed.
Mainstream Australian Music Festivals with Accessibility Options
SydFest includes a number of accessibility provisions, as outlined in the festival’s organisational work with the Sydney Festival Access and Inclusion Advisory Panel.
The SydFest website has links to an Accessible Performance Guide and Calendar, which provide people with disabilities with an outline of accessible shows.
Many SydFest venues offer induction hearing loop systems, and a number of performances are Auslan interpreted for hearing impaired attendees. Some live theatre shows include captioning.
Vision impaired attendees can book to have access to tactile tours and audio description of certain shows/productions.
Sensory friendly environments are available with sound and lighting modifications and a quiet area. The festival provides as much wheelchair access as possible and will recognise Companion Card users.
People with disabilities will be able to use a code when booking for discount and seating with a good view of sign language interpreters.
The Toyota Country Music Festival Tamworth includes an accessibility map on its event site and will provide a number of accessible parking locations, as well as being accessible via public transport. Adapted toilets are available, as are designated accessible viewing areas.
Falls Festival – Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia
Falls Festival recognises Companion Cards and provides internal disability amenities. Nearby disability parking is available, and wheelchair access is available in some parts of the venue. Special access arrangements can be made with organisers.
Laneway Festival – Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales, New Zealand
Laneway Festival offers some disability access, though terrain is variable. Adapted toilet facilities are available.
Splendour in the Grass offers assistance with disability access logistics if contacted via email. Indoor events are accessible, but while most outdoor events feature some access provisions, terrain is inaccessible in some parts. Accessible parking requires the pre-purchase of an accessible Vehicle Pass.
Viewing areas are available for attendees with disabilities, and accessible toilets and showers are available. Splendour in the Grass supports Companion Cards.
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