As a wheelchair user, I often feel like I’m in a constant battle of accessibility issues and fighting for equal access wherever I go.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many times I feel like society has come a long way in terms of accessibility and then there are times I feel like we’ve stepped back a hundred years.
We shouldn’t still be having to fight for better access. But here we are, continuing the fight and battling even for basic of rights so we’re not treated like second class citizens.
On Saturday I attended Fusion Festival in Liverpool to see one of my all time favourite bands, Kings of Leon. We had been looking forward to seeing them again for such a long time.
Nothing could possibly ruin our night. Or so we thought.
What I and every other disabled person experienced at that festival made us feel worthless.
I’m a firm believer in trusting my gut. Unfortunately, I went against what it was telling me in the lead up to Fusion Festival. The lack of disabled access on their website, their poor communication and unresponsiveness to emails were massive signs that they weren’t interested.
My worries were confirmed as soon as we arrived at the festival. Disabled parking was a shambles and was located too far from the entrance. There was no accessible entrance which made entering through the main entrance difficult due to heavy crowds.
My heart sank when the event stewards appeared clueless about access or even where the accessible platform was located.
We were left to fight our way through crowds with drunk people falling over me and my wheelchair. Getting knocked in the face by oblivious wandering hands and elbows and cigarettes skimming my arms. All while trying to avoid the thousands and thousands of plastic bottles, food and discarded ponchos covering the entire ground and no wheelchair accessible ground matting in sight.
After begging an event steward to help us find the viewing platform we eventually made it. Our problems were not over though.
The viewing platform was the worst I’ve ever seen at any gig or festival. There was no-one in charge controlling access onto the platform so it was essentially a free for all. People who weren’t on the access list were able to get on the platform which meant it was extremely overcrowded. This meant there was no safe way to get off the platform in an emergency let alone get off the platform to use the toilet or get a drink.
Imagine going to an event and not being able to go to the toilet. That was the reality for many disabled people at Fusion Festival. There was one ‘‘wheelchair accessible’’ portaloo that could barely fit a wheelchair inside. It was too small for a wheelchair user and a carer to safely use the toilet. It was also filthy and blocked. Myself and many others simply could not use the toilet while at the festival.
If you or someone you know aren’t wheelchair users or disabled, then you may find this hard to believe. Unfortunately, it is, sadly, a common occurrence at some of the largest events. Things must change.