By Fiona Bridger, Researcher and Writer, Achieve Australia, 20 April 2023
The 2023 Adelaide Festival last month was my first festival. The music came from around the world and I also went to a live comedy show.
The verdict? If you haven’t been to Adelaide or have been dreaming about visiting a festival, do yourself a favour and give it a go next year in March. You won’t regret it.
Adelaide was not my first festival for a lack of trying - only a lack of accessibility.
I found the Adelaide Festival very accessible to all types of disabilities - people who are wheelchairs users, people who are vision impaired/blind, people who have service dogs and people who have intellectual disabilities. You can read about the various features in more detail under the Accessibility tab on the Adelaide Festival website.
Finally, I was able to take part in this spectacular event. It has always been a dream of mine to go to a music festival, but I've never had anyone to go with me. When my support worker and friend Gaby asked me to go with her, I was ecstatic.
This was not the first time I’ve had the joy of traveling with a friend/support worker. I have travelled to India, Queensland, and Melbourne with various support workers. I love travelling with a support worker as it gives my family a break from me while also giving me a break from them. I love the independence and freedom I have when going on holidays. I always look forward to go away with new people and experiencing new adventures.
Accessibility challenges and helpful staff
The festival program is held mostly in Adelaide Park Lands - a beautiful location. Although the festival was accessible, it was still tough using my manual wheelchair to move over the ground, up and down hills and across grass full of tree roots.
The staff were great with assisting us in getting around, as the festival site was very large. There were a couple stages scattered around the park where various bands performed. A special viewing area was set up for people with disabilities who clearly needed a better view than everyone else (kidding) or just needed to be out of the crowds of people.
The festival also had abc boards available for people who have a speech impairment to communicate with staff in case they had misplaced their own board.
Fringe Festival and Tim Ferguson performance
I had the privilege of attending Australian comedian Tim Ferguson’s show, Disabilities Rules! It was eye opening.
In his show, Tim highlights what it is like to be a person with a disability while also putting a hilarious spin on life in his shoes.
Tim describes his life and disability this way: “I am a self-employed comedian and screenwriter. I have multiple sclerosis (progressive). I maintain a career touring live shows and making movies. Travelling in a wheelchair creates some challenges but with preparation and persistence, these can be overcome. Employment has always created a positive effect on my psychological well-being. It means engaging with new people and overcoming challenges.”
I for one am glad Tim continues to work. His show was really funny although there were times when he was a little bit rude but despite this, I did have a great time.
I stayed at the Ucity apartments, which are fully accessible to people with disabilities. I would definitely consider staying there again as it was amazing to stay in a very accessible apartment building.
They are fully kitted out with everything from a fully accessible bathroom to providing equipment like shower chairs. Some of the rooms even have hoists and the kitchen is also disability friendly, which you don’t often see. I love that there were two rooms, one for a support worker and one for me. It’s lovely to be able to sleep in different rooms.
How do other festivals measure up?
Tamworth Country Music Festival (TCMF)
TCMF is held each January and this year launched new technology to make the event accessible for people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing and DeafBlind.
You can read more on this page of the TCMF site, but in summary the tech involved people being able to book wearable technology vests that enable the wearer to feel the music.
There is also designated accessible viewing areas plus large screens to enhance viewing. And there is accessible parking. Read more at https://www.tcmf.com.au/accessibility
Staged this year from April 6-10, the festival in Byron Bay, NSW is well known around the world.
One of my favourite artists is Jessica Mauboy and I’m so excited she is on the bill in 2023. I love her voice.
The festival is accessible in many ways such as allowing for carers tickets to be covered by the Companion Card and Assistance Dogs are allowed within the festival and camping areas. There is also a designated camping area for people with a disability but alas, no power to any of the camping areas.
Other features include accessible seating and sound amplification systems available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Auslan Interpreters are available at some of the performances.
Bluesfest has an amazing array of artists and it’s awesome to see it become accessible for people with disabilities. I hope anyone going has a great time at this awesome event.
Feel free to jump on the Bluesfest website to ask the event any questions you have about their accessibility. Accessibility features are detailed under the Services section on the site.
My next festival trip
I would definitely love to go to more music festivals in the future because I love the weird music shown in festivals.
I was shocked to see how accessible the Adelaide Festival was and hope the next one I go to is just as great.
Every person regardless of their ability should have the right to go to a festival and have as much fun as I did.