At Wild Rumpus we work in the woods. We build festivals and events in natural landscapes. We create spectacles for people to engage with together. And we do these things with the idea that if people want to come, they should be able to.
If you were going to pick a location for a fully accessible event, woodland and parkland might not be the first choice. Maybe somewhere with ramps, indoor toilets, a changing places space, hard standing car parks, air conditioning, fixed infrastructure and integrated public transport. But probably not the woods.
This, where we work, has shaped our approach to access.
We want: to build brilliant things, in beautiful spaces for people to enjoy and facilitate access to those things. To implement creative solutions. To remove barriers to access.
We don’t want: to build things based on what ‘anyone’ can do, in spaces ‘anyone’ should be able to access. To do the ‘correct’ thing, rather than the effective thing. To avoid access ‘problems’.
So, how do we do that and how can other people? How do we build access into an event of festival?
- Access is about people, not law. There is law around access, and rightly so. The law is there to make sure that people aren’t picked out of a crowd or underserved. The law is there to make sure we do the minimum. But the minimum is not the goal. Primarily access is about the people who want to access your event. Their perspective, requirements and what will make things easier for them. Start with your whole audience, not the ones just like you, and talk about what people need. And as a quick rule, when people tell you they need something – believe them. They know themselves!
- Anticipate, and leave room for being wrong. If you look at what you’re planning, and consider different people (families, children, adults, wheelchair users, older people, people with problems in mobility) you might be able to anticipate some barriers to access. Anticipate them, and try to remove them. But remember, your anticipation will not be as full as people’s experience. So leave room in your schedule to be able to talk, consider and alter where you can.
- People are all about solutions. People who want to see a show, or attend a festival generally want exactly that. So working with people on site to make sure they are able to access is a brilliant thing to do. It isn’t ‘on the fly’, it is responsive. Just ask yourself, in that moment, is there something we can do here to make this experience better? Can something be moved? Can I print something out? Can I just go and get something for someone? Often is isn’t the ramps and big infrastructure – it is the little efforts and the attitude that shows.
- Discounted tickets shouldn’t mean a discounted time. Some festivals and events provide discounted tickets for disabled people – we don’t. This is because we prefer to provide as much as possible so that a person can make use of their full price ticket. If you need 3 people to assist you throughout the weekend, they should be included in your ticket. So that you can use your ticket.
If you need more information about how to make festivals and venues more accessible check out Attitude is Everything, they have resources for developing online and offline access provision – as well as providing brilliant training on disability equality. The name says it all, they are superb.
The last thing to say is talk to people. Talk to your audience and the people who know their lives best. Ask questions and be honest. Be honest about what you don’t know, what you don’t understand and what people can expect and plan for.