“It's not that hard”: Making events more accessible for the disability community
Monday, 1st April 2019 at 4:23 pm
A disability advocate says event organisers must to do more to meet the access needs of people with disability, arguing a little thought can go a long way to stop attendees feeling excluded.
Melissa Benson, a disability advocate and motivational speaker, told Pro Bono News about a recent experience at a Melbourne music festival where there was no wheelchair access.
She said it was quite stressful for people with disability to attend a festival and realise they were barriers just to get around.
“I had to go through turnstiles at one festival a couple weeks ago. I just think that’s ridiculous,” Benson said.
“All these access points are temporary anyway so why not set up a special lane or access point for people with different needs who can’t get through a turnstile?”
She said event organisers needed to do more to cater to the needs of people with disability, especially when the National Disability Insurance Scheme was supporting people to get out more into the community.
Benson added that not a lot of thought needed to go into making things just that little bit easier for everybody.
“I think for a long time people with disability have been excluded from ‘enjoying’ some events because of their special requirements,” she said.
“I don’t think it’s that difficult to build ramps, or a wider gate, or a special lane rather than turnstiles. It’s not that hard. It’s just something that needs a little bit more thought put into it.”
Benson, who lost her eyesight at 21 and turned to motivational speaking to create awareness of vision loss, will be volunteering this weekend at Ability Fest.
This event is organised by The Dylan Alcott Foundation, and aims to use music as a platform to promote disability awareness in an inclusive environment.
The Coburg Velodrome will be transformed into a completely accessible venue for the event, with the inclusion of elevated platforms, pathways, quiet zones, companion ticketing, and accessible toilets.
Money raised from the event will be used to help young Australians with disability fulfil their potential through the foundation’s grant program.
Benson said Ability Fest was setting a standard for every other social and recreational event in the community.
She said she was excited to help out with the event, with things like handing out wristbands and water bottles.
“I would hasten to say I won’t be giving directions because I’m totally blind, but I would love to do so. Just to be slightly ironic!” she joked.
“I just think it’s really nice to be part of the community and be involved in events, especially one with such a significant meaning as Ability Fest.”
Ability Fest has partnered with online disability support platform Hireup to help recruit up to 50 volunteers from their community to support the festival.
Sarah Peddie-McGuirk, the head of community engagement at Hireup, said the organisation saw the opportunity for people with disability to not just attend the festival but to be actively involved in the day.
“We know that all people in our community have the capacity to contribute if they’re in an inclusive and accessible environment,” Peddie-McGuirk said.
“We hope that by showcasing the contribution of our volunteers, more festivals and events follow suit and open up new opportunities for people with disability to be more engaged and involved.”