As someone with a disability that requires use of a wheelchair, I honestly was daunted by the prospect of going to a festival again. I’ve been attending festivals for years, and Leeds Festival was one I’ve been to since 2004. I didn’t think I would be able to manage the site – with the bumpy grass, and often deep mud – or camping. Thankfully, the team at Attitude is Everything proved me wrong!
Attitude is Everything are a charity who helps to improve access to music for Deaf and Disabled people. They do incredible work, and I wish that I’d been familiar with them sooner! Essentially, they educate venues and promoters on what the needs of Deaf and Disabled gig goers are; they help them to implement adjustments to their events and venues to enable all people to attend. So next time you’re at a gig, ask yourself – would a Deaf or Disabled person be able to enjoy this? Is there a BSL interpreter available, so a Deaf person can experience more of the performance?
Are there ramps in place for wheelchair users or people with limited mobility? Is seating readily available? Is there a viewing platform? Are there good sized accessible toilets? What about a lowered bar, so everyone can get a drink? Are the staff trained properly?
It’s a lot of stuff to consider, isn’t it? And that’s just the tip of the iceburg! A disabled person has to often check all of this, and more, are in place prior to going to a gig. The Attitude is Everything award scheme helps to people to know what to expect in advance. They rate venues and festivals either bronze, silver or gold – which means the venues have been checked and mystery shopped, to prove they meet these standards. It’s such a great thing to have in place. I just wish that every place had such a scheme – imagine being able to go to a town or city, knowing that the shops, restaurants, museums and attractions were all rated.
I was fortunate to attend Leeds Festival last month, with Attitude is Everything. They essentially run the accessible campsite at the festival. Which means they have staff and volunteers on hand throughout the day in the information tent. What do they do? A lot more than I anticipated! They help people with finding good spots to pitch their tent, and act as a liaison with security and the Campsite Assistant Teams – which means they can help customers unload their cars and take their camping gear into the site and help them pitch their tents.
The ‘Attitude’ team also monitor the toilets and showers – reporting any issues to the Festival staff. They’re on hand to tell customers about changes to running times; or the best route to take to get into the arena; where to get medical assistance from; take feedback about the access standards at the festival; and to be a friendly face to chat with.
The team clearly love what they do. Such a fantastic bunch of people, and dedicated volunteers. They cover so many events each year – from Glastonbury to Latitude, Hyde Park to Reading and Leeds – these guys are proper festfam, and all the volunteers identify as Deaf or Disabled, so they understand the challenges that the customers face when attending live music events.
If you’re Deaf or Disabled and you would like to get involved with Attitude is Everything, you can! They are always on the lookout for people to help with Mystery Shopping – the basic premise being you go to a gig, check that the standards are being met and report back to AIE, and then receive your money back for the gig ticket. Free gigs? Yes please. They also open applications for festival volunteers each year, where you can go and support them in helping the accessible campsite run smoothly.
We need more organisations like this. We desperately need businesses to appreciate the challenges that disabled people face, and for them to respond by implementing quite often minor changes to their events and premises to enable access for all. It is true though, attitude IS everything. Hearts and minds have to change, and action has to follow. If you don’t identify as Deaf or Disabled, you can still be vocal about change that needs to happen. Don’t be afraid to ask businesses what they are dong to help improve access. Those conversations need to happen, and if we all participate then change will be just down the road.