Back from my second Glastonbury post disability, here’s what I realised.
- Disabled people planned the disabled facilities
I’m resigned to calling all pubs and venues before going to ask if they have wheelchair access. But even when the answer is yes, there’s no guarantee; the disabled toilet might not have rails in it, there might be a small but unavoidable step to the bar, or a slightly too narrow doorway. Glastonbury work with a specific charity (Attitude is Everything) to design the access, so when they say it’s accessible, it actually is. Electric scooters are hired out, there’s a disabled minibus to the Park and Avalon in the far corners, all disabled viewing platforms have a disabled portaloo attached (in case you want to do some crazy multitasking of watching a band AND drinking). It just makes sense.
- The staff don’t seem to hate you
How many times in London do I see the irritated look in the barman’s eyes when they need to find their fold out ramp that says “This place is busy, we don’t really need your money, and I’m certainly not paid enough for this… can’t you just go somewhere else?”. At Glastonbury, the staff and volunteers seemed not only to be happy to help, but actually pleased I was there. The team in the disabled campsite charged phones, found emergency tampons, handed out tea, all for donations. And the sentiment is the same throughout the festival.
- The public don’t seem to hate you
People are generally polite and helpful (if a bit patronising), don’t get me wrong. Until they’re in a rush and want to get somewhere. Then I’m just an object blocking the way, moving slower and taking more space than anyone else (and obviously, I must have nowhere else to be fast). Sure everyone at Glasto’s in a pretty good mood anyway, but the fact is the acceptance (“You have MS? Will a hashcake help?”), patience, and goodwill comes as a novelty.
- Disabled toilets are just that
How many times have I been desperate to pee, waiting ten minutes outside a disabled toilet, for someone to emerge with no apparent disability… normally a furtive ‘sorry’ to me before they rush off, or sometimes they just avoid eye contact altogether. The disabled portaloos at Glastonbury have a padlock on them – the code for it being on your wristband. So when I was queuing for the loo, i knew it wasn’t someone having a nap/doing a dump/having sex/taking drugs in there, and so didn’t mind a wait. Alternately in town, a pub has a disabled toilet, but it’s primary use is a store cupboard, and before I can use it needs a minor refurb. Bottom line, the disabled portaloos at Glastonbury have more space than a lot of permanent disabled toilets in the capital.
- Where parts aren’t accessible, there’s a good reason
Last year the farm was miles of swampland. So rolling through the far corners was impossible. And no amount of planning can change that. I saw countless people losing their wellies and falling over in the mud – it wasn’t easy for anyone. When I get annoyed is when places could be accessible with just a little planning and investment, but don’t, because it’s London, it’s busy anyway, and they don’t need to. ‘It’s an old building’ I get told… so’s the National Gallery and they manage it. Stop with the excuses.
- You don’t feel segregated
The standard I’ve got used to is that there’s some separate route for disabled people. So my friends will be buying gig tickets online but I need to call an access line for one of the limited accessible spaces. We’ll be getting a flight together but I need to check in at a different desk. We go to a restaurant but I need to use another entrance. It’s hard not to feel that there’s a division. For a Glastonbury ticket, you’re online at 9am on the Sunday like everyone else, no better or worse chance of getting a ticket. Then when you’ve got one, you’ve got months to apply for the disabled campsite, hire an electric scooter, ask about all the facilities and help you need. There’s no quota of disabled tickets, you’re not camped miles away from Worthy Farm getting a shuttle bus in. You’re at Glastonbury ‘cause you want to be, and also disabled, it’s no issue.
Congrats to the Glastonbury team, I’m singing your praises, also posted here.