Music festivals are an amazing form of entertainment, with one of the biggest growing industries worldwide, but they aren’t always accessible for people with disabilities.
A lot of festivals take place on grassy terrain, whether it be fields or outdoors areas, which can be difficult to navigate using mobility devices such as wheelchairs (especially when that grass turns to mud). The lack of seating areas also causes inconvenience for wheelchair uses when it comes to moshing areas, not to mention dangerous if the crowd is a little too hyped.
But over the years festival organisers have been taking steps to better accessibility within their events. Festivals are beginning to incorporate better wheelchair zones and adapted bathroom facilities. Some festivals even provide small sensory-friendly areas for attendees who live with Autism or other sensory processing disorders. This is huge for the community and helps people with disabilities experience the wonderous joy that is music festivals, to the fullest.
Below are a list of Australian music festivals for people with disabilities, as well as mainstream festivals with accessibility options:
Australian Music Festivals for People with Disabilities
Organised by The Dylan Alcott Foundation and Untitled Group, Ability Fest calls itself Australia’s “most inclusive music festival.” The one-day event is a fundraising initiative, raising money to support Alcott’s foundations, which runs a grant program to support young Australians with disabilities.
Ability Fest is designed for inclusion. It features elevated platforms, pathways, quiet zones, companion ticketing, ramps, and accessible toilets, and it’s staffed by disability-aware volunteers. Like most music festivals, Ability Fest is 18+. Its purpose is to replicate a typical musical festival experience in a more disability-friendly environment.
South Australia’s Sounds & Vibes festival is a relatively new introduction to the Australian music scene. The festival was run by KYD-X, a not-for-profit organisation working to raise awareness, find solutions, and create opportunities for young people with disabilities to experience the same things as their able-bodied peers. KYD-X recognises music events as important cultural experiences, so it worked to create a festival that was accessible and inclusive.
The Feel the Beat Music Festival was a small-scale event run by The Disability Trust at The Cube, Campbelltown Catholic Club and featured a wide range of musical genres. The events was specifically tailored to young people with disabilities and provided tickets for just $10 each. Music was volume controlled, the venue was ground floor and accessible, and adapted toilets were available onsite. No strobe lighting was used, and a quiet zone was available for attendees to use as needed.
Mainstream Australian Music Festivals with Accessibility Options
SydFest includes a number of accessibility provisions, as outlined in the festival’s organisational work with the Sydney Festival Access and Inclusion Advisory Panel. The SydFest website has links to an Accessible Performance Guide and Calendar, which provide people with disabilities with an outline of accessible shows. Many SydFest venues offer induction hearing loop systems, and a number of performances are Auslan interpreted for hearing impaired attendees. Some live theatre shows include captioning. Vision impaired attendees can book to have access to tactile tours and audio description of certain shows/productions. Sensory friendly environments are available with sound and lighting modifications and a quiet area. The festival provides as much wheelchair access as possible and will recognise Companion Card users.
The Toyota Country Music Festival Tamworth includes an accessibility map on its event site and will provide a number of accessible parking locations, as well as being accessible via public transport. Adapted toilets are available, as are designated accessible viewing areas.
Falls Festival recognises Companion Cards and provides internal disability amenities. Nearby disability parking is available, and wheelchair access is available in some parts of the venue. Special access arrangements can be made with organisers.
Laneway Festival – Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales, New Zealand
Laneway Festival offers some disability access, though terrain is variable. Adapted toilet facilities are available.
Splendour in the Grass offers assistance with disability access logistics if contacted via email. Indoor events are accessible, but while most outdoor events feature some access provisions, terrain is inaccessible in some parts. Accessible parking requires the pre-purchase of an accessible Vehicle Pass.