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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Guide for "Disabled" festival goers:

Time to swap my shorts for ski pants, for Biffy to become less shirt-less and the butty vans to return back to their industrial estates.  Yes, it's sadly that time of year. The British summer music festivals have all come to a close. As the abandoned blow up beds and tents finally lay to rest in landfill sights, i thought it was only fitting that I compile a guide for next years disabled festival goers.
Wheelchair-aerial view of The Killers at T - July 2013

Is the "Disabled Campsite" for you?
For first timers, it's about making the decision on whether to use the "disabled" camping facilities or not. Festivals are pretty open as to what defines a "disability" and a large number of different people are now making use of the facilities on offer. I've met people with Chrone's disease, autism, visual impairment, MS and bumped into the odd spinal cord injured friend. Large festivals, like Reading for instance, are now asking for proof of disability when you register for disabled camping. (They tend to ask you for a copy/scan of your DLA letter.)

Still not sure?  Liberty with autism says "it's quieter than the other camps and there's always staff to help." Iain, who's deaf, likes to use the "disabled access because it's easier for all the deaf friends to stay close without having to stress too much as it can be hard to hear with all the crowd making noise!" He also mentioned that he loves the atmosphere of the disabled campsite and feels safer as there are less people which makes it easier when people aren't necessarily deaf aware.

If you are opting to book and register for disabled camping:

  • Make use of the "2 for 1" carer tickets available.
  • Book and register for disabled camping tickets as soon as possible, so you're not disappointed...
  • Put the "Disabled registration date" in your diary! Most festivals don't open up their registration up until about 2/3 months before the festival, don't buy your tickets and then forget to register!
  • It will give you and (usually one other person) access to Disabled viewing platforms. (scroll down for more info!)
My faithful Hi Gear proton 2 man tent: £36.27
(discount card price) Go Outdoors.
Equipment tips!

Granted this is mainly aimed at wheelchair users, but it's something to think about, regardless of ability!
Festivals are a good introduction to camping with a disability, as you're in a safe environment with people who can help you out.

  • Big tents that are big enough to stand up in and have a "living space" are great for wheelchair users at festivals. It gives you privacy to get dressed etc. without having to use the bathroom (queues don't often occur, but  sometimes you don't always want to trek!) 
  • Huge tents also give you privacy when transferring from floor to chair and prevent the rain from pouring down on you as you are about to jump into your chair for the day. (It happened to me!)
  • Porches are a saviour! If you don't want to invest in a super huge tent with compartments, that's fine. Just make sure you have  a tent that has some sort of "porch". Most tents do come with this as standard, however some don't. 
  • If you're leaving your chair outside, make sure you take your cushion off and tip your chair upside down! (rain and dew are not nice friends to make first thing in a morning!)
Sleeping stuff:
Temperature regulation is a common issue for people with physical disabilities. It might be summer, but the clearer the sky, the cooler the night!

An example of what camp sites look like on Monday
  • Have at least a 3 season or 4 season sleeping bag. (And if you're a para/tetra, make sure your legs don't fall out in the middle of the night!)
  • When it comes to sleeping mats, i have a self inflating rolling one. It's extremely portable and pretty comfortable. Don't opt for  a basic, flat sleeping mat. You will either get pressure marks (apparently) and will wake up every morning with a killer back. 
  • Inflatable mattress? If that's your thing...go for it. To me, it's not camping but it's great entertainment for fellow campers! One of my highlights at T in the Park was watching a semi-drunk scottish man attempt to squeeze a double blow up mattress into a two man tent whilst holding a can of Tennents!
    Roll up sleeping mat...pretty small?
  • Don't be wasteful! think of the environment! I hate seeing people dumping mattresses, tents and all sorts. Feel free to get drunk and have a blast but think about how you're going to have just as good a time next year or on another camping're wasting your own money and leaving a mess for other people to clean up.

Clothing (obviously from a girls POV, but boys, take note!
Shorts, tights strappy tops and hoodies, lots
of hoodies!!!

  • Shorts for the day! Disability or not, make the most of the sun! Strappy tops; great for when you've got lots of pushing to do!
  • Tights at night. As mentioned, temperature regulation is a bummer. Tights are great, better than jeans and tracksuit bottoms for warming cold legs up. They're "tighter" and improve regulation...especially for paralysed legs. 
  • Hoodies! Take at least two. Remember, festivals can be wet and muddy, there's nothing worse than a wet, muddy hoody! 
  • Waterproof trousers! Later in the season...rain can be chilly...if it's one of those days, shove the waterproof trousers on! (Put them on the top of shorts, so you can take them off when the sun comes out.)
Extra handy things! (pretty general)
  • Don't forget your medication and take more than you need.
  • Alcohol gel is a must! (leg wash, and portaloos!)
  • Wet wipes.
  • make sure your medication and personal care items are protected in different bags.
  • Pack a few extra blankets in your car, just in case you get really cold or all your hoodies get muddy.
  • Lots of towels! 
  • Dry shampoo. (I didn't use the showers at Reading. It's late August and i have long hair that takes ages to dry...)
The reality of "Viewing platforms."
I'm concerned that i've given them a bad press. They're not bad, i just personally never really have a great time on them. Most people i talk to say that they need to be made bigger and the atmosphere on them tends to feel pretty damp compared to the rest of the gig...and most people agree! One issue that is pretty hard for festival organisers to deal with is the fact that some people abuse the platforms. Wristbands have been introduced so that the person with the disability and one other member of their party can use the platform. I completely understand why this is the case. If you're with a group of friends however, it can kill the buzz and people can feel a little left out. As a whole viewing platforms give you a fair and good view and if that's all your after, then you're in luck!

So that's that. I hope this helps you out! Any questions, you know where to ask. I hope to bump into you and not your guy ropes somewhere in the middle of a field, next summer!

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