Festivals are tricky when it comes to wheelin’ or crutchin’ around so these are my tips for making it as easy as possible.
- The disabled camping areas tend to be the furthest camp site away from the venue which is bizarre and completely inconvenient if you’re on crutches or in a rush to get to the main stage. I usually camp in whatever site is nearest to the main arena. I place my tent on the very edge of the camping area with my door facing out so that pegs and lines and bodies don’t block my way in and out.
- When it rains, the mud starts to pop up like Emeli Sandé at an awards show (i.e. everywhere). I have a very run-of-the-mill wheelchair so this is a big hassle for me. I have seen a few chairs that attach a ‘third wheel’ to their chair which makes mud and uneven ground much easier to go through. It’s called the Go Free Wheel and even though it’s a bit late to get one for the Picnic, if you save up your sheckles, your festival summer of 2014 could be easy sailing.
- If you’re heading on crutches, the main problem with festivals is that there’s not enough seating areas. It’s a pain in the ass to get up off the ground when you’re using sticks so keep a lookout for potential perching spots and own them like you’re the Queen of Sheba.
- I’m not a fan of the wheelchair platform areas because you’re kept far away from the crowd, the view isn’t amazing and you feel removed from the festival. My main trick is to get to the very front of the barrier and watch from there. The key thing with this is to be sound to those around you and to the security guards and you shouldn’t have any problems. Of course, this is probably against security regulations but you have paid for a ticket and you shouldn’t have to be booted to the very back to watch everyone else have fun.
- Wheelchairs are great hiding spots for booze. I’ve given myself away here but it’s all for the greater good.
- The ground is rough. Wheelchair users know how to navigate the ground because we’re a metre away from it and can see when a dip or rock is in the way. Those pushing may not see what’s ahead and you could end up flying out of the chair. So if you’re wheeling yourself and getting a heave here and there, keep that in mind and hold on.
- If you’re on crutches, avail of the piggy back. There’s probably grounds for a romcom in someone giving you a piggy back at a festival because you broke your foot. If you get married, include me in the speech.
- Even though there are wheelchair toilets, there aren’t very many. If there is a queue at the wheelchair portaloo, ask if you can skip it. There are hundreds and hundreds of regular-sized poratloos and very few wheelchair-friendly ones. Common decency and common sense should hopefully mean that you won’t have to queue for too long at a wheelchair portaloo.
- A lot of the First Aid tents have a wheelchair portaloo behind them. Again, this probably isn’t meant to be public knowledge but if you’re miles from one (like in the regular campsites), this could be your best bet.