The festival toilet experience is rarely a pleasant one. Thousands of people who are drinking, eating burgers and taking drugs are going in and out to use a space that’s 118cm wide and 234cm high and can get blocked very easily. Every morning in the campsites, the portaloos are a litmus test to see how pukey you are from the night before. If the smell doesn’t make you gag or throw up a bit in your mouth, then you’re fit to start drinking again.
Hovering is a festival skill. Peeing so nothing touches you because it would be a pity to have to burn all of your clothes as soon as you get home. And that’s why wheelchair users need their own accessible portaloos so that hordes of people don’t clog up the only place that they can go to the toilet.
Very few festivals have got this right but it’s a very easy thing to solve.
- Wheelchair portaloos need to be accessible so locking them is a terrible idea. What if no one can find the key? What if someone breaks off the lock and then anyone can go in and use them? If it’s possible to get a key copied for everyone who needs it, that would be great but not all disabilities are visible so it would be tough to monitor.
- They need to be within a reasonable distance because when you’re going cross-country to go to the toilet, all of the bumps and mud that go hand-in-hand with the Irish music festival are an added obstacle course.
- They need to be easy to find. In the outdoors, it’s not easy to trek about in a wheelchair so the portaloos need to be well signed and in clear view.
Festival organisers and gig goers need to realise that there is only one wheelchair portaloo per 50 single portaloos at a festival so when they’re queuing up and using the accessible portaloos, they are truly ripping the piss. If someone is using a wheelchair, the skill of hovering is close to impossible or they might need to dispose of medical waste and going to the toilet in the woods just isn’t an option so the less people that use the wheelchair portaloo, the better.
The only way that I think this would be possible is to dot more accessible portaloos around the site and, as well as having them at every toilet area, to have them in areas that are guarded by staff members. So this means beside all viewing platforms, at all First Aid tents and near or beside all entrances to and from the festival site. Every campsite needs an accessible portaloo because not everyone with a disability will want to camp in the disabled campsite. The disabled campsites are often far away from all of the fun and they limit how many friends you can bring in with you so organisers need to take on board that you cannot and should not limit people with disabilities to one area.
I remember one year at Electric Picnic, the toilets had reached Biblical levels of horror on Sunday and the accessible portaloos were completely unusable. I had noticed over the weekend that most of the smaller stages had wheelchair portaloos backstage so I thought I’d chance my arm and ask security if I could use them. The answer was a firm no. No way. These are for artists only. In cases like that, a bit of understanding or common sense would have been a great help. I wasn’t blagging my way in for the good of my health… well, I was actually.
There are so many ways to make all festivals in Ireland properly wheelchair friendly but the easiest way to start on that is to make sure the accessible toilets are clean and available to use. To make that happen, the organisers need to actually think about the needs of paying customers and other gig goers need to respect their non-hovering comrades. So if you’re going to a festival or any event with portaloos, think of me before you pee. Please.