Disabled attendees at the Wireless festival have described access to the London event as an “absolute disaster” after being forced to cross “dangerous” terrain and watch performers from a remote platform next to the exit.
The three-day event, held at Crystal Palace between Friday (July 1) and Sunday (July 3) was headlined by A$AP Rocky, J Cole and Tyler the Creator.
Wheelchair users at the festival say they were taken to a viewing platform far from the stage and had to make their way over gravel, calling the festival a “miserable” experience. Organizers were accused of “not putting two minds into disabled people”.
The Independent wireless organizers Festival Republic have reached out for comment.
“It was an absolute disaster from the start,” said Katouche Goll, a 25-year-old public relations rep and content creator for people with disabilities PA news agency.
“Nothing could have prepared us for what was to come our way that day.
“[After the entrance], there was no way a disabled person could scale that hill unaided. One of your wheels would definitely get stuck in a pothole and send you flying. It was very dangerous.”
Goll has cerebral palsy and is an ambulatory wheelchair user, meaning she often uses a scooter for events such as festivals.
She said the terrain at Wireless meant she had to use a wheelchair on the second day.
“I wouldn’t normally use a wheelchair, but because I was physically exhausted and in pain after the first day, I had to use a wheelchair the next day,” she explained.
“We weren’t provided with tracking pads… and then because I couldn’t get my scooter or wheelchair over the gravel, I had to walk that distance on my crutches, and I have cerebral palsy, so it’s a lot of work.
“And then, when I was too tired, my sister had to carry me just so we could get to the podium and be so terribly far from the stage.”
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Goll documented her experience on Twitter using the hashtag #DisabilityAccessWireless.
A video showed the distance between the platform and the main stage, sparking outrage from other social media users.
Hannah Mambu quoted the tweet and demanded a refund.
Mambu, 24, is a full-time wheelchair user with spina bifida and was “shocked” by the viewing platform’s placement.
“I was shocked that they found it acceptable to sit there,” the aftercare counselor said.
“We all looked at each other like, ‘Is there any point in waving?’
“I zoom in on my phone to see the artist perform … we’re basically outside the park, everyone’s there jumping, having fun, and we’re in the back.”
The viewing platform for disabled visitors of the second stage is said to have been partially blocked by a tree.
Mambu and Goll paid more than £200 for their tickets. “We paid the same amount of money that everyone else paid,” Mambu said.
“They didn’t think about disabled people… they didn’t get people with mobility problems to advise them what the best solution is to give disabled people good vision.
“Where they took us was so exclusive, it was like they didn’t want us to be involved in the festival, they didn’t want us to have fun. It’s terrible.”
Goll also spoke of “hostile” and “incompetent” workers as she described how a worker pushed her sister before “insisting” that she was not disabled.
“It was absolutely horrific,” Goll said.
“We had a staff member who pushed my sister while she was carrying me … and insisted we weren’t disabled when we tried to access the other observation deck.”
Golld said she intends to complain to Wireless and hopes to get her money back.
“Being excluded and cut off from everyone else is such a frustrating characteristic of disability,” Goll added.
“Not because of anything to do with your actual condition, but simply because of the barriers people have put up to prevent you from enjoying public life fairly.”
Additional coverage by Press Association
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/wireless-disabled-access-b2115197.html Wireless: Disabled festival-goers call out organizers for ‘miserable’ experience