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Accessible toilets at festivals

Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,674 Disability Gamechanger

I'm went to Glastonbury last week and had a wonderful time though I was worried about dealing with my impairment at such a busy festival. Unfortunately I had a bit of any issue using an accessible toilet and thought I would share my experience.

After a lovely day, we went up to the stone circle to watch the fireworks, my ileostomy bag suddenly filled fast, we walked away in search of a toilet as I was concerned my bag was going to leak. We saw an accessible portaloo guarded by a staff member who saw me and said "this is for disabled people". 

He asked if I was staying in 'disabled camping' and I said no. He said "you know these toilets aren't for anyone other than disabled people right?" I said "yes I do, do you want me to tell you what my disability is?"

My husband said "you know that it's not just wheelchair users don't you?" My son pointed at the sign on the door that said "'Not all disabilities are visible" and the staff member said "lots of people might try and take advantage!" 

He eventually let me in and it was vile. There was human waste everywhere and it was pitch black. I had to ask my husband to come in and hold a torch whilst I sorted my bag out. We came out to the staff member complaining to other staff that people who weren't in disabled camping shouldn't be using the loos. I was mortified.

My husband went up and asked if there was a problem, he pointed out the sign and told them I had a disability and just because I wasn't in a wheelchair didn't mean I didn't have extra needs. That we weren't in disabled camping as he is staff so were in a staff campsite. They said they have to protect the loos from people who just want to use them.

Eventually another staff member said "do you have a colostomy bag?" I said yes ( then wasn't the time to split hairs!) and he explained that I could speak to our contact and get a wristband and also gave me the door code.

I've had to speak to a group of 6 people then another 2 to get use a toilet. It's embarrassing and humiliating. If I'd gone up in a wheelchair and not had a wristband they would not have treated me like that.

And to have a guarded, locked toilet that was so disgusting is ridiculous. Having a larger cubicle does not an accessible toilet make. A wheelchair user would have struggled massively to transfer themselves to that loo as it was filled to the brim and the sides were covered in human waste. It was so dark in there that I couldn't see a thing and needed someone to come and hold a torch! 

I've been going to festivals for the past 20 years, I know what toilets are like, I'm no princess and totally get that they're usually vile. But if you're guarding and locking a loo and making such a fuss about protection of disabled people, perhaps make that toilet truly accessible. We can and should do MUCH better than this.

In hindsight, I should have arranged my access needs before we got there, I found out that you can apply for a disability wristband prior to the festival by sending proof of your impairment.  I understand that it's a tricky line to get right, but I also wonder how this system works for people with chronic illnesses and invisible disabilities.

It is hard to know that the basic needs of toileting become a group discussion when you are a disabled person, I understand that they want to ensure that accessible toilets don't get misused but this system means having to disclose your impairment to laypeople who have no medical training so they can make a decision whether you can use a toilet or not.

What should an accessible toilet look like? How can we create a system that is fair to everyone? I would love to know your thoughts.

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  • iza
    iza Member, Community Co-Production Group Posts: 565 Pioneering
    Hi @Sam_Scope ,
    Sorry for you of that natural experience. I would email this post blog directly to organisers and see what they will change for a round next time. 
    At least I hope you enjoyed the music. 
  • milkmaid
    milkmaid Member Posts: 5 Listener
    I have crohns disease,and although I'd really love to go to glastonbury festival again, last time was 2002, pre diagnosis, this experience, and many others, just puts me right off. But good for you for still going! I just love love love love music, and was lucky enough to see the foo fighters at Manchester cricket ground. They did the same set @ Glasto, nearly word for word. Keep going to festivals for as long as your able. I personally think that the hubby, for my 50th, will pay for me to stay at the pop up hotel, so that I have access to my own clean loo, whilst at the festival!!!
  • Nystagmite
    Nystagmite Member Posts: 596 Pioneering

    I have problems with my bowels and bladder due to the medication I'm on. (I can't wait, basically) So whilst I'm not incapable of using of standard toilet, I have to use whatever's closest. But why and how should I have to prove this to someone who has no medical training? I don't have it in writing, because unlike the person who has crohns or a similar disease, I'm not under a specialist. It's mostly managed - it's just that I can't wait.

    Stuff like this puts me off going to festivals. I was lucky that at the festival we were at in 2015 in France, we weren't that far from the toilets.
  • lauon90
    lauon90 Member Posts: 6 Connected
    This is genuinely so disheartening to hear and so appalling. Why should you have had to be put through a thorough interrogation just to be able to use the loo? That sign is the most oxymoronic thing I've seen in a while "These toilets have been locked to avoid them being used by people who don't require them. Remember that not all disabilities are visible." Well then how are they judging who requires them?? Because it seems to me that the staff were judging you purely on whether or not you 'looked disabled'.

    (Also I'm appalled that they used Comic Sans for the font but that's a minor issue...)

    I'm not sure how you improve the situation in terms of cleanliness, as you say- festival loos are always pretty gross, but it sounds like the 'accessible' loos at Glasto were actually unsafe as opposed to just a bit gross.

    As an aside, I am always surprised to hear from disabled friends and colleagues when they come out of an accessible loo and say "Oh that wasn't that bad in there." As though they're always expecting the worst, to not have a decent loo to use.
  • Nystagmite
    Nystagmite Member Posts: 596 Pioneering
    I don't like the term "wheelchair accessible toilet" - like that's the only reason why disabled people use the disabled toilet.

    I do get dirty looks for using the disabled toilet - ironically, from people, like me, who are able to walk perfectly well and have no visible disability. 


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