Making Festivals and Markets Accessible for Everyone

Person using a wheelchair trying to get into an event space and over a portable ramp

This weekend is Easter, and whilst not everyone celebrates the religious aspects to the holiday, many people take advantage of the long weekend to travel, visit friends and attend various events such as festivals and markets across the country.

If you are involved in planning or working in any of these events over the long weekend, please consider how the event will cater for everyone.

Disability discrimination occurs when people are treated less fairly because they have a disability, or because they are relatives, friends, carers, co-workers or associates of a person with a disability. Disability discrimination can occur directly or indirectly and this relates to event management and event spaces too.

So, if you are helping with an event please be aware of the range of abilities in society and try to ensure that barriers preventing good access are removed (or at least reduced).

These barriers might be physical barriers such as pipes and cables over pathways, steps in doorways or locating unique ‘things’ in areas not accessible for everyone including those using mobility aids (for example, getting onto a stage, putting a play area in the middle of soft grassed areas or using marquees with platform flooring without ramped access).

Providing seating spaces where families can sit together including those using a wheelchair is an inclusive approach, with accessible pathways linking all unique activities. If these paths aren’t suitable, then temporary matting can be used when surfaces are not traversable.

Other barriers commonly experienced in temporary events could be communicative barriers, where information is displayed too small, too high, in illegible print or not available in alternate formats.

For example, food vending trucks could hand out large print menus, provide lower easier to see menu boards, provide picture menus or assist others with low vision or those who are blind by reading the menus to people.

Event staff should have pen and paper available in all locations, which might help in some cases. Awareness of these communication barriers will help reduce a bad experience for someone who has difficulty speaking or communicating (including the millions of people visiting Australia from non-English speaking countries each year).

Child with disability, in an accessible swing in a playground, with the stroller next to the swing, the child is smiling happily

If there are public speeches or performances, then sign language interpreters or a temporary hearing loop should be provided (with signage) to ensure people with low hearing can get the same message and clearly hear the sound without it being affected by background noise and reverberation. Video screens can also display captions (sub-titles) for any spoken dialogue.

Unfortunately, attitudes can be another hidden barrier when those helping or working in the event are not familiar or accustomed to interacting with people of various abilities and needs. Disability awareness training can help overcome this barrier.

Promoting an accessible event, through information on brochures, websites and at entry points will encourage participation and attendance. Encourage all staff and volunteers to use ‘person-first’ inclusive language. You can read more about it here – https://www.and.org.au/pages/inclusive-language.html

The event information should provide a map, available to download or available at entry points with all accessible features identified inside the event. This can include the drop-off locations, accessible car parking spaces, and where the baby change and toilets are available in the event space. This map might also highlight any physical barriers and identify the accessible alternate path available.

Signage at entry points should reflect this positive ‘inclusive’ attitude and commitment to good access by displaying signage confirming the acceptance of assistance animals in the event space and the use of Companion Cards for those people accompanying a person with a disability.

6 portable toilets along pathwayAccess to suitable sanitary facilities if often not acceptable at temporary events, when compliant accessible toilets, drinking fountains and baby change areas are not provided for everyone.

Maroondah Council has a fully accessible facility for hire that includes an overhead ceiling hoist, height adjustable adult change table, access ramp and an automatic door – http://www.maroondah.vic.gov.au/Community-support-services/Disability-services/Marveloo.

Think also of the dietary needs in society and try to provide a range of food options, providing gluten-free, dairy-free and meat-free alternatives.

Emergency planning should also consider how everyone would get out of the event space or to a safe place, which requires training for security staff and a method of alerting anyone who might not hear or see the typical cues for evacuation.

Events such as markets, festivals and community fetes are great family fun, but this is not always the case for those families with a member with additional access needs. Therefore, please encourage an accessible event with maximum participation for everyone.

This is not a comprehensive list of recommendations to provide a more accessible event, there are many more aspects, but it is a starting point.

More information can be found here: