‘An absolute disaster’: Festival-goers with disabilities on ‘miserable’ wireless experience

Revelers have described the wireless festival’s disabled access as an “absolute disaster” after being forced to cross “dangerous” terrain and watch performers from a remote platform next to the exit.

Wireless’ three-day event, starting Friday at Crystal Palace, featured headliners such as ASAP Rocky, J. Cole and Tyler the Creator.

Wheelchair users at the festival, who were ushered to a viewing platform far from the stage and struggled across gravel, have reported an “abysmal” experience, with organizers accused of “not putting their minds to disabled people”.

“From the start it was an absolute disaster,” Katouche Goll, a 25-year-old public relations rep and content creator for people with disabilities, told the PA news agency.

The view from the platform where Katouche Goll and others had to watch (Katouche Goll/PA)

“Nothing could have prepared us for what was to come our way that day.

“(After the entrance) there was no way that a disabled person could climb that hill unaided. One of your wheels would definitely get stuck in a pothole and send you flying. It was very dangerous.”

Ms Goll from Canada Water, London, 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.

Katouche Goll
Ms. Goll was in so much pain that she returned in a wheelchair on the second day of Wireless (Katouche Goll)

“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 have 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 that awfully far from the stage.”

Ms. Goll documented the experience on Twitter with the hashtag #DisabilityAccessWireless.

A video showed the distance between the platform and the main stage, sparking outrage from other social media users.

A friend of Ms Goll, Hannah Mambu, quoted the tweet and claimed she wanted a refund.

Ms 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 find it acceptable to sit there,” said the Lewisham aftercare adviser.

“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 and having fun, and we’re in the back.”

The viewing platform for disabled visitors of the second stage was partially blocked by a tree.

Hannah Mambu
Hannah Mambu said she complained to Wireless to get a refund (Hannah Mambu/PA)

Ms Mambu and Ms Goll paid more than £200 for their tickets.

“We paid the same amount of money that everyone else paid,” Ms. 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 don’t want us involved in the festival, they don’t want us to have fun. It’s terrible.”

Ms Goll also spoke of “hostile” and “incompetent” workers as she described how one worker pushed her sister before “insisting” that she was not disabled.

The view from the platform for disabled participants watching the second stage at Wireless (Lexi Porter/PA)

“(It was) absolutely appalling,” Ms. Goll said.

“A member of staff pushed my sister while she was carrying me on her back and insisted we were not disabled when trying to access the other observation deck.”

She said she will complain to Wireless and hope to get her money back.

“Being excluded and separated from everyone else is such a frustrating characteristic of disability,” Ms. 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.”

PA has contacted wireless organizers Festival Republic for comment but has not responded as of publication.

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