Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I hope to see you there.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Back on the Road
"OK, so the first thing that I want to blog about is the fact that blogger have locked me out of my old blog! It keeps telling me that my password is wrong, which, it isn’t. So I’ve been through the whole process of trying to re-establish a new password which I simply can’t get to work and it keeps telling me the new password is wrong even though I’ve just re-established it and confirmed it. Grrrrrrrrr, technology…… Anyway, here’s a new start on a new blog, lets hope I write more this time."
Funny how now that I've opened a new blog I can get into this one....... Now I have the predicament of working out which one to use for what....Anyway, back to the blogging.....
I’ve been doing some looking around recently at different things on the internet and there is some criticism about my old blog: http://www.accessibleconsulting.blogspot.com/ because I haven’t written anything in over a year. Well I guess that that’s a fair enough comment and anyone that has ever looked at the blog has now long since gone, but I thought I’d give this another shot……
So first a festival update. July 2006 saw the opening of a new music festival “SummerCase” which I mentioned in both June and July of 2006. I had a great time and the access was a little better than Primarvera Sound. There were more viewing stages for wheelchair users and more accessible toilets too. Although the first night they forgot to put the ramps to the door so they were totally inaccessible! I suppose this is fairly typical, useless, yet somehow to be expected.
2007 has so far been a busy year and so I didn’t manage to get to either of the festivals to see if the access has improved at all. It’s a shame really as I really wanted to go to them, but life and business are both going well which is important.
Anyway, that’s enough about me for now, I’ve been looking at other people’s blogs and I think I went wrong by trying to write too much and putting too much time into it (I easily get distracted by the work I should be doing). So from here on in it’s shorter pieces with useful information and funny not so useful information.
Here’s my blog of the day: http://www.matthewgoodsell.co.uk/ “The ILL-informed Ramblings Of A Cripple” “A half-assed attempt at political and social commentary. “ Matthews words not mine! Beware that some colourful language is used but Matthew has been blogging for 5 years now so he must have something to say that will interest all of us.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Accessible Rural Tourism in the Dordogne
It’s started getting really hot here in Barcelona so I decided to pay a visit to a place I’ve been several times in the Dordogne, France, to cool off a little. There are now two properties in the small village of Gresingac provided by www.accessholidays.com which are designed to be accessible for wheelchair users. Gresingac is situated in the Dordogne near towns such as Riberac, Brantome and Perigueux. I first stayed at La Petite Maison in the summer of 2001 when I was traveling through France on my way to Spain.
Right: The bathroom at La Petite Maison
La Petite Maison is perfect for couples or small families. It has one bedroom downstairs which can sleep up to three people (One double bed and a single bed) and there is also a separate alcove where a small fold up bed can be place for a fourth person. The bathroom is en-suite and wheelchair accessible with a level-access-shower and a shower wheelchair is also provided. Also on the ground floor there is the kitchen which may be a little small for some wheelchairs but I managed perfectly well in mine.
The living room is all on one level and spacious enough to swings cats, wheelchairs and whatever else may take your fancy. It has two glass doors leading into a small patio which is a beautiful suntrap filled with flowers and most importantly it’s where the BBQ is located. Although the upstairs isn’t accessible for wheelchair users it is important to note that there is another bedroom which can be used by able bodied companions.
Below: the patio Right: Monica and Salvador in the living room.
On this occasion I stayed La Grande Maison a new addition to accessible tourism in Gresingac. This is a fantastic barn which has been converted by the owner Ed Passant to provide a large accessible house for wheelchair users. Currently only the ground floor is wheelchair accessible, but this in itself is an immense amount of living space. There is a large entrance area with sofas, entertainment system and log burning stove. The kitchen is very large and most of the cupboards and fittings are accessible.
Leading off from the kitchen is the accessible bedroom, I have never seen such a large bedroom for wheelchair users in my life. The bathroom is also very large with a level-access-shower, bath and WC.
The outside of the building is also impressive with a large terrace and BBQ area which is flat and smooth, creating an easy place to sunbathe and take in the sights and sounds of the countryside.
Right: La Grande Maison
Although Gresingac is a small village there is plenty to do in the area, Brantome is a particularly picturesque town and the local town of Riberac is also a great place to go for lunch in the summer sun. For more information about what to do in the local area please visit their website below.
Once again I was very pleased by the facilities provided by Ed Passant. I had a very relaxing time and returned to Barcelona feeling very refreshed, now it’s back to the grindstone, oh well I can’t live in paradise forever.
Below: The bedroom and bathroom in La Grande Maison
Friday, June 16, 2006
Mean Fiddler Helps Improve Access for Disabled People
Mean Fiddler Music Group plc donates £30,000 to Artsline’s Attitude is Everything project!
Artsline’s Attitude is Everything project is delighted to announce that Mean Fiddler Music Group has donated £30,000 to be used over the next 3 years towards improving access to live music for disabled people.
Attitude is Everything is a radical project, tackling head on the challenges faced by disabled people when attending live music events. Suzanne Bull, Attitude is Everything Project Manager, welcomed Mean Fiddler Music Group plc’s contribution, saying:
“This fantastic donation will fund further opportunities for disabled and deaf people who not only want to see great live gigs, but who also want to work in the music industry as artists and employees”.
Attitude is Everything has plans to implement many ambitious schemes over the next 3 years. This donation will enable deaf and disabled people to work as stewards as part of the Oxfam team at Carling Weekend: Reading and Leeds Festivals. It will fund the Liberty Festival After-Show Party on 2nd September 2006 at a central London venue. It will also provide training bursaries for small, grassroots music venues, clubs and festivals who want to sign up to the Attitude is Everything Charter of Best Practice. These are cutting-edge schemes that promote and nurture inclusive policies within the live music industry.
Speaking on behalf of Mean Fiddler Music Group plc, Sharon Reuben said:
"We want everyone to be able to enjoy and participate in our events, and be part of the music community. Our working partnership with Attitude Is Everything has brought us inspiration, honest feedback, practical, professional advice and assistance on issues of access and attitude. We hope this donation will help the project continue to develop in the future”.
British 10k Run – Sunday 2nd July 2006:
Sharon Reuben from Mean Fiddler Music Group plc, who is also an Artsline Trustee, will also be running the British 10k Run through London in aid of Attitude is Everything. You can sponsor her at www.givenow.org/charityprofile/artsline or cheques can be sent to us at the Artsline address – 54 Chalton Street, London NW1 1HS. Funds raised from Sharon’s run will be put towards bursaries for disabled musicians who want to attend music industry conferences as delegates. The British 10k London Run starts at 9.35 am on Piccadilly outside the legendary Hard Rock Cafe at Hyde Park Corner so please join us in cheering Sharon on! See www.thebritish10klondon.co.uk for race information.
For more information, please contact Suzanne Bull and Graham Griffiths on 020 7388 2227 / email@example.com or Sharon Reuben at Mean Fiddler Music Group plc on 020 8961 5490 firstname.lastname@example.org
Press release emailed by Suzanne Bull, Manager of Artsline's Attitude is everything Project.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
After writing the blog Primavera Sound 1st – 3rd June 2006 (Archives; Tuesday 6th June 2006) I emailed the webpage to organisers of both Primavera Sound and Summercase to see if I could get a response or any comments.
Mich Micenmacher from Primavera Sound got back to me the very same day with this response:
Thank you very much for your time on writing all this information.
I've read the text carefully and I will pass it through to the others members of the team.
I'm glad listening you've had fun besides this issues you are commenting.
I hope we can improve in 2007 and why not, see you there again.
This response to me seems a little flimsy and it’s insulting that it’s obviously PR dribble for go away and leave us alone. They haven’t made any promises to improve access next year nor have they indicated that they have a disability policy or guidelines. If they did have a disability policy we might be able to show them where they’re going wrong and improve access at Primavera Sound in 2007. I guess I’ll have to keep pushing by email or give them a call.
Right: Crowds at the Estrella Damm Stage at Primavera Sound made it impossible for wheelchair users to see the bands.
Summercase were slightly slower with their response and emailed me today (15th June). However it does seem promising:
For Summercase, in both cities the arenas are adapted to be wheelchair accessible and there are platforms to see the concerts at close distance. Our recommendation is that you go to the venue in Barcelona, I suppose that is where you have bought your entrance ticket, because the venue at Forum is asphalted, whereas the one at Boadilla, Madrid is sand.
Greetings and we hope you enjoy the festival
The original email was in Spanish so I’ve done my best to translate it! For those of you that speak Spanish the original email is posted in the comments page. So it would appear that Summercase have taken into account that disabled people need platforms in order to see anything. I will be ecstatic if this is the case (I’ll let you know in July) and lets hope Primavera Sound can get this sorted by 2007.
Obviously I commented on more issues than just viewing platforms in the blog about Primavera Sound and we’ll have to see what the toilet situation is like at Summercase. However, it would seem that whoever replied from Summercase has at least some knowledge of disability as he/she states “the venue at Forum is asphalted, whereas the one at Boadilla, Madrid is sand”. This to me implies that they understand that sand is a pain in the bearings for wheelchair users. Maybe next year the Madrid venue will be more accessible too.
Friday, June 09, 2006
An Interesting Question
Jeremy Rowe from London asked me last week whilst in Barcelona:
"Why do adapted hotel rooms always have foot operated pedal bins?"
Answers in comments please!
Antonia Font at l'Auditori 8th June 2006
Antonia Font is a group from Majorca that have been around for a few years now. I’m not even going to pretend to be a music critic as that’s not my job but they’re one of those bands that you don’t really need to understand the lyrics in order to enjoy the music. This in itself is a great relief as they sing in Majorcan which is similar to Catalan. They play a variety of different styles and have both serious and silly lyrics including a song about a family of sharks that eat fishermen.
L’Auditori is opposite the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya near Plaça de les Glòries, Barcelona. Getting to l’Auditori isn’t really a problem from the centre of Barcelona, there’s the L1 metro (Red line) which can be caught from Plaça Universitat to Marina. Both metro stations are adapted with lifts for wheelchair users and there is ramped access to the train, however, there is still a slight step to negotiate before boarding. The main problem with the L1 metro is that although some of the stations are adapted the trains themselves are old and there isn’t a reserved space for wheelchair users. I went to see Antonia Font with some friends one of which is also a wheelchair user and we really got in the way of other people on the train when they were trying to get on or off. There is also the L2 metro (Purple line) which stops at Monumental which is also adapted but it is further away from l’Auditori.
There are also adapted buses and the tram which pass by l’Auditori, please see the TMB website for further information. (There’s a link at the bottom of this article) The biggest problem with public transport and this venue is at the end of the evening during week days when the metro closes at midnight and there are only the night buses. The only real option is to catch a taxi which are few and far between in this neighbourhood and then some of them won’t stop and pick up wheelchair users. Don’t fret at some stage I’ll write a complete blog on taxi drivers and wheelchairs users!
At the moment outside the building there is a temporary bar as they are doing some refurbishment work. The bar is accessible with a ramp to enter and there is also a temporary disabled toilet. So from the outset it looked as though the management of l’Auditori have been thinking about disabled people.
When inside the picture changes slightly and once again wheelchair users become second class citizens. The “Disabled Seating Area” is nothing more than the upper entrance to the last row of seats in the auditorium. In most theatres and auditoriums they at least make an effort to take out a seat and have a full space for a wheelchair. With both myself and my friend in wheelchairs at the top of a flight of stairs it made the passage considerably narrower for other people to pass. It was also quite dangerous for our able bodied counterparts because of the dim lighting it would be easy not to see a wheelchair and trip over it.
The view from the last row in l’Auditori is good even if everyone on the stage look like ants because you’re so far away. There is always the problem in theatres, auditoriums and cinemas of where to seat wheelchair users and we always seem to get the worst deal. It doesn’t just effect us either, it also effects our partners, friends and family that want to enjoy the show with us. We don’t have a choice that we are in wheelchairs and we don’t have a choice as to where we can sit and for some reason the management, planning department or architects or whoever seem to think that the best place for us is at the back. Maybe it’s like the Second World War hospitals in the United Kingdom which had a philosophy along the lines of “out of sight out of mind”.
Right: Antonia Font Ants
Sometimes we get put at the front which is great because you get to see everything but the rest of the people in the front row have reclining seats so the can sit back, relax and watch the show. We don’t have that luxury, or at least my wheelchair doesn’t come standard with a reclining mode, so we end up with very painful necks by the end of the concert from staring up. Surely there must be some kind of solution to this problem.
As I mentioned the view is great from the back row, but as the concert went on and the songs became livelier the audience started to become more energetic. By the end of the gig they were all standing up, dancing and clapping, which I have to agree is normal behaviour when you go to see a band you like. But it brings back to the point of seating and why is the area for wheelchair users at the very back of the auditorium? l’Auditori is a popular venue for live music so this must happen fairly frequently so in turn this also implies that this venue is not friendly towards wheelchair users as when we should be really enjoying ourselves with the rest of the audience we’re not because we can’t see anything.
Right: Will the real slim shady please stand up
Another question that crossed my mind is if all wheelchair users are on the last row on the third floor of the auditorium how do we get out in case of an emergency? To reach the seating area it is necessary to use the lift which clearly states in Catalan “do not use in case of a fire”. It seems strange that the management would put the people with the least mobility in the highest area of the building where they need to use a lift to access it. Without doubt it would be more sensible to put us on the ground floor where we have level access and are not reliant on lifts. I would also like to know if they have a written policy for evacuating wheelchair users from the third floor and what training, if any, the staff at l’Auditori have.
On a final note I should point out that this was my first visit to l’Auditori and maybe, just maybe, there is another seating area for disabled people elsewhere in the building where the views are better. I’m going to try to get an interview with someone at l’Auditori to clarify this and find out what their policy is towards disabled people. Fingers crossed that in the near future I’ll be able to give you some answers.
www.antoniafontoficial.com (Antonia Font official website)
www.tmb.com (Information about public transport in Barcelona)
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Primavera Sound 1st - 3rd June 2006
As I've just started this blog and just been to this music festival it seems like a good starting place. Primavera sound is an annual music festival in Barcelona and brings together the best of the old and new bands from across the world. That's all well and good, but what about the access?
Until 2005 Primavera sound was held at Poble Espanyol at Montjuic where the majority of the Olympics were held in 1992. The biggest problem with this venue for disabled people was that it was situated on a large hill. There were many steps and so disabled people had to find routes which were barrier free. Not only that but to get to many of the smaller stages the only access for wheelchair users was via platform lifts to climb stairs. Most wheelchair users find this a hassle and at the least a tedious waste of time looking for a steward who inevitably doesn't know how it works or doesn't have the key.
In 2005 the festival moved to the all new Parc Del Forum on the other side of Barcelona. This complex was built especially for a year long celebration of cultures from around the world. It's not completely flat but at least it's not as hilly as Poble Espanyol. There are a couple of steep climbs, most notably to the entrance and back up from where the Vueling Stage was situated.
The ground surface isn't too bad, mainly with tarmac but also there are some paving slabs which are circular. Obviously these don't neatly fit together and there were some spaces between them which could cause problems for people with small front casters on wheelchairs. I don't think that this issue is something that Parc Del Forum nor Primavera sound will look into in the near future, but hopefully the will look at some of the other problems facing disabled people.
One of the biggest issues as a wheelchair user at Primavera Sound is getting to see anything. With all of the crowds it's impossible to get a good view and even if you do within five minutes someone decides to stand in front of you. At the smaller stadiums it's not too bad especially during the afternoon but as the day progresses and the larger acts come on stage the problems start to begin. The main stage was the worst, as at any festival, which is the "Estrella Damm Stage" or in the case of disabled people "Estrella, Damn I can't see anything stage".
Right: Mick Harvey playing on the Danzka
CD Drome Stage.
The solution to me seems very simple, as most major music festivals have already discovered it and it isn't a new idea by any means, build a wheelchair accessible viewing platform. The platform serves to raise seated people to a level above the crowd so they can also see the stage, it can be used for wheelchair users and also plastic chairs can be provided for those with other mobility issues that can't stand for long periods or simply for a person with a broken leg or pregnant women.
As I only saw three other wheelchair users I can only imagine that the reason not to do this is because either the organisers of Primavera Sound haven't thought of it, don't care or it's just not economically viable. If they haven't thought of it, then listen up guys, we need an accessible viewing platform and if they don't care then I think we have a problem and we need to make them care. If the third reason is the excuse (which it normally is) , then they need to work out how to compensate disabled people for not being able to see 70% of what they would like. I'm not a fan of giving discounts to disabled people just because they're disabled but in this case I believe it would be justified.
On a positive note the Auditori Stage which is an indoor venue at the festival was very accessible. The stewards at the entrance of the building were helpful in pointing out where the lifts are. When I eventually found the correct door to enter the Auditori I was swiftly escorted to a wheelchair viewing space where I could sit with my girlfriend and friends and enjoy the Catalan singer Sisa. Maybe the orgainsiers of Primavera Sound could learn something from him when he sings; "Benvinguts! Passeu, passeu....." This was one of the few acts that was easily accessible and was worth the entrance fee just to see him.
A rather irritating point about the festival was that in the main food area there were toilets for everyone apart from disabled people. Is this because disabled people do not want to go to the toilet before or after their meal or am I missing something. This wasn't the only area where toilets for "normal" people were provided but not for wheelchair users. It strikes me as rather odd that the people with mobility problems have to walk or push further in order to use a toilet because the nearest ones are not accessible (Maybe someone needs to explain what "Mobility Problems" means).
As for everyone that goes to festivals the toilets as usual were pretty disgusting, but this effects disabled people more than most. The first issue is that we get excrement all over our hands when entering a toilet in a wheelchair and that there wasn't a sink to wash them with. If a person then has to do a catheter it can be detrimental to their health through contracting urinary tract infections from other people's urine. There are ways around this such as wearing latex gloves but still it's not the most hygienic situation for what it in actual fact more of a medical procedure rather than just going for a pee. On the same note of the cleanliness of toilets, many disabled people need to sit on the toilet seat in order to do their business. It just isn't an option to hover over the toilet like many women do at festivals (And quite frankly who can blame them for doing that?).
Whilst I realise that toilets are in short supply at festivals for everyone, something should be done to make this safer and more comfortable for disabled people. Maybe the solution is to provide strateically placed accessible toilets which have a key to get in which could be provided to disabled people when they arrive. It would also be an idea for them to pay a refundable deposit for the key so that they return it at the end of the day and the system isn't abused by leaving the key with their able bodied friends. Or there could be a system of VIP toilets, where anyone can pay a fee to use clean toilets and have a key to get in. I for one would be willing to pay for this service as long as they were accessible.
Many "normal" people may think that this is just a whinge of adisabledd guy that wants better facilities and that I should accept that stinking filthy toilets are a part of festivals and everyone has to put up with it. My reply is that if you have ever spent several weeks of the year in hospital with a urinary tract infection you would understand why this is important to us.
All in all I had a fantastic time at Primavera Sound, great music, a wonderful chilled atmosphere and most importantly doing what I enjoy most, spending time with my friends. Lets hope that Primavera Sound 2007 brings us more great acts and better access so that we can see them. In the meantime the 14th - 15th July 2006 is Summercase a new music festival in Barcelona at the same venue. I hope they manage to do slightly better on the access front and I'll write about this in due course.