Edinburgh Fringe: performer steps in after special disabled toilet is axed

Fringe bosses and Edinburgh University have been criticised over a decision to axe provision of a disabled toilet at one of the busiest sites at this year's festival.
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A special “Mobiloo” toilet fully equipped with grab rails, hoist and adult changing table has been stationed at Appleton Tower, near Bristo Square, in previous years to allow people with diabilities to attend events.

But this year it will be there for just one weekend – August 21-22 – and that’s thanks to comedian and physiotherapist Elaine Miller, who was so concerned about the lack of provision that she dipped into her own pocket to book the Mobiloo for the only dates it was still available.

A Mobiloo will be at the Appleton Tower for August 21-22 onlyA Mobiloo will be at the Appleton Tower for August 21-22 only
A Mobiloo will be at the Appleton Tower for August 21-22 only
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She said: “I had an enquiry from somebody who wanted to come to my show and when I saw the Mobiloo wasn't there I was absolutely furious – and I'm not even disabled. It's just wrong.

"I found out that Edinburgh University and the Fringe Society had cut the Mobiloo coming to the Fringe because of budget constraints.”

The Fringe Society told her: “Unfortunately we will not be hiring the Mobiloo this year as we do not have the budget or capacity to manage it.”

And the university said: “We love it and were happy to support it for the past few years but unfortunately not this year.”

Elaine Miller has arranged for a Mobiloo to be at Appleton Tower on August 21-22Elaine Miller has arranged for a Mobiloo to be at Appleton Tower on August 21-22
Elaine Miller has arranged for a Mobiloo to be at Appleton Tower on August 21-22
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Elaine, who is a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and specialises in pelvic health, won the Comedy Award at Fringe World in 2020 with her show about pelvic floors, “Gusset Grippers”.

She said: “My lungs are not big enough to give the size of sigh needed to express my feelings about the way that society says inclusion matters but doesn’t make provision for disabled people, some of whom literally have no voice.”

But she praised the Fringe Society and the university for allowing her to have the Mobiloo at Appleton Tower on August 21-22. “Fringe toilets matter and I am so pleased Edinburgh University and the Fringe Society are willing to help.”

Lothians Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour, who is disabled, said he was disappointed to hear about the absence of the Mobiloo. “It means if you have a disability and need different toilets you have been excluded from being be to go to these events.

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“The university is a pretty wealthy organisation and to cut disability provision is giving out the wrong message when we're trying to be more inclusive and bring more people back into society.

“I'm concerned that as we come out of the pandemic people with disability are going to be left behind because organisations will use cost as an excuse to exclude disabled people from the arts or sport or other recreational activities.”

A Fringe Society spokesperson said: “Accessibility is hugely important to us, and we have hosted a mobile Changing Places toilet at Appleton Tower since 2017. This is something we will absolutely be bringing back to the Fringe in the future, and its absence in 2021 is not something we take lightly. Unfortunately, due to the extraordinary circumstances of this year’s Fringe, we were unable to procure a mobile Changing Places toilet for the full month as we would have wanted to.

“At the time when we would have to had booked this service, there was great uncertainty about the festival happening in person at all. We’re delighted that a Fringe participant has also hired a mobile Changing Places toilet in Appleton Tower from August 21-22.

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“We look forward to being able to provide a full mobile Changing Places toilet service again in 2022, and we will keep working to improve our accessibility throughout the festival.”

A university spokesman said: “In previous years the Fringe Society have used Appleton Tower as their base. The Fringe hired and paid for a Mobiloo. The university provided space, power and water for free. The Fringe Society are not using Appleton Tower this year, therefore we have had no contact with Mobiloo.”

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