How disabled Festival-goers can make the most of the Edinburgh Fringe

If you've got a disability but don't want to miss out on Festival fun, here's some expert advice (Photo: Shutterstock)
If you've got a disability but don't want to miss out on Festival fun, here's some expert advice (Photo: Shutterstock)

Navigating Edinburgh during the manic Festival period can be overwhelming, particularly when you have a disability.

Here, Euan MacDonald (co-founder of disabled access review website, Euan’s Guide) gives some expert advice on how disabled people can enjoy the Festival and Fringe to the full.

I’ve been going to the Fringe for many years and feel very lucky to have the world’s largest arts festival on my doorstep.

In that time, I’ve watched how the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has become more inclusive. While things are changing for the better, it can still be daunting to navigate the Fringe if you’re somebody who has access requirements.

Here are some of the best ways to make the most of the Fringe as a disabled person this year.

Use the Access Tickets Service

The Fringe has a handy Access Tickets Service which you can use to book shows and request any assistance that you might require.

I use it for booking wheelchair accessible seating and to get a hold of a free ticket for my personal assistant to accompany me. It’s also good for requesting specific equipment, such as audio description headsets.

Tickets can be booked over the phone or by email, and for the first time ever the Fringe has introduced an online booking system for personal assistant tickets. It’s still in its early stages and isn’t quite available for everyone yet.

Collecting your tickets

If you’re picking up tickets before a show, the Fringe Shop on the High Street has improved its access with an automated door, and the whole ticket collection service now feels very smooth.

If you’d prefer assistance when you get there, you can use the Welcome app to let Fringe staff know you’ll be arriving.

Get free tickets to Fringe shows

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is working with Euan’s Guide as part of their commitment to make the festival as inclusive as possible.

Disabled people who use Euan’s Guide are being offered free tickets to Fringe shows, in return for disabled access reviews of festival venues.

To take part, go to euansguide.com/login to register, then go to euansguide.com/edfringe to request your free tickets. Afterwards, you can use the website to add your disabled access review of whichever Festival venue you visited.

Know where to find Changing Places toilets

With just five Changing Places toilets in the city centre during Festival time, it helps to know where they are, if you require an adult-sized changing bench and hoist.

Conveniently, the Fringe has its own pop-up Changing Place at the heart of the action. You’ll be able to find it on the corner of Windmill Street and Chapel Street.

Other Changing Places toilets can be found at the National Museum of Scotland, The Scottish Parliament, The Booking Office Pub and in the tented village at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Borrow a sensory backpack

An exciting new addition to the Fringe this year is the new sensory backpacks, available to borrow from the Fringe Shop.

For children and adults on the autism spectrum who’d like them, the backpacks contain a fidget toy, earplugs, a map of Edinburgh, a photo story describing the Virgin Money Street Events, and a list of relaxed performances at the Fringe.

If you’re collecting one of the free backpacks, don’t forget to take along some form of photo ID.