Ausnew Home Care | The NT's largest music festival Bass in the Grass improves access for people living with disabilities

The NT's largest music festival Bass in the Grass improves access for people living with disabilities

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Darwin's largest music festival, Bass in the Grass, normally draws thousands of tourists to the Top End and this year, Jim Simpson and Jeff McCourt are ready to party.

Both men live with cerebral palsy and use wheelchairs.

"This one could be really good … to see the music, to see the festival, to see everything," Mr McCourt said.

The festival is taking place on Saturday and this year, organisers have made a series of adjustments to accommodate people of all abilities.

Changes include shaded viewing platforms in front of stages, an accessible entry lane for ticket holders, free entry for carers and pro-floor matting, which makes it easier for people using wheelchairs to move around.

Mr McCourt said it was important for people like him to also enjoy music and other events. 

"[It was difficult to attend] some events like the super cars, so it's good [to have these adjustments," he said.

A young man wearing a pine shirt with pineapples and yellow cap is at a music festival. He uses a wheelchair.
Jim Simpson is ready to party at this year's festival.(Supplied)

Mr Simpson went to the event last year and took advantage of the viewing platforms, which allowed him to have an unimpeded view of performers.

Using non-verbal communication and with the support of an independent living coach he provided a statement.

"I'm excited about going to the festival and dancing on the viewing platform," he said. 

A smiling young man sitting on a wheelchair inside a room, with a lit-up computer screen in the background.
Jeff McCourt enjoys having a clear view of the stage.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

As for the thing he's most excited about for the Saturday event, Mr McCourt had a surprising answer.

"The food!"

A crowd heaves to a live set at the Bass in the Grass festival.
Many hotels across Darwin are currently booked out for the festival.(ABC News: Kate Ashton)

Most major events 'not doing enough'

The festival's improved access changes have prompted access advocacy groups to demand more from major events.

Annie Rily from disability support organisation, Carpentaria, said the festival's adjustments showed it was possible for festivals to be more inclusive.

"We've got 20,000 people in the Territory that have a disability and we want to ensure that they can fully participate in events," she said.

A smiling woman sitting down under a verandah, with tropical greenery in the background.
Ms Rily says it's important for major events to be inclusive.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

The issue extends beyond the Territory's borders; Access Arts Australia CEO Matthew Hall said despite good will, many events were falling short.

"Most music festivals [don't do enough] in terms of accessible toilets and viewing platforms and ramps and quiet zones," he said.

A crowd near the stage stand with arms raised at the festival.
Changes at the festival include include shaded viewing platforms in front of stages.(ABC News: Kate Ashton)

Ability Fest, which was co-founded by Australian of The Year Dylan Alcott, is regularly pointed to as the blueprint for other major events to follow.

Consultation is currently underway to create a minimum code of conduct, which Access Arts Australia hopes will be completed next year.

A smiling young man sitting on a wheelchair inside a room, with rows of computers in the background.
Jim is excited to dance at this year's event.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

Access2Arts Chief Executive Officer, Rebecca Young, hopes the code will provide organisations with a guide on how they can plan events.

However, she said it would also act as a means of holding them to account, if they don't sign up. 

"There are the best of intentions out there in the marketplace and across a lot of different arts organisations and festivals, but people not knowing where to start is often the first barrier," she said.

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The annual festival is taking place this Saturday, and thousands are expected to attend.(Supplied: NT Major Events)
Source: ABC

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