The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (or the Fringe if you’re one of the cool kids) is the world’s largest arts festival, filling Scotland’s capital city with thousands of performers for the entire month of August, bringing the best drama, music, theatre and comedy to the city.
Edinburgh’s old town can be a daunting sight for disabled people – it’s straight out of the 1800s with its cobble streets and narrow, winding closes. While from the outside you might wonder how accessible the Fringe can be, you’d be surprised to find how much of an effort the Festival Fringe Society and venues make to ensure that anyone can get to any of the shows they want to see.
We’ve put together a comprehensive list of advice on how to book, travel and access Edinburgh to make sure that your visit to the Fringe isn’t hilarious for all the wrong reasons.
The Fringe’s box office have dedicated staff who are there to handle any access enquiries and bookings you may want to do. They can help you book any specific services you need, like hearing loops, captioning units, or make sure you’re sitting in front of the BSL interpreter. They can give you information about each venue, ensure you get extra assistance, make sure you’re getting the seats you need, ensure you’re given wheelchair seating, and provide you with a complementary personal assistant ticket to attend performances with you.
The access staff are easy to get a hold of: you can email them, call them on 0131 226 0002, or contact them via textphone on 07860 018 299. The office is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm, and once the Fringe begins, the opening hours will extend.
For the first time, you can now also register online as an access user and book personal assistant tickets online. This service currently isn’t available for wheelchair users, but the Fringe are working on it!
Once you’ve booked, you can get your tickets from any collection point, but these three have specific access for disabled people:
The Fringe Shop is wheelchair accessible, has a power assisted door, hearing loop and a dropped counter.
The Box Office has level access but it’s via a steep slope, a hearing loop and a dropped counter.
The Virgin Money Half Price Hut has a hearing loop – there isn’t a dropped counter, but staff are on hand to assist anyone who may need help.
Finding a Performance
Some performers have signed up for accessible performances of their shows, and in their infinite wisdom, the Fringe has them all listed on their website. Check out signed, relaxed, captioned and audio described performances at their respective links. The Fringe app and website both have advanced search filters, so if you’re looking for a specific type of performance, you can check on both if there’s an accessible performance.
Edinburgh city centre will have a number of dedicated changing places that will be available throughout the duration of the Fringe. The vast majority of the Fringe’s venues are concentrated in the centre of the city, near the high street, where you’ll be close to three changing places: one inside Holyrood, Scotland’s parliament building; one in The Booking Office, a Wetherspoons on Waverley Bridge above Waverley Station; and one inside the National Museum of Scotland. You can use UK Toilet Map to find the closest loo to you. A Mobiloo van will also be located in the city.
Lothian Buses are the pride of Edinburgh, and for just £1.80 you can hop on the bus and go anywhere you like (within reason). Lothian have a great app for iPhone and Android which you can use to plan routes, and it even has a tracker to ensure you’re always ready for your bus. The buses are roomy and drivers will happily help with any accessibility needs.
Trains will usually take you in to Waverley Station or Haymarket, and from there it’s easy to jump in a taxi, bus or tram to get around. Trams are also available, so long as your destination is between York Place and the airport!
Edinburgh is loaded with taxis, and there are ranks all around the city where accessible taxis are a regular sight. You can download a list of Edinburgh’s licensed taxi ranks here.
The Fringe Society will have sensory backpacks available for both adults and children available from the Fringe Shop on the Royal Mile which can be borrowed for free on a first-come, first-serve basis. They’re filled with fidget toys, earplugs and guards, water bottles, and maps to help you traverse Edinburgh.
Sometimes Edinburgh can get a little overwhelming during the month of August, so if you’re looking to escape the city and get a little space, check out Euan’s Guide on what to do in Edinburgh and beyond. It’s also a fantastic resource for finding places to eat and entertain yourself throughout the month.
Get your copy of PosAbility Magazine