Festival Accessibility and Inclusion

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Edinburgh’s festivals are a world showcase of humanity’s skill, talent and ingenuity, and everyone should have a chance to enjoy them.

At the busiest times during summer, there can be thousands of shows in hundreds of venues, many of them temporary, non-conventional and unfortunately sometimes inaccessible.

To improve in this area however, the festivals and venues have made great efforts to offer more accessible locations, better staff training and a wider range of inclusive performances such as British Sign Language interpretation, Audio-Description and Relaxed performances.

This continuing work is aimed at offering a great experience to anyone and everyone who wants to experience the world's leading festival city.

On this page:

• Getting around Edinburgh 
• Festivals, Venues, Accessibility and Inclusion
• Other Useful Information

An image showing various symbols associated with accessibility, including hearing aid loop systems, audio description, sign language, accessible toilet facilities, guide dog friendliness and staff inclusion training

Getting around Edinburgh

For wheelchair users or people with limited mobility, some parts of Edinburgh can present a challenge, including the Old Town, built on two layers with many cobbled streets, narrow closes and twisting staircases. Even this area is certainly not to be considered inaccessible though, as there are usually different ways to get where you need to be. 

The more modern New Town area is relatively flat and has generally good pavements making navigation simpler. It is worth remembering though that, during the peak August period, the streets are almost always very busy so give yourself some extra time getting from A to B if you are visiting at that time.

To travel further across the city, the entire fleets of Edinburgh's two main black cab firms are wheelchair accessible, with over 900 taxis between them. Taxis can enter most places in Edinburgh, including the Castle Esplanade for the Tattoo, provided you’ve let the Tattoo know beforehand. For more information and advice, contact City Cabs (+44 (0)131 228 1211) or Central Taxis (+44 (0)131 229 2468).

Similarly, Lothian Buses has a range of accessibility features on every bus in their fleet, including low entrances, retractable ramps, one dedicated wheelchair space per bus and more.

Or, if you don’t want to move around too much, remember that many of the major venues are often close together, food is almost always nearby, and a few hundred square metres can easily contain enough shows to fill a week!

For example, if you split your time between the Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens and Fringe venue the Assembly Rooms, just 500 yards away on George Street you can pack in a lot of entertainment. 

Or there's the International Festival's Festival Theatre, Art Festival events at the Talbot Rice Gallery around the corner and C Venues hosting more Fringe shows just a few hundred yards down the road - again, it’s easy to see a lot while not having to go too far.

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A man making use of a hearing loop system while talking to staff at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Festivals, Venues, Accessibility and Inclusion

Although some of Edinburgh's festival venue buildings are very old, many of them have taken steps to significantly improve their levels of accessibility and inclusion, with physical additions such as ramps and lifts as well as staff training and specialised equipment like audio-description headsets and loop systems.

Similarly, the Festivals themselves have worked hard to improve their accessibility for all, again including staff training and venue improvements along with signed, audio-described and relaxed performances.

Details about Edinburgh major festivals and their access and inclusion services are below, in the order in which they occur during the year. Please note that specific dates vary each year.

Edinburgh Science Festival (usually March/April)

  • To contact the Science Festival with an access query, please call 0131 553 0325 or email marketing@scifest.co.uk.
  • The festival uses multiple venues, some changing yearly - venue access information is included in event listings.
  • Brochures are available in alternative formats.
  • General access information.

Edinburgh International Children's Festival (usually May/June)

  • To contact the Children's Festival with an access query, please call 0131 225 8050 or email info@imaginate.org.uk.
  • Multiple venues, some changing yearly, all wheelchair accessible.
  • Venue access information available on individual show listings.

Edinburgh International Film Festival (usually June)

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival (usually July)

  • To contact the Jazz Festival with an access query, please call 0131 467 5200 or email fiona@adjazz.co.uk.
  • Multiple venues, most wheelchair accessible.

Edinburgh Art Festival (July/August)

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (August)

Edinburgh International Festival (August)

Edinburgh Festival Fringe (August)

Edinburgh International Book Festival (August)

Scottish International Storytelling Festival (October/November)

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay (December/January)

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Other useful information

  • Euan's Guide is an excellent resource, providing detailed information and advice for disabled people, their friends, families and carers on accessibility. The site features reviews of venues, hotels, restaurants and more and has a lot of user-generated content.
  • Artlink Access Service provides advice and assistance to help people with accessibility needs to attend and participate in arts events in Edinburgh. For more information contact Artlink on 0131 229 3555, Typetalk 18001 0131 229 3555 or email info@artlinkedinburgh.co.uk
  • Edinburgh Airport has put together a set of factsheets, aimed at ensuring all of their passengers have the best experience possible when using the airport.
  • Edinburgh has two main train stations, Haymarket in the West End, and Waverley in the City Centre, and both have accessibility information available online.

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