Adelaide Festival Centre Accessibility – using the restroom is difficult

History of the Adelaide Festival Centre

adelaide festival centre photo on the bank of the Torrens
The Adelaide Festival Centre

The focus of this blog is Adelaide Festival Centre accessibility, however, a short history of the centre is a good start.

Three months before the Sydney Opera House, Australia’s first multi-purpose arts centre, the Adelaide Festival Theatre opened in 1973. Over time the theatre was joined by the Playhouse and Space Theatre, and collectively, they are known as the Adelaide Festival Centre.

In 2018 I attended the Rocky Horror picture show, George Michael – listen to your heart (ASO), The great war, Berstein on stage (ASO), All you need is love (ASO), Provenance with Vince Jones, Wizard of Oz, The Studio: 54 reasons to party (ASO), Zepp Boys (ASO), Symphony of Angels (ASO), Priscilla Queen of the desert, and Mamma Mia the musical. I appeared on stage twice; 1977 – as part of the combined school choir and 1986 – to receive my Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer Studies.

With the exception of using the accessible toilets, Adelaide Festival Centre accessibility has been great.

Toilets and Adelaide Festival Centre Accessibility

the wall between the women/accessible and mens toilets
To the right are the men’s restrooms, and the women and people with accessible needs are to the left

Inside the Festival Theatre’s accessible restroom, there is an abundance of room and everything you require, as well as a tasteful decor. Previously the entrance door was a sliding wooden door that was difficult to operate including opening, closing and locking it. The centre recently replaced it with a powered sliding door, operated from a panel on the wall. Well done.

The accessible facilities are located between the female and male restrooms, and the entrance is next to the female facilities.

the automated doors of the accessible toilets inclues a button that opens the door and a vacant light
the control panel for the powered sliding door

The Problem with Adelaide Festival Centre accessibility

  • If you can walk and are male there are no issues with the restrooms at the centre.
  • If you are female, then you may have issues accessing the facilities due to wheelchairs.
  • If you are in a wheelchair, then you may have problems accessing the restrooms.
  • Finally, if you are male and in a wheelchair, you have an additional problem.
a small area with a door to the left that is the female restrooms and the accesible one to the right
no room for women to queue and for wheelchairs to get to the accessible bathroom

Typically there are long lines for the women’s toilets, and this presents a few problems for patrons in wheelchairs attempting to get to the accessible toilet.

I find it embarrassing to ask people to move so I can get to the toilet. And more embarrassing because I am in the line of women who are busting to move up the order. There are times when females look at me in strange ways, as they must be wondering why a male in a chair is pushing past them to get to the female toilet.

Eventually, I make it to the door of the accessible facilities, and the toilet is being used. So I park myself near the door, and this presents a problem as there is insufficient room for me, and the line of women going in and out of their room. Once again the women look at me in strange ways.

Around a quarter of the time, a person comes out of the accessible toilet and they have a need to use it, and the other three-quarters of the people don’t have a need. When a wheelchair comes out, I need to move back to exit the area, and this presents difficulties, and then I have to go back in. There are times another female without a need for the accessible toilet has locked the door, and I wait, and the congestion continues.

The Solution

The door to the accessible bathroom should be repositioned, so it faces the main foyer.

the wall between the women/accessible and mens toilets and I have placed a new entry door to the accessible toiilets
the door to be located between the male and female restrooms


the inside wall of the accessible restrooms, and I have added a door
the position of the door from inside the accessible restroom

Communication with Adelaide Festival Centre

I brought up the problem with Adelaide Festival Centre accessibility via an email to them at on the 27th of August 2018. An invitation was given to speak about the problem over the phone.

I heard nothing, so I sent them another email on the 21st of September 2018, including the photographs of my solution.

Again they failed to contact me, so another email was sent on the 10th of October 2018. I mentioned that I would be attending the musical ‘Mamma Mia’ and I would share the experience of using the accessible toilets with them. I heard nothing.

Mamma Mia experience

During the interval, I attempted to access the bathroom, and the line of females was long. I began to ask females to allow me to get closer, and eventually, they wouldn’t respond, so I gave a blast of my horn. There is a motorcycle horn connected to my wheelchair as the standard horn cannot be heard, and it scared a few people, and the line parted like the red sea.

I approached the toilet. and the vacant green light was on. However, a woman was standing between the button and the sliding door and was facing me. I indicated that she should move to her right and she refused, so I leaned over and pressed the button. The sliding door revealed a woman sitting on the toilet, and she jumped up and ran to wash her hands. I asked her friend if she has a need to use the accessible facilities and I was informed that I was rude for opening the door! Apart from the vacant light being on, the woman in the toilet had no need to be there, so I shared that I cannot fit in the other toilets, but they can. I asked them to move out of the way.

I shouldn’t have to go through these experiences just to have a wee.

At the end of the show, I wanted to use the accessible toilet, and the green light was again on. So I pressed it, and a woman aged around 85 jumped up from the toilet, rushed out and collided with the sliding door. I suggested she would go back in and finish but seemed to be upset by the experience.


I give credit for the fantastic Adelaide Festival Centre accessibility, however, with the exception of the accessible restrooms.

I’ve given the Festival Centre management ample opportunity to respond to the problem, and I reported the issue to the Human Rights Commission on Wednesday 17th October 2018. This action is only taken if the organisation with the issue hasn’t responded in time. Please click here for another blog that shares the process of making a report to the HRC.

I expect the Festival Centre management to treat a regular patron with more respect.

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