So you’re putting on an accessible arts event. You’ve considered all the basic access requirements: you’ve booked interpreters, printed large print hand-outs, uploaded the audio description to your audio guides, and made sure the accessible toilet isn’t full of buckets and mops – what else is there? In honour of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, our team have put together a useful list of less obvious - but nonetheless important - access details to take into account…

Andrew Cochrane

  • Arts events are often very chatty. If you’re asked to repeat any conversation, chatter or jokes because someone missed what was being said, even if it seems like unimportant talk or an offhand comment to you, repeat it! Deaf people should be included in all aspects of the event, even if it’s just the friendly chit-chat – don’t say “don’t worry” or “it’s not important”.

  • If a room or gallery space is darkened, use a light source to enable deaf people to see you or interpreters.

  • Put water bowls out for guide dogs and make it clear (verbally) where they can relieve themselves!

Lulu Nunn

  • Make straws available wherever you’re serving drinks. This is a mobility-related access requirement for many people, but is often overlooked.

  • Use tables that are an accessible height. Many arts events and private views make use of cabaret-style tall tables for refreshments or leaflets, or bars that come up very high, but it’s important to remember that not everyone operates at the same height.

  • Prop heavy doors open. Sure, other people can hold a door open for someone, but the point is that people shouldn’t have to rely on others to enter a room or the building.

  • Where possible, have a quiet room available in which people can go and chill out or take 5. It’s also a good idea to have some cushions or mats available on the floor should anyone like to lay down, comfortable seating, and water available.

Marcus Gordon

  • Livestreaming your arts event is a great way to make sure that it is more accessible to people who prefer to engage in their home or remotely. Make sure to also include captioning if possible should there be any speech or audio.

  • Don’t just use large print on your handouts, but on wall signs too – keep any directions clear and easy-to-read to prevent communication barriers or confusion.

  • Although many spaces are step-free and marketed as wheelchair-accessible, they may still have uneven flooring or not much room to move between areas and objects. Try to choose event spaces with even flooring and keep at least a metre and a half between furniture and objects for people to move around easily and safely.

Jeff Rowlings

  • Where possible, sit at the same level as the people you are talking to – wheelchair users and others do not want to spend (yet another) networking event with a crick in the neck, looking up! And, yes, with everyone looking down on them.

  • If you have a choice of booking locations, go for street level or ground floor. Think step-free every time.

  • Address the disabled person you are talking to directly, not their interpreter or personal assistant. Don’t worry, this is usual practice and no one will think you are being rude.

  • Is your venue challenging to reach? Make your event location easier to find by creating a short photo journey so that people can follow from the nearest main transport stop.

Emily Crowe:

  • Make it clear on your marketing or promotional activity what access provisions you will provide or have – don’t expect people to have to contact you to ask (but do provide contact details in case any attendees have any other access requirements that they’d like you to be aware of).

  • Make sure that any language you use to promote or talk about the event is inclusive under the Social Model of Disability. Click here to read about this!

  • If you are providing food and drink, make clear labels of what they are.

  • Make sure Front of House staff / ushers are aware of where to direct people - e.g. best place to see captions or interpreters, where the disabled toilets and quiet space are.

Sara Dziadik:

  • Try to think of requirements that those with invisible impairments might have: ensure that visitors are warned if there will be any flashing imagery or flash photography taking place.

  • Provide seating wherever possible!

  • Try to make sure that there is a welcoming and friendly face available so that visitors know who to approach if they need anything.

  • Keep walkways clear, and if possible use tactile strips around any fragile or low-down objects, such as art, on the floor to help visually impaired visitors find their way.


Banner Image: The 2014 Shape Open, c: Andy Barker

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