The World Health Organization ranks migraine as the 6th highest cause worldwide of years lost due to disability; in the UK alone over 8 million people live with migraine. Under the social model of disability, it is not a disabled person’s health condition or impairment, but society’s discrimination and lack of accessibility that disables them.

This week is Migraine Awareness Week and so our Programme Coordinator Sara Dziadik, who gets migraines, shares some simple advice for individuals and small organisations working in the arts on how not to exclude migraineurs from arts events.

  • If you’re organising an exhibition, art event, talk, workshop or performance, you need to provide opportunities for attendees to let you know if they have any access requirements when they’re RSVPing, buying tickets or just when you’re advertising or promoting the event. Stuck for wording? Just say “If you have any access requirements, please email … and let us know”.


  • In our culture today we have a tendency to stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights, but people who get migraines may find this doesn’t suit them - hosting events at reasonable times or with flexible visiting hours is definitely something to consider as then they won’t be upsetting anyone’s routine.


  • It’s always best to consider or find out what type of lighting will be in use at the event or in the space that you’re using, as this can trigger people with migraines who are sensitive to fluorescent lights. Creating a separate event with, or just generally opting for more tranquil lighting, really helps!


  • We really can’t promote having a ‘quiet room’ enough – a quiet space with tranquil lighting, water and comfortable seating separate to the main area of the event or exhibition which is open to anyone that needs some time out.


  • There’s also the noise factor – loud environments can often bring on a migraine in migraineurs so try to advertise noise levels if possible and consider having a separate quieter event if you’re putting on a film screening, stage show or gig.


  • We can’t stress enough how important it is to provide water at events and exhibitions! Dehydration is always a bad idea, but people who get migraines often need to stay as hydrated as possible.


  • Facebook is a good way to organise and promote accessible events for migraineurs. It also means that you can share your event directly in migraine community groups to let people know, and receive any feedback on other things to consider.


  • The use of flashing or strobe lights can induce epileptic fits, migraines etc. Avoiding the use of strobe lighting is not necessary but make people aware before buying their tickets stating that flashing lights will be used.


  • Sensitivity to lights, smells, and touch can often affect migraineurs, therefore specific information about what the event will involve at a sensory level should be made available through all marketing materials before tickets are booked – the more info the better. At an exhibition, invigilators should also be in place to let visitors know about loud noise, strong lighting, strong smells etc before they enter the room.


  • If you’re working with someone who gets migraines, be open to meeting with them in person and speaking face to face as the may prefer this than emailing or Skyping – looking at screens can aggravate migraines.


  • Consider the ambient temperature of your event: events should be in a well-ventilated space at an optimum temperature; make sure there is shade if it’s outdoors and sunny.
  • Advertise your access adjustments! If migraineurs aren’t aware that they’ll be comfortable at your event beforehand, why would they come?


Don’t miss out on Unlimited Festival at Southbank Centre which will run this week from 6 – 11 September 2016 and showcase some of the incredible work by disabled artists that we and Artsadmin have commissioned through our Unlimited programme. The festival will be fully accessible, including the incorporation of a ‘quiet room’ for anyone who wants to attend but might need a break from all the hustle and bustle at some point!


This list may seem daunting but once you start making your events accessible it’ll quickly become second nature. Even if you’re not putting on an exhibition or event but are just taking part it’d be great for you to flag these points with whoever’s organising it – art should be accessible for everyone. We’ve put some links to accessibility resources together below that should help and if you need any extra advice feel free to email us at [email protected].


More information on Shape training and how to make your organisation more accessible can be found at