Access some areas

Here are some notes from a workshop I ran with Gem Carlier of Aire Place Studios, at an excellent symposium organised by curators and PhD candidates Kerry Harker and John Wright. The symposium was organised by Kerry and John on behalf of the Artist Led Research Group, to give opportunity for urgent discussions about artist-led spaces. More on the symposium here.

Discussions on spaces, places, venues and buildings are an ideal opportunity to also think about how accessible those spaces are for disabled people. Aire Place has done loads in this area with scant resources, so it was great to have Gem on board.

This workshop was an opportunity to consider accessibility of the places and spaces that artist-led organisations use. We discussed barriers that might prevent disabled people, from accessing artist-led activities. We pooled ideas for tackling these barriers, in individual organisations and by working collectively and strategically with others.

Access some areas workshop, 27 Oct 2018
Artist-led spaces, places and futures symposium 26-27 Oct 2018

Facilitated by Gill Crawshaw and Gem Carlier, Aire Place Studios.

This session focused on opportunities to address the physical barriers to inclusion sometimes associated with artist-led spaces, asking what we can learn from each other and from best practice in other sectors.

The social model of disability provided a framework for the workshop. Developed by the disabled people’s movement, this describes disability as caused by barriers in society, including environmental, institutional, attitudinal and financial barriers. These barriers disable people with impairments and prevent them taking part in everyday life.

In small groups, we shared ideas for tackling barriers that might prevent disabled people, and others, from accessing our exhibitions, events or studio spaces. We acknowledged the difficulties that artist-led organisations, particularly those with limited funding, may face in finding suitable venues. We also agreed that accessibility is not just about access to the built environment. But features such as stairs and steps, narrow entrances and corridors, lack of parking spaces or toilet facilities, poor lighting and design exclude some people. As well as affecting individuals, groups of disabled artists and arts organisations that work with disabled people are also excluded. This interrupts the flow of information and ideas across the artist-led sector.

Practical suggestions

  • Programme events in other, more accessible, venues
  • Find out if there are facilities nearby that you can use, such as accessible toilets or car parking
  • Do some DIY: build ramps, widen doorways, lower counters, remove doors or prop them open, install handrails, paint the edges of steps so they are more noticeable
  • But take care not to create further barriers e.g. dividing up rooms might make them difficult to access
  • Provide somewhere to sit
  • Think about lighting levels
  • Provide a dedicated quiet space or quieter visiting times. Crowded spaces can be overwhelming, difficult to move around in or provoke anxiety
  • Experiment with virtual reality, robotic / remote cameras or livestreaming
  • Be prepared, think things through, have a plan
  • Welcoming, approachable people who know the building and your approach to accessibility are key
  • Normalise accessibility and don’t make a drama out of it! Train members, staff, volunteers so that they can assist people without a fuss.
  • If you do nothing else, put clear, straightforward access information on your website.
    Gem shared Aire Place Studios’ information:

Serf and other artist-led spaces also give access information:

Taking things forward

  • Facilitate discussions. Talk to disabled artists and disability networks. Identify priorities
  • Partnership is crucial – work with other organisations in your area and take a joined-up approach
  • Advocate and lobby for better provision. Look for opportunities to continue the discussion, such as local or regional networks and strategic forums
  • Develop micro residencies for disabled artists
  • Include accessibility in funding bids (usually a requirement)
  • Include access information in mapping projects or directories
  • Publicise accessible / inclusive projects or venues to disabled people e.g.:

Useful resources

  • Cards for Inclusion by Unlimited (2018)

Unlimited is the national arts commissioning body which enables new work by disabled artists to reach mainstream audiences. Cards for Inclusion is a card game helping those in the arts sector explore how barriers can be removed and how we all can make whatever we offer more accessible to disabled people.

  • DIY Access Guide by Attitude is Everything (2017)

Attitude is Everything works to improve access to live music. They have produced a guide for making DIY gigs more accessible

MAP Charity poster access plans

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