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Ways to make the arts accessible

A disabled comedian, Lost Voice Guy
UK comedian Lost Voice Guy. Photo credit: Caroline Briggs.

The importance of participating in the arts

We can use the arts to spread messages about disability. For example there are comedians with disabilities that help bring humour to the subject of disability. This can help people think about disability differently. If starting out you can appear at open mics which means that your message can get across to people of all sorts.

If you do yearly tours you may want to contact journalists or review sites in different cities and tell them about your events. It is important not to contact them too frequently but I think that having a list of journalists that you can cont on is worthwhile.

Another way to get known is to open for big name artists. To do this you should find out who is organizing shows in your area and send them a clip of you performing or invite them to one of your events.

Bands, if successful can generate a good amount of publicity. It is a good of effort and work but if this interests you and you like traveling the best time to start is now; enquire about a vocal coach. You can even be a solo artist. If you can't sing try being a DJ.

There is music therapy that can be used to help children discover their musical abilities.

Films and theatre are a good way to tell these are expensive and you may need to seek funding. A good and/or humourous short film should be able to attract a good view count on the internet and is generally a more effective way of spreading messages.

Of course if painting is more your thing, do that! If your goal is spreading your message then I personally think that other art forms might be more suitable for this. It depends as people may go to spend an hour at a live show but paintings could still reach a good amount of people if goes viral.

If you want to be an artist then please read our Tips for artists and performers

Just showing up can be good for increasing visibility of people with disabilities. I always hear people say "it's good to see you out" but if people are thrilled to see me out I think that we need to do more to normalize disability.

Making events accessible

A good place to start with ensuring events are accessible is making sure the place has wheelchair access and decent wheelchair seats. Personally I would like it if venues have wheelchair seating at the front as well as at the back; too often we're limited to far away seats and I feel that this is a disadvantage.

The experience can be enhanced for people with blindness if you provide audio descriptions. As an example if someone called Jackie was opening a door you could have a separate audio track that says "Jackie is opening a door". We mention software that would be suitable for this below.

For people who cannot hear you could have a sign language interpreter but this could cost $100 for each performance. Subtitles on mobile phones could be a better option if you have limited budget and a script. Another option is finding someone to type quickly for live performances and this is a great option if you are publishing a video online and need a subtitle track.

The software at allows you to have tracks for people with deafness and audio described tracks for people with blindness as the software is compatible with screen readers. Venues and producers can use this to offer audience members a more accessible experience.

If you do want have a sign language interpreter some venues have that on a dedicated night and invite people that have hearing or vision problems. This would reduce expenses and encourages sales but I think that this also encourages segregation. People shouldn't be restricted to coming to a performance on a single night if other people have additional options but I guess that it is better than nothing.

It is worth noting that sign language interpreters allow people who cannot hear to experience the performance closer to how they would communicate with people in the real world. An interpreter would also make sign language visible to the general population. However if you want to cater to people who speak other languages or you have limited funds then subtitles on mobile phones would also work.

Companion cards are a good idea

If you require a carer going to events can be difficult as depending on the country because you need to pay for your carer as well as yourself. If you don't have a lot of money and tickets are a hundred dollars this can be impossible. A good solution exists in countries like Canada and Australia; a companion card.

A companion card allows people with disabilities to take their carers to events for free or at a discounted rate. It is issued to only those that need it. If you surveyed people that have disabilities they would say they would go out more if they had one. Historically this has been the case. It allows people to go to events that they otherwise wouldn't.

Venues can also benefit by increased drink sales by carers. If wheelchair tickets are not being sold anyway, this can help remedy that. Event goers also enjoy seeing people with disabilities at events, this also increases their experience. People who have disabilities support those that support them. This could mean they would be go in groups to venues with a companion policy, especially if you organize this with disability organizations. Also if the government doesn't already have a carer attendance policy there is nothing stopping you from having one and publicizing it.

Governments should have a companion card policy if they are serious about people who experience disabilities being visible in society. This helps the public accept people that live with disabilities which is helpful overall.

Acknowledging good accessibility

Good accessibility should be everywhere but in many parts of the world this is not the case. Organizations in countries acknowledge good accessibility through yearly award ceremonies. In New Zealand an organization called Arts Access Aotearoa holds the Arts Access Awards

They do this by opening up nominations and most of the recipients are selected by a panel. They are held in Parliament and are sometimes hosted by MPs. This is a good way to get a good amount of press for the event.

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