People with disabilities dot com

Tips for artists and performers

Yellow star with wheelchair symbol on top symbolizing a disabled celebrity
Yellow star with the wheelchair symbol on top.

A career as an artist

Your involvement in the arts can be a career. This will require quite a bit of work but it is possible. You may not become rich but it can be a great way to get known, travel and/or make money doing what you love.

If you are a musician you might want to join a band and this could be easier than going solo. If you don't want to be part of a band you can always get a tutor if you feel you need one.

If you aspire to be a comedian search the web for local mics in your area. If there are none you may have to move or travel. Before you appear at one write some jokes and rehearse in private or with friends.

Some open mic managers take bookings through Facebook but I am aware that this platform is not accessible to some people. A solution could be to ask a friend to do the booking requests for you or get the managers Email address.

It is a good idea to always be nice and polite. You don't want to potentially burn bridges with people that book artists.

You may get stage fright but if you really want to succeed you simply have to keep trying until you adapt.

If you cannot talk you may want to get a manager or assistant earlier in your career. Emails can be unreliable so having someone to do phone calls would be valuable.

From experience the media can't wait to cover artists with disabilities and if you want this type of attention you can either contact journalists or event managers. If you get on TV you may want to plug your page on social media platforms such as Facebook. I have used this tactic myself and got 4,000 likes to my Facebook page.

I know that disability oriented theatre groups exist such as A Different Light in Christchurch New Zealand. These groups would offer a supported environment and friendships with the other participants. A theatre group could put on shows and go on tours.

If a theatre group doesn't exist you may want to find some locals and create one. This can be a fun hobby too.

Bands can be formed if music is more your thing. Another option could be trying to join an existing band if you don't want to be a solo artist but before you approach others I suggest that you develop a skill.

Some upcoming artists hold gatherings to help out each other. Getting involved in these groups may be a good idea. You might want to suggest an accessible venue if that is not already a consideration.

Venues might not be accessible either but I found that acquiring a portable ramp for wheelchairs can assist with getting into venues and on stages.


Traveling can be difficult too especially if you go to small towns as there are limited options for accommodation and the accommodation available may not be accessible. You may have comforts that will be a hassle to take such as a standing frame. You may want to just stick to places you would definitely enjoy; I wish that I had done so when I first started comedy.

If you require a carer to travel with you this can be a disadvantage as trips will be more expensive. There is usually no source of funding available for this so you would need to work this into the budget or try your luck at crowd funding the carer component.

We have a separate article on travel tips.

Tips for established artists

Once established artists usually perform at festivals and there could be disability specific arts festivals that you can go to. An example is the Undercover Artist Festival in Brisbane, Australia.

Many cities also have festivals for the arts in different forms. You're probably better to grow an online following before attempting to participate in them to ensure that you get good sales.

Some government agencies have funding programmes that can be utilized to travel to festivals. I once used crowd funding to partially raise money to go to Melbourne. Unfortunately sales weren't adequate to make more travel plans.

Promoting your events

When traveling it is a good idea to join local Facebook groups and post your event in there if you find a group that allows advertising. I joined one when I went to Brisbane and learned joining them at least a month in advanced could be worthwhile due to the delay in your membership being approved. You may want to make your post a week out from your event to give people enough time to adjust their schedule and tell friends.

You might want to join Facebook groups that have people with disabilities in the area of the performance. You should probably message the moderators asking if you can promote your events otherwise you could get banned from the group.

Emailing disability organizations that have a significant amount of members in the area that you're performing in might be worthwhile too.

Develop a thick skin

A person made a comment to me. They felt discriminated against because they were refused roles due to their disability. In some cases they were told this to their face.

This matches my own experience as a comedian who cannot talk. I wasn't hired for MC roles because it was wrongly assumed that I cannot MC an event. I was a MC for a comedy event once so I believe that some people are narrow minded.

Developing a thick skin may be beneficial but creating your own opportunities may also be a solution.

Creating opportunities

It may be worthwhile to create opportunities for yourself if you can. For example an actor could act in YouTube sketches.

A comedian could host their own open mics. They could also write and act in sketches on YouTube.

Creating your own opportunities can be rewarding. However it may be lots of work and not viable for some. Perhaps multiple artists could collaborate on projects.

How to make additional money

A common problem for artists is making money from their work. Several online opportunities could benefit you.

If you're a graphic artist or comedian you could create digital artwork (even if it's just text) and sell it on shirts and many other products. With Print-On-Demand companies will handle everything if you provide them with the graphics. However I have spent over a year doing this and I am not even making $10 a month profit.

It could work better if you have a significant following for Print-On-Demand as you could promote your designs to your fans.

If you have possibly for graphic designers could be doing jobs online freelance websites. While this may not be ideal it could help pay the bills. Go to our guide for freelancing with a disability.

It's fairly easy for musicians to release their own music on Apple Music etc. as an independent artist. I have done this myself.

The initial challenge with releasing music would be getting the funds to record the songs. You could look into grants or crowd fund.

After recording the music your costs can include membership to the music distribution websites, graphics and promotion. I didn't pay for graphics or promotion when I released my two trance tracks.

Most music distributors will charge less than $20 a year but some can be free. I use Record Union as it has good Email support.

A YouTube channel can help many artists make money. Go to a guide for running a YouTube channel.

Building connections

Working with disability organizations can be good for your career as an artist. For example I'm frequently involved with Arts Access Aotearoa which is based in a different city to me and when I had a show in that city the Executive Director invited about ten people. Providing value to the organization should be your goal; if you do this they will probably help you without any prompting from you.

My own experiences

I was a comedian for a while and I cannot talk and communication I found challenging. It is difficult to do networking with promoters and more established artists. A solution would be to contact the people online; you just have to find artists that don't mind taking to newer artists.

Getting bookings was also a problem as sometimes Emails get missed for various reasons. Sometimes you have to book a month or two in advance and setting reminders to do this would be the most effective way of accomplishing this.

You might be limited on what events you're booked for. As a comedian I was only booked for a M.C. role once. This was damaging to both my ability to earn money and my enthusiasm. The solution would be to simply push for your ultimate goal and don't let things like this distract you.

Being famous

I was on national TV and got thousands of likes to my Facebook page so I have had a very small taste of fame. If you are the type of person that doesn't particularly like being called an inspiration constantly I suggest staying away from being in the spotlight. I generally don't like being called an inspiration but understand that is part of having a higher profile than the rest of the population.

One advantage is that people will listen to your concerns more. You can build a following to boost your influence if being an advocate as well as a public figure is important to you.

You will get random people messaging you for various reasons. They're mostly positive.

You do get some questionable messages for example a person was apparently offering me funding but then Emailed numerous personal questions which I didn't see the point of asking.

I have decided that having a personal brand is not an interest but would encourage others to presue fame if that is what they want.


Your involvement in the arts doesn't have to be a career; you can do your art simply because you love it. Most performers don't make enough to live on so even if you do want a career you may want to have something else supplement your income.

Many artists get back something other than money from their career. For example many comedians like to see people laugh as it makes them happy since some comedians live with depression. Some musicians also like that their music helps people.

This page was originally published at 10/09/2018 02:24:14 UTC

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