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Access to the Arts: Prioritising Inklusion

Last updated: 17 July 2023

In late 2021, the UK Disability Arts Alliance published their report The Impact of the Pandemic on Disabled People and organisations in Arts & Culture(this link will open in a new window), in which half of all respondents declared they had less work than before the pandemic, or no work at all.

Two thirds also disclosed their worry that they will have to leave the creative industries due to lack of work.

As Scotland and the UK no longer enforce Covid safety measures for public events, people with disabilities in the arts are facing increasing barriers to access. Much of the digital accessibility that the pandemic necessitated is being withdrawn. Our article from poet and prose writer Karl Knights gives an insight into the impact of this dwindling support.

The UK Disability Arts Alliance report shows that the top three concerns of people with disabilities in this environment are:

  1. Continued access provision for disabled people in general,
  2. Health and safety issues,
  3. Failure to meet individual personal access needs

Digital vs. in-person events

Research from the Centre for Cultural Value (Culture in Crisis survey)(this link will open in a new window) and The Audience Agency (Focus on Disability report)(this link will open in a new window) indicates how audiences with disabilities are 'more likely to engage with digital content (49% overall and up to 74% of disabled 16–24-year-olds).'

Similarly, a higher proportion of people with disabilities than without have engaged in arts and heritage. Purple Pound(this link will open in a new window) estimates that the spending power of people with disabilities (and their households) is worth £274 billion per year to UK business.

These studies vividly illustrate the concern from audiences with disabilities regarding Covid safety measures, other attendees’ behaviour, as well as accessibility requirements being met by venues under stress following a two-year pandemic. 

In this light, removing all digital access 'would compound the injustice' faced by people with disabilities, who are understandably anxious about contracting Covid themselves or passing it on to others they know with similar pre-existing conditions.

Industry access and Inklusion

In response to increasing barriers to access, writers Julie Farrell and Ever Dundas released the The Inklusion guide(this link will open in a new window), a 'comprehensive access guide for UK literary sector organisations' to showcase best practice for events, conferences, panels and residencies, including information on running in-person, online, and hybrid events.

The guide is available for free on their website and as a downloadable PDF(this link will open in a new window). There is also a limited-run A4 printed booklet on request. Further free resources (BSL video and audio recording, Easy Read, and Braille versions) are planned for future release.

Inklusion offers tailored support and insights into access for audiences(this link will open in a new window), access for authors(this link will open in a new window), funding access provision(this link will open in a new window), and employing staff with disabilities(this link will open in a new window).

Their guide is rooted in research around 'the purple pound,(this link will open in a new window)' citing £2 billion as the approximate loss every month to businesses who ignore the needs of people with disabilities.

Nothing about us, without us

Award-winning author and poet Jen Campbell, in conversation with Inklusion(this link will open in a new window), notes a lack of understanding from the literary industry when it comes to representing disabilities:

I received so much pushback against a book proposal with a disabled protagonist because his disability was not part of the storyline. The response was ‘well, why is he like that? What happened to him?' but the point was that the reader didn't need to know. This baffled people. Incidental representation of disability is just as important as stories about disability.

She also speaks to the removal of access needs following the easing of Covid restrictions, particularly when she 'had to push for online content' and 'explain why I can't go into schools in person or do in-person events at festivals, despite offering many alternative solutions myself.'

It's from experiences like this that Inklusion has grown and become an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to understand how to make their events and organisations more accessible. 

From ticket pricing(this link will open in a new window) to advertising(this link will open in a new window) to event formats, venues, content warnings, and many more, Inklusion contains comprehensive guidelines 'to create an environment where disabled people are not only welcome and supported, but an integral part of the publishing industry.'

Check out the whole Inklusion guide online(this link will open in a new window), and be sure to follow Inklusion on Twitter(this link will open in a new window) and Instagram(this link will open in a new window)!