In November, Raquel Meseguer held a roundtable event about recognising invisible needs, hosted at South East Dance, linked to her Unlimited R&D ‘A Crash Course in Cloudspotting’. The event, attended by Brighton Fringe Festival, Brighton Dome, Depot, Disability Arts, Fabrica, National Theatre, Ovalhouse, ONCA, Root Experience, Shape Arts, South East Dance, Theatre Bristol, Tobacco Factory Theatres and Trinity Centre amongst others, provoked a brilliant response of actions that we can all take right now.
Disabled people come in all shapes and sizes and have a wide range of needs – we all know this. Many of those needs are ‘invisible’ in that they can’t be seen or instantly recognised, but are still as vital and valid as anything else. Chronic pain and fatigue are experienced by a significant proportion of the population who – without appropriate consideration and access provision – are forced to simply withdraw from cultural activity. But what can you, as an arts organisation, do to meet such needs? Take a look at the list of suggestions the roundtable came up with, all brilliant, simple and actionable. So what’s stopping you?
12 simple ideas on how to take action right now:
- Make some dream time to re-imagine how you’d like people to use your building. For inspiration, re-listen to the roundtable event. Contact Uncharted Collective for a link).
- Extend an invitation to rest, reset, recharge, to those who use your building.
- Adopt an access statement about invisible needs / hidden conditions and add it to your website; ensure this communicates what you offer (e.g. cushions at box office). Contact Uncharted Collective for a suggested starting point if you don’t know where to begin.
- Nurture a culture of understanding at your organisation so your team is able to consider a wide range of different needs. Start by consulting your team about their needs.
- Develop language to talk about invisible needs and reflect this in your signage. Undertaking Disability Equality Training as a team is a great starting point: it gives people confidence in the language they use.
- Designate a quiet area for ‘rest, reset, recharge’ within your building or organisation. Ensure your FOH team know about this area: why it is there, what is means, what assurances people might need to use it.
- Invite building users to take and/or write a ‘rest, reset, recharge’ sign, e.g. from a ‘signage’ stand.
- Test one ‘fluid’ performance in your next season. Ideally, the audience would be welcome to lie down as well as stand up, stretch and move around during the show. Announce this relaxation of etiquette to your entire audience pre-show.
- If your ‘fluid’ performance does not include the option to lie down, consider how and when you can offer this in your programme over the next 2 seasons.
- Consider how your booking system can deliver a tailored service, for example, could information about ‘fluid’ performance appear when you scroll the back row seating?
- Ensure your marketing is user-friendly, utilising: specific Facebook groups, Disability Arts Online, Euan’s Guide, Possibility People, It’s Local Actually, Attitude is Everything, medical centres and surgeries, to welcome all audiences. Find your local Community Navigator’s Scheme.
- Join the dots with other marketing departments across this network, to learn from each other and build critical mass.
One of the aims of Raquel’s roundtable was to set up a network of cultural venues that provide resting spaces, events that focus on rest as an access requirement. You can sign up to join your organisation to the Resting Spaces Network and register your interest to host an intervention. Her own Unlimited R&D can be seen at OvalHouse 29 Jan – 10 February – ‘A Crash Course in Cloudspotting’.
- To develop an app used to find resting spaces across the country.
- To host interventions and workshops that raise awareness of invisible needs and hidden conditions.
- That venues and organisations develop their offer for these communities.
To stay in touch or for questions about next steps of the project, please contact artist Raquel Meseguer on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are some resources to help you find language that communicates well with your audiences. Above all, it is important that these discussions are had within organisations, so please do not be afraid. If you are in doubt please ask the communities you work with what kinds of language they would prefer.
Demystifying Access Guide – Unlimited
The Charter of Best Practice – Attitude is Everything
The Social Model of Disability – Disability Arts Online
The Social Model of Disability – Shape Arts
The text above was first circulated by South East Dance to the venues attending Raquel’s Roundtable event. Thanks to South East Dance, Uncharted Collective and Raquel Meseguer for letting us share them more widely.