A man provides BSL interpretation for an Unlimited Connects Panel

Access Surgery: Creating Accessible Work

Last month, Unlimited held a series of virtual Access Surgery workshops led by Kim Simpson; a producer, curator, facilitator and coach, and Sarah Pickthall; a producer, consultant, trainer and an accredited executive coach. We invited some of our current commissioned artists and discussed audiences and access provisions. Our trainee MJ sat in on these sessions and has compiled a list of what came up most during these discussions. 

Audience 

  • Knowing your audience and how you want to present the work to them is key. This can help you narrow down what type of access provisions you will need and how you can engage these audiences.  
  • If you do have access in place it’s important to highlight that in any promotional material, this lets your audience know whether they can come and see the work and what accommodations they might have to put in place to do so. 

Experience 

  • Not everyone will experience the work in the same way, but ensuring audiences have an equally rich experience is integral. 
  • Integrate access into the work, for example projecting captions above the stage, having a BSL interpreter in the performance rather than off to the side and providing vivid audio descriptions for visual art. 
  • Access for you as an artist is equally important, consider how you communicate with your team and venues about your access needs. Would it benefit you to have an access rider? An Access rider is a useful document that can easily be shared with producers, venues, and other team members. You can find out more information about how to create an access rider here. 

Venue 

  • Access doesn’t only apply to showing your work but where you are showing it. Does the venue have rest spaces? Do they do relaxed performances? Are their front of house staff approachable? How can the venue work with you to make sure your audience feels comfortable coming to the venue and whilst they’re there. 

Online 

  • Is there a digital element to the work that can be shared through online channels? In these rapidly changing times it’s important to have work that can also be adapted to an online setting.  
  • Access can become part of the legacy and the documentation of the show. For example providing people with pamphlets to read along with during the show, which can be published online afterwards.
  • Access isn’t just for physical spaces, there are online tools that can help with accessibility such as alt text for images, captions on videos and audio descriptions for visual artworks. 
  • Consider how you can make your work accessible to people who are neurodiverse. If the work contains difficult themes ensuring that there are trigger warnings and signposting to where people can talk about the themes is important.  

 These ideas are just some of the things that we touched on during our conversations with commissioned artists. If you’d like an in depth guide to creating accessible work please read our Demystifying Access Guide, which includes resources and places you can source access practitioners.