How accessible are the arts for the disabled?

How accessible are the arts for the disabled? – words Al Woods

The Arts industry in the UK is booming. In 2015, over £87 billion was contributed to the UK economy by the creative industries and there are an increasing number of jobs being created each year.

However, a key problem within the creative arts industry, which includes theatre, animation, film, journalism and many more categories, is the lack of diversity. In particular, people with disabilities, whether they need to use powerchairs to get around or have more ‘invisible’ mental disabilities, are being excluded from the industry. So just how accessible are the arts for the disabled?

Prejudice Problems

A study by Arts Council England recently reported that young, disabled people are far less likely to participate in cultural and artistic activities than able-bodied people, due to prejudice. This prejudice includes, but is not exclusive to, negative attitudes towards disabled people and a lack of adaptions put in place for them to enjoy artistic activities. With so many young disabled people unable to enjoy participating in creative activities at a young age, there is little incentive or ability for them to pursue creative careers in the future. At its core, prejudice is fuelled by a lack of understanding. So, a considerable amount of work needs to be done to raise awareness about the adaptations and attitude needed to ensure that more young people can enjoy cultural or artistic events without judgement or difficulty.

Lack of Funding

Many disabled people also come from low-income families, which limits their ability to participate in recreational activities and cultural events. There have been a number of schemes to improve access to the Arts for young people from low-income families, including ArtsEmergency which provides access to regular mentoring from an industry professional. An arts and accessibility grant though can be very hard to achieve in practice. There are also several events and schemes which are aimed specifically at engaging disabled people with artistic activities. However, more work needs to be done to specifically reduce both physical and social barriers for people with disabilities who are looking to pursue a career in the creative industries.

Representation Matters

For those who don’t struggle to access events and activities, it may be difficult to understand why it’s important for the Arts industry to be more diverse and inclusive. However, proper representation within the media is essential as so much of our culture and attitude is formed by the films we see, the books we read and the music we listen to. For disabled people, seeing a disabled person in a film, portrayed by a disabled actor, creates an important role model. Increasing representation, both on the centre stage and behind the scenes, also challenges the accepted ‘norms’ and formulaic way in which much of western media is created. It can only be a positive for more disabled people to be involved in the creation and enjoyment of the Arts, in all forms.

Steps are being taken to improve access to the Arts for many disabled people, including the introduction of many funding schemes and specialist events to encourage a new generation of creative individuals. However, there is a long way to go before the industry is fully inclusive.

How accessible are the arts for the disabled? – words Al Woods


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