Cultural organisations campaigning for disability inclusion in the arts and entertainment sectors have joined forces to launch seven principles designed to allow the industry to navigate safely through COVID-19.
Groups including We Shall Not Be Removed, Ramps on the Moon, Attitude is Everything, Paraorchestra and What Next? have kicked off the initiative to ensure deaf, neurodiverse and disabled people are not discriminated against as creative work begins again and venues re-open.
The seven principles offer practical guidance to arts and cultural organisations to support disabled artists, audiences, visitors, participants and employees.
The principles highlight the importance of legal obligations, combating ableism in the sector, consulting directly with disabled people, comprehensive public information on COVID measures, remapping the customer journey, engagement of disabled artists and celebrating disability in the workforce.
They are applicable across all art forms and across all four UK nations and come with endorsement from a wide range of leading sector bodies including the British Council, British Film Institute, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Museums Association, Royal Philharmonic Society, Equity and UK Theatre.
Andrew Miller, UK Government disability champion for arts and culture, and co-founder of #WeShallNotBeRemoved, said: “Disabled people’s continued participation in culture at all levels has been severely threatened by this pandemic. The Seven Principles offer an essential new resource to promote an inclusive cultural recovery and to ensure the UK remains a global leader in disability and inclusive arts through and after COVID-19”.
Jonathan Harper, chief executive of Paraorchestra, added: “Inclusivity cannot be treated as a project that is cast aside as the cultural sector reopens following the pandemic.
“I wholeheartedly welcome the Seven Principles and Paraorchestra is proud to have played its part in creating them. This document offers context and the practical steps so that anyone within the sector can have the confidence to ensure that disabled artists, workers and audiences can return safely.”
A wide range of organisations from across the arts, museum and film sectors have welcomed the seven principles initiative.
Abid Hussain, director of diversity at Arts Council England, said it helps to ensure disabled people are directly informing plans to reconnect with creative practitioners, colleagues and audiences.
The news comes as venues and theatres are beginning to reopen their doors following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the announcement that indoor performances can resume with socially distanced audiences, it will not be economically viable for many theatres to reopen whilst adhering to these guidelines and most will remain closed, with staff and freelancers in limbo.
The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre recently announced that the Theatre Artists Fund has raised £3.5m (€3.8m/$4.5m), including a £1m contribution from Arts Council England. Spearheaded by director Sam Mendes the fund provides short-term relief to hundreds of theatre workers and freelancers across the UK.