Marking the 10th anniversary of the Equalities Act coming into force and in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, 12 audience accessibility organisations and networks, alongside two government sector champions, have come together as the Audience Access Alliance.
Their first action is an open letter of support and solidarity to partners across the cultural, sports, heritage and tourism sectors, celebrating the progress that had been made prior to COVID-19, and advocating for continued collaboration to drive forward an inclusive recovery and further positive change for millions of Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people.
We add our collective backing to the #WeMakeEvents campaign, and its urgent call for the UK government to support our world-leading events sector.
Since the Act came into force, participation by disabled people across the cultural and creative sectors has increased significantly.
In 2019/20, 76% of Deaf and disabled people engaged with the arts (vs 77% of non-disabled people), closing the estimated 9% gap in engagement recorded in 2008/09. Narrowing of participation gaps have also been seen across heritage, museums and galleries, whilst Deaf and disabled people made up 12% of Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation audiences in 2018/19.
The total spending power of families including at least one disabled person is estimated at £274 billion a year.
The letter notes that, despite Deaf and disabled people being among the most impacted by the virus, not every disabled person is medically ‘vulnerable’ to COVID-19 and there remains a strong desire among many to participate in inclusive online events and return to in-person activities such as gigs, exhibitions and football matches as soon as rules allow.
The Alliance adds that their organisations are horrified by the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on the talented and committed professionals that they work alongside, and remain committed to helping those sectors survive this traumatic period.
“We can enable you to consult with Deaf and disabled audiences, ensure that the gains we have jointly made are not lost, and help secure the widest possible audiences to support you in the difficult times ahead.”
Instigated by music and event industry charity Attitude is Everything, the Audience Access Alliance letter is signed by Disability Collaborative Network, Euan’s Guide, Hynt, The Access Card, Performance Interpreting Inc, Shape Arts, Signed Culture, Stagetext, Stay Up Late, Transport For All and VocalEyes.
Additional signatories are Andrew Miller, UK Disability Champion for Arts and Culture, and Heather Smith, UK Disability Champion for Countryside & Heritage.
The full letter can be viewed here.