It's time for another blog post, this top tip article came to my mind after the covid-19 lockdowns created some amazing accessibility for the arts that has never been considered before. It was born out of necessity to continue the performing arts going whilst we were all inside our homes, but now the light is being cast on producers to create more accessible shows for all - performers and patrons. As a producer myself, I was curious to know how to make the shows I create more accessible so more people can enjoy them, regardless of ability. I asked NZ performer, producer and disabilibabe Rosie Roulette to illuminate some ideas for producers to create some more accessibility in the performing arts. Here's what she had to say (remember to follow Rosie on her socials - found at the bottom of this post).
Rosie Roulette is a kiwi singer/songwriter, burlesque and cabaret performer, producer and disability advocate. She graduated from the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA) in 2013 and moved to Melbourne in 2014. For the past few years, in addition to creating art, she has spent a lot of her time advocating for the rights of chronically ill and disabled people both online and in real life. She also has a busking act where she performs as a disabled princess singing Disney and show tunes, known
simply as The Dizzy Knee Princess, a nod to symptoms of two of her conditions, POTS and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
(photo by Empress Eyrie)
Here are Rosie's Top Tips For Creating More Accessible Shows:
1. The Venue.
Is your venue accessible? And I mean really accessible for all people? Disability isn't limited to just people who use wheelchairs, it covers a wide spectrum of mobility and other issues. Wheelchair accessibility is not just whether the venue has a ramp or a lift, you also need to think about how a wheelchair user is able to access that lift or ramp and how easy it is for them. A single step for example in front of a lift or ramp is not accessible, neither is a long detour around the back of a venue and down an alleyway in order to reach an elevator. And once inside, also consider if the bathrooms and other
amenities are accessible for wheelchair users and people with other mobility issues. Whether or not the venue has adequate seating with back support and whether it can be easily accessed by public transport is also important.
2. Provide Accessibility Info On Your Event.
Regardless of whether or not you can secure a fully accessible venue, you should always endeavour to list accessibility info wherever your event is listed. Simply stating whether or not your venue is wheelchair accessible and how audience will have to enter the space, whether that be by a single step at the front door or by a flight of stairs, can save your disabled audience a lot of hassle. Also consider listing information for people with other types of disability such as blindness, deafness or ASD, would your show be suitable for them? Is your show made up of primarily visual or audio components, and could it be enjoyed by someone with a visual impairment for example? Taking the time to list all the relevant information for disabled folks can also encourage people who otherwise might not have looked twice at your event to come, provided that your venue is accessible for their particular disability. Also list a contact for people to ask further questions on whether their disability can be accommodated.
3. Creating A Show That Can be Enjoyed By All.
Step into the shoes of people with different disabilities for a moment, and ask yourself whether you could change or add anything that would make your show easier for them to enjoy. Does your venue have a projector for example and could you use it to provide subtitles where appropriate? Can you afford to hire an Auslan Interpreter? Does your seating plan allow enough space for people with mobility aids such as walking sticks or crutches? Your venue should be clear of obstacles such as cables on the floor, and audience aisles should be wide enough for wheelchair users. Avoid strobe or flashing lights, and if you can't, definitely give a strobe warning beforehand. Also try to provide guests with a separate, quiet area so they can take a break if needed. There's a lot of things to consider, but little adjustments here and there can make a world of difference.
(Photo by Rachel Mia)
4. Accessibility For Your Performers.
Please also consider your performers who may have a visible or invisible chronic illness or disability. Try making a habit of asking for any accessibility needs on the tech or other questionnaires for your cast. Then do your best to accommodate those needs. Even if you don't think any of your cast have a disability, not all disabilities are visible and so you never know. Just like with asking your cast for their pronouns, I promise you your chronically ill/disabled performers will appreciate it.
5. Provide Your Show For Streaming Or On Demand.
One of the up sides to 2020 was that it forced shows to adapt and evolve. More live streamed and online shows are available now than ever before, and this is an excellent way of making a show that's otherwise inaccessible, accessible. It also opens up shows to 2 distinct and different audiences, the live audience and the one at home. If you are unable to live stream your show you can consider filming it, editing it and putting it up for on demand viewing later. This also allows you a wealth of opportunities to get creative with the editing and create a unique experience for the viewer at home. And if you're unable or unsure of how to set up something like this yourself there are wonderful companies like The Great Debacle (TGDlive) in Melbourne who will do all of this for you!
Accessibility in the arts is a big issue, especially in cities like Melbourne which were largely built with only able bodies in mind. It is a huge misconception that we don't see more disabled folks at shows because there aren't that many of them or because they aren't interested in coming. There are many disabled people who would love to come to your show but they can't because it is currently inaccessible for them. If more producers took the steps to create accessible and inclusive performances then we would subsequently see a rise in the number of disabled people in and supporting the arts. Remember that the world wasn't built for us disabled folks and we need people like you to advocate for us and be the change we need to see.
(Photo by Rachel Mia)
Follow Rosie on socials via the links below: Facebook