Access Features you can add to your work
If you are a disabled artist you have a right to have your access requirements
met. Here is some information on creating access riders.
Some general points
Plan Well In Advance - Generally it is good practice to start thinking about
accessibility well before your project begins so that access can be factored into
Content Awareness Information (this is a better phrase than trigger warning) If
your arts event or activity has any content which may be unsettling for some people
in terms of subject matter, you need to let them know in advance so that they can
make an informed decision whether to attend or not, or what to do if they need to
leave at any stage. It is also important to let people know of any sensory content
such as strobe lighting (although we would discourage use of this in the 21st century
knowing how exclusive and dangerous it can be for some people), flashing lights,
loud noises or bangs and when they happen, grating music, howling or screaming,
alarms or sirens. Let people know publicly that you haver content awareness
information available and how to make contact to get more information. You or the
venue could create a link on a web page to give specific details and timings of
Information and Marketing – if you specifically want to attract disabled people
create your materials in a number of formats – large print, follow accessible print
guidelines for colour and contrast, and image and text, audio tracks (you can even
make these on your mobile phone as ling as you have no background noise and the
voice is clear). Also look into ways to directly reach disabled people and include
them in publicity and invitations from the venue. Check out Disability Arts Online to
promote your events and opportunities, and for lots of disability and access related
information largely generated by disabled artists and practitioners.
Unfamiliar Buildings and Spaces – some people find it really useful to see
photographs or a video journey through a venue they haven’t visited before or as a
reminder for people who may have forgotten a previous visit. You can show the
entrance, the journey to collecting tickets, to seats, to a gallery, to the loo, to quiet
spaces. Keep it simple and clear and highlight doors and how they open, signage on
the walls and different types of lighting. If there are any unusual features, explain
them. Sometimes, where relevant, include people visitors may meet.
Hybrid or blended events – if your event is ‘in person’ in an arts space please
consider having a virtual online option too so that people who are still excluded from
in person events can attend. This does require a little thought and planning so that
people don’t feel that they have been clumsily added on. It doesn’t have to be perfect
and just be open about that. It’s a learning process for everyone but much better to
actively include people than not.
Launches and Openings – think about all of the access information here for your
important events. Consider BSL interpretation.
Working with disabled creatives - this means having good clear conversations about
accessible processes which will include adjusted timeframe, rest days, working hours
agreements, communication processes, preparations and plenty of advance notice,
accessible facilities, discussions about safe spaces. It may include any of the other areas
of access outlined here. Encouraging and supporting the use of access riders is good
practice but it's important to keep open channels of communication about access
throughout a project as things can change if new situations arise.
The venues where you are holding your work
Directions – provide directions in advance about how people can get to the venue
including car, bus, train and walking or wheelchair using.
Car Parking – it’s good to let people know what the parking situation is at your
venue, particularly if there is accessible parking and dropped kerbs for wheelchair
The Welcome – if possible have people in the foyer area who are well
briefed/trained in welcoming and accessibility. This helps people new to a space to
orientate themselves. Important to ask if people need help or assistance with
anything rather than making assumptions.
Signage – large event specific signage is really helpful for people who don’t know
the venue well or who may feel disorientated if it is a big or confusing space. It’s a
great way to make people feel welcome. Ensure that signage for accessible toilets,
lifts and quiet areas is easily visible.
Facilities – publicly state what accessible facilities there are at the venue especially
accessible loos. It’s not okay to describe an event as accessible if there isn’t an
accessible loo easily available to guests. If the building level access, is there a
ramped entrance, and is there a lift if people need to travel around the building.
Are there quiet spaces if people need to rest?
Seating – always ensure there is some seating available for people with mobility
conditions. It’s also useful if this can be dotted around buildings if there are long
walks, and also near lifts if there can sometimes be long waits.
Visual arts exhibitions
Use large print labels for exhibited works – size 18-20 point sans serif font in
place of small print ones.
Create audio of text panels and provide QR codes next to the work for people to
Create image descriptions or object descriptions for exhibited to works. These
can be used as ‘alt-text’ on images on social media and websites which people with
screen readers can access. They can also be provided in audio in QR codes
alongside exhibited works.
QR codes for audio – these rely on people having smartphones and not everyone
does so ensure there is a fully charged smart phone or tablet available for people to
use and make sure visitors know it’s there.
Provide a large print programme to accompany the exhibition if it hasn’t been
possible to create large print of everything on the walls.
Lower the standard height of the exhibited works in a gallery – this works for all
sorts of people, wheelchairs users, people of small stature, children, people with
Make sure there are chairs or seating available dotted around the exhibition
Think about having touch tour elements to the exhibition or specific touchable
pieces or pieces where visitors can interact with them manually. This is great for
visually impaired people, and for neurodivergent or learning disabled people.
Consider having a BSL tour of an exhibition – this is for Deaf people whose first
language may not be English and so all text panels and written context will be lost.
Promote this well in advance directly to Deaf groups and individuals.
Film and Video
Everyone should be captioning any films or videos they are sharing publicly these
days. If you share your videos through YouTube you can get an optional captions
setting so that people who don’t want captions (eg people with dyslexia may not)
don’t have to have them. Most editing software now contains captions. YouTube can
help you create captions and also has an auto generated option, however this isn’t
You can look into audio description for film and video for visually impaired and
blind people. You can see an example of artist created audio description here.
If you have a larger budget, or if you want to have a professional audio describer work with
you create a line for this in your budget.
Theatre and Screenings
Content Awareness and Sensory Information – see the notes above on general
content awareness information. You can also consider creating a timed road map to
the show which has details about content and sensory changes such as lighting and
sound and when they happen.
BSL Interpretation – so that Deaf people can be included. Traditionally BSL
interpreters are positioned to the left or right of the stage or screen in their own light
which needs to remain on them throughout. More and more BSL interpreters are
being integrated into performances so that they move with the actors around the
stage so that Deaf audience members’ attention is not split between stage action
and having to look off stage left or right constantly.
Stage Captions – it is possible to project the lines the actors are saying either onto
a screen at the back of the stage, onto flat pieces of set, or onto a side screen (not
ideal as it splits focus for the user). Captions can be used creatively – possibly in
different colours for different characters, in different, but legible fonts, integrated into
the set wherever the characters are.
Audio Description – the description of the setting and anything visual relevant to
communicating character and the story. It is best designed and delivered by
professionals, however some artists do it themselves, after some initial training, and
some disabled writers actually write audio description into their work. Separate audio
description is is recorded as an independent track and broadcast into headsets used
by visually impaired and blind audience members.
Touch Tours – there are a number of approaches to touch tours for visually
impaired and blind audience members. There can be a sensory table in the foyer
area with samples of fabric used in costumes and props, there can be a scale model
of the set which a venue or company member presents to an audience member who
then can explore it through touch. There can be objects to smell and taste if relevant
or appropriate to the play or performance. In some performances a tour can be
undertaken with guides into the actual performance area to get an idea of the scale
of the set and its layout.
Relaxed Performances – these are designed to remove some of the traditional
‘rules’ of theatre and sensory barriers which may exist for some audience members
including people with neurodivergent conditions, neurological conditions, learning
disability and mental health. Audiences are free to come and go, to move and make
noises during a performance. House lights remain on so that there is no black out or
darkness, lighting states and changes are subtle if used at all and sound effects are
kept to a lower level than usual with no loud bangs or surprise sounds. Timed
information and warnings are provided for different things which may happen. It’s
really important that everyone attending a relaxed performance is aware of that, an
that information about what to expect is clear to all. Many venues and cinemas now
hold relaxed options and will have a description of what is involved. It’s important to
do research if you’d like to create relaxed work. It does have an impact on the overall
design and aesthetic of a show or film so it’s important to involve artists, audiences
and venues in the planning and conversation. Sometimes different kinds of
audiences need different elements of a relaxed performance so it’s important to
communicate what your interpretation of ‘relaxed' is. Additional policies (eg safeguarding)
will be required to accompany relaxed performances, so do take expert advice.
Projects, participation, and co-creation
It’s good practice to ask collaborators and participants what their access
requirements are and to share yours if you have any. This might mean that projects
require longer time frames with some flexibility, it might mean that disabled
participants have support workers with them, or you might decide to appoint an
access worker to be an extra pair of hands for yourself and others in the project.
It's important to communicate what access can be offered, and just as important to
be clear about what support can not be offered. It would be wise to discuss this with
people with expertise before commencing to avoid any pitfalls.
You will need a safeguarding policy, training and experience, and enhanced DBS
clearance for all staff and volunteers involved.
NB: Please feel free to share this information as a resource, crediting Vici Wreford-Sinnott as the author. It is not an exhaustive list so please do look at advice created by other people and ask for expert guidance when required. It is always best to involve disabled experts when introducing accessibility into your work to get it right. Please do not reproduce this information in other ways without prior written permission.