Hosted by Attitude Is Everything
On the 15th July 2020 we were so excited to co-host the first in a series of training sessions, led by the incredible team from Attitude is Everything – a charity committed to improving deaf and disabled people’s access to live music in the UK. We were joined by a selection of promoters, venue owners and festival teams from The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Serious, and independent producers from across the UK and Ireland. The events are free to attend and the work is done in groups of 18 at a time. Sitting in for JPN, this was my first time attending the Disability Equality & Customer Care Training, and I was keen to get involved as I also work at the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston. In this blog, you can find more about my first-hand experience during the training, some really useful information about disability equality in the live music sector and hopefully a reason to sign-up to JPN X AIE’s training sessions in the future!
First of all, a little bit of background. Attitude is Everything has been working diligently for the past 18 years to help venues and festivals understand deaf and disabled people’s requirements and to share and help implement best practices across a range of spaces and events. They work anywhere live music is taking place, and currently, they support over 200 venues and festivals who have signed up to their Charter of Best Practice. As part of JPN’s ongoing programme of work to help develop the workforce across the jazz sector, we have partnered with AiE to deliver not only these training sessions, but also, a series of case studies with venues and festivals who will be given more tailored advice and support to develop their buildings and events to serve everyone in society. More details on this coming soon…
At the very start of the session, we were allocated into smaller groups where we could take part in little activities to test and discuss some of the key points of the training. These sessions looked at case studies of certain events or venues, with suggestions of what we could do (such as what to do if you see someone trying to use the disabled toilet who doesn’t look like they need it). Each of these were designed to get us thinking critically about the problems and barriers disabled people might face when entering a venue for the first time and how we can best support them.
Some Facts and Figures
From the outset, we had our knowledge tested on some key statistics to see how much we knew about disability in the UK. Here’s a few examples of some facts and figures you may not already know about:
Did you know that 17% of disabled people were born with their impairments.
That means that the majority acquire disabilities at later stages in their lives, and that you could feasibly have large portions of your regular audience developing the need for accessible spaces in the future.
Less than 8% of disabled people require the use of a wheelchair.
Despite the universal sign for accessibility for disabled access being a wheelchair user against a blue background, only a small proportion of disabled people are affected in this way. The majority might not even visibly show a disability or impairment, and so it’s really important to think about how we can holistically make life easier for everyone attending events.
Over 28% of disabled people experience poverty.
That’s compared to only 18% of the general population. This I think highlights the importance for venues to focus on accessibility across the entire spectrum of activities they run, whether it be from the architecture of the building, the openness and willingness of staff to respond to requests or the financial accessibility which can often restrict audiences from even thinking of attending in the first place.
I thought rather than giving a blow by blow account of the training, I’d share a few key takeaways that will hopefully encourage you to take part or at least investigate some of the issues and barriers that deaf and disabled people face when they come to a music venue. Here’s four vital things I learned from AiE’s training.
Always say yes before you say no
According to the Equality and Human Rights Guide, it is illegal to directly or indirectly discriminate against disabled people when you run a business – this includes those who provide services as well as goods. That means that we all have a legal requirement to make reasonable adjustments to make our venues and festivals accessible. Now, many people might think that having to make your venue accessible means putting in a lift, or having a changing toilet, but oftentimes it’s not possible to make architectural changes to a space. However, it’s common for business owners run into trouble with the courts when there’s an attitude of saying no to a request or suggestion before saying yes. For example, you may not have the budget or finances to build an accessible toilet in your venue right this minute, but what’s to stop you having an agreement with another local business that does?
There’s a business case for accessibility
Did you know that 13.9 million people in the UK live with an impairment… that’s 1 in 6, almost 17%. So if your venue isn’t accessible (and obviously so to anyone who is thinking of coming), that’s a huge audience that won’t be coming to your events. Interestingly, the figures in Ireland are not all dissimilar either: The Central Statistics Office states that “a total of 643,131 people stated they had a disability in April 2016 which accounts for 13.5% of the population”.
Having disabled people come to your events is a huge boost for your footfall and also has a knock-on effect; there are many gig guides and blogs out there (such as Euan’s Guide) that review venues based on their accessibility, and promote places that have made lots of considerations for disabled people. Attitude is Everything also run a mystery shoppers scheme, with over 600 signups who go into venues to feedback on their experience.
There’s a whole host of things to consider that sometimes aren’t taken into account
One of the things I took away from the session was the need to see accessibility as holistically as possible. As I mentioned before, most disabled people don’t present their impairment visibly. For venues and events organisers, this means having to address things such as whether or not there are certain content triggers within a performance for people with anxiety, training for staff members to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired but not deaf, or making sure there are guides for people who might want to buy merchandise but are partially sighted. These are just some examples of the vast array of considerations to make when trying to make your venue or festival more accessible.
If these haven’t convinced you to attend the Attitude is Everything training sessions yet (and may I remind you that they are completely free to everyone!), then I’ve included a few resources below that will help you to develop your skills and to help you get started in making your events more accessible. I think now more than ever, we have to think about what it means to build a more inclusive and accessible cultural landscape across the world. We have to think about how the jazz scene in the UK and Ireland can make it’s community of musicians, industry professionals and audience alike, more welcoming and more open to those in society that have often felt left out and unable to engage with this vibrant music. Hopefully, some of the tips, tricks and advice gained from the Customer Care sessions will help us all to build an ecosystem where this is the case, and achieving holistic accessibility in our spaces where music takes place will be a huge step toward that goal.
Access Starts Online
How to create clear and comprehensive online access information.
How to make grassroots gigs accessible:
Handy how-to guides on viewing areas, PA Ticket, accessible campsites and more:
State of Access Reports, AIE Accessing LGBT+ Spaces Report and lots more:
Ticketing Without Barriers
Ticketing is a major factor around accessibility – find out how to get it right:
The “Next Stage” Survey
A snapshot of accessibility for Deaf and disabled artists:
Also, make sure to check out Heart and Soul – a charity that believes in the power and talents of people with learning disabilities: