A Disability Action Plan for the arts in Northern Ireland hopes to raise the numbers of disabled people attending, participating and working in the arts. 

Photo of people dancing
Luminous Soul perform at Jalan-Jalan

Open Arts, by Paul Marshall. openartsni.org

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) is setting targets to increase engagement in the arts by disabled people. In its Disability Action Plan for 2015 – 18 ACNI commits to bringing about an increase in arts attendance by disabled people of at least 2% by 2018 and an increase in participation levels of at least 5%. By 2018, organisations in receipt of regular funding will be expected to increase the number of activities targeting people with a disability by at least 2%. And ACNI is planning to use data from its 2014/15 Annual Funding Survey to establish a baseline and target to increase the number of disabled people employed by regularly funded organisations.

Research findings show that people with a disability are much less likely to attend or participate in the arts than people without a disability – 52% compared to 85%. ACNI made promoting positive attitudes towards disabled people a condition of its funding in 2007 and is now reinforcing its commitment. In the next two years it will be working with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to conduct an in-depth research study into the barriers to access and participation encountered by disabled people.

As well as being measured on the number of activities they target at disabled people, funded organisations will also be encouraged to participate in companion schemes such as the ‘Buddy Scheme’, which allow disabled people in need of assistance a complimentary ticket for a carer. And ACNI will be working with funded organisations to increase the number of audio described performances and relaxed performances on offer. A pilot study will be undertaken with the aim of promoting the benefits of Relaxed Performances amongst venues and client organisations.

In terms of its own accessibility, ACNI will be reviewing its website and adopting new and inclusive methods of communication. All ACNI staff will receive disability equality and Autism awareness training, and the Arts Council is hoping to raise awareness of the opportunities for artists with a disability to access its funding streams, such as the Support for Individual Artists Programme and Artists Career Enhancement Scheme.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of ACNI, commented: “At the Arts Council we are passionate about not only increasing access and participation opportunities, but also identifying those steps that are required to make it possible for people with disabilities to have access to a range of career paths in the arts, including production roles, roles in arts administration as well as in performance.”

A photo of Frances Richens