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Disabled artists say their safety, security and insight into limited lifestyles are crucial during this crisis. 

Disabled artists are being "loud and assertive" about their needs during Covid-19

Disabled arts professionals are advocating for their needs to be prioritised as the DCMS develops "approriate responses" to Covid-19. 

At a virtual roundtable organised by sector discussion group What Next last week, about 20 artists, administrators and funders working at the intersection of arts and disability "very frankly" told the department how it should be responding to the coronavirus crisis.

A DCMS spokesperson said: "We are working closely with the arts sector to ensure that the impact of the coronavirus outbreak is fully understood and to help the government develop appropriate responses.


"We have held roundtables this week with sector leaders, and will continue to work closely with cultural organisations."     

While DCMS has not held rountables for other diverse groups such as older arts professionals or Black and Minority Ethnic workers, ArtsProfessional understands the disablity roundtable participants were themselves a diverse group.

An inclusive response

Topics of discussion at the roundtable included prioritising disabled people in repurposed funding streams, as well as everyday issues like the capacity to work from home and access to essential care and services.

Inaugural Disability Champion Andrew Miller, who attended the meeting, suggested that disability-led arts organisations in England create a forum to safeguard disability arts "through and after the crisis".

On his blog, Miller wrote that the coronavirus will have "huge implications" for the Government's proposed National Disability strategy, and that recovery should not be a matter of returning to business as normal.

"In this moment of real peril, now is not the time to let disabled people fall under the radar. We need to be loud and assertive in demanding the national response to this crisis is as inclusive as it can be."

Miller said he was encouraged by Arts Council England's recognition of disabled artists in its £160m emergency response package, and said he expected the Arts Council of Wales to "follow suit" in its yet-to-be-announced bailout plan.

Limited lifestyles

Disabled artists say they have insight people need as they adjust to a more limited lifestyle.

Millions of disabled, elderly and clinically vulnerable people have been told to stay home for up to 12 weeks. As the UK enters its second week in lockdown, many disabled people are counting their second, third and fourth weeks in isolation.

One disabled arts worker told ArtsProfessional that disabled people have "shown real leadership" by sharing this expertise during the coronavirus crisis.

Disability Arts Online blogger Gini says she is now reaping the benefits of years of "involuntary social distancing".

"Ages ago I became a contact-free zone. People no longer offered to shake my hand. Hugging has become almost extinct," she writes.

"I moaned, crept into a silent defensive shell or protested loudly – all depending on how much and how aggressive I perceived the distancing to be and how well I felt [at] the time.

"I look forward to watching everyone else claiming their two metres of space; maybe they will stop begrudging me mine. And maybe their gasps of surprise and horror at encountering a wheelchair ... will diminish with a new increase in spacial awareness."