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The free card will enable “seamless, barrier-free” booking to boost audiences’ confidence to return to live events, building on a model already used by 38,000 people.

two girls playing the Cello
A new National Strategy for Disabled People does not offer investment into disabled people’s participation in the arts

The OHMI Trust

The Government has pledged a UK-wide arts access card for disabled audiences.

As part of a recently published National Strategy for Disabled People, arts councils and the British Film Institute will work together to launch the free card by March 2022.

The card will be valid at all arts and cultural venues and allow “seamless, barrier-free booking that is responsive to individual circumstances and needs,” according to the strategy.


Andrew Miller, former Disability Champion for Arts and Culture, said he was “relieved” to see the proposal included in the strategy.

“Post-pandemic I am convinced this free scheme will be needed more than ever to support disabled people's return to live events attendance, improving the quality of customer service at venues and boosting confidence.”

Consultation on the access card began in 2018, with conversations between DCMS, the UK’s arts councils, the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), disability-led charity Attitude is Everything and disability consultancy service Nimbus, creators of an existing access card.

It is unclear whether the Government’s access card will look to build upon Nimbus’ model, develop Arts Council of Wales’ Hynt card, or look to start over.

Arts Council England and Arts Council of Wales did not respond to requests for further information.

Existing models

Nimbus Managing Director Martin Austin told ArtsProfessional he was “shocked” to see the card included in the strategy after talks were shelved at the start of the pandemic.

Run as a social enterprise, Nimbus’ access card is held by 38,000 people.

A UK-wide access card will look to support bookings with Nimbus’ existing partners as well as organisations supported by arts councils.

Another model, the Hynt card, offers a consistent approach across Welsh theatres and arts centres for disabled audiences.

Austin said Nimbus, STAR and Attitude is Everything want the existing access card developed further, citing the cost and time efficiency compared to creating a new card.

“No one involved in disability and ticketing wants to see confusion with an overcrowded market.

“After three years of consultation, I don’t want to see them rush something through for a quick win. We’ve got a scheme that already works for disabled people, run by disabled people. It’s critical that disabled people are involved.”

The coalition will meet with new Disability Champion for Arts and Culture David Stanley in September to discuss next steps.

Stanley said he looks forward to supporting the access card but declined to comment further.

Single cultural element

The access card is the only cultural element of the new strategy, which includes no nod to supporting disabled people’s participation in the arts. 

Participatory initiatives have been proposed in other sectors, including a £20m investment for Sport England to address inequalities faced by disabled people.

Rachel Wolffsohn, General Manager of One-Handed Instrument Trust, has concerns the omission could leave those living with a disability as “simply spectators” of the arts.

“After more than 12 months’ of Covid and the isolation it brings, the strategy would have been the perfect opportunity to recognise music-making as an important driver for mental wellbeing, connection, and confidence building.”

A £300m commitment to improving accessibility in schools outlined in the strategy fails to broaden opportunities for children to participate in music, she added.

“Class teachers and even SEND coordinators often do not fully understand how a child's disability translates into their requirement for an adapted instrument.

“This means that a child's needs are not relayed to visiting music teachers ahead of time, and children find themselves excluded as a result.”

Former Disability Champion Miller said the strategy acknowledges structural inequalities affecting disabled people, but does not recognise a need to tackle ableism.

“When ministers now speak of ‘levelling up’, I trust they mean disabled people and will be making the case for additional investment in our future.”