At Folk Weekend we believe the arts are for everyone, and we are committed to developing our own practice in making our festival as accessible and welcoming as possible. We aspire to be a festival where everyone feels welcome, and where accessible practice becomes the norm; signed song performances will sit in the main festival programme, and you can choose your workshops from 'Beginners melodeon' to 'Singing with a VOCA'.
Accessibility is not just about including a ‘relaxed’ performance. Accessibility is about considering the diverse range of needs that your potential audience members may have, and about ensuring that these are not a barrier to anyone attending your event.
There are many different types of disability, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Often venues try to address accessibility by including one or two relaxed performances in the run of shows; perhaps they keep the lighting a bit higher, let audience members walk around and make noise during the performance, and include a BSL signer on stage. However, with so many additional distractions from the audience, a d/Deaf person may find it even more difficult to follow what is going on, or an autistic person might find the noise and movement completely overwhelming.
These Accessibility Guidelines are designed to help you think about some simple ways that you can help make your event more accessible to more people. It won’t be possible for you to cater to every single individual with every single performance, but something very simple that you can do is make sure that individuals have enough information to make an informed choice about whether they can attend your event.
Have a look at these guides from Attitude is Everything: http://www.attitudeiseverything.org.uk/accessstartsonline and the general access information provided for the festival at www.folkweekendoxford.co.uk/access-info
Folk Weekend 2020 minimum access requirements:
- Your website must include details of physical access to your venue - how many steps are involved from street to seat? Are there ramps available? Do they need to be requested in advance or will they be there already? Is there level access inside the building (e.g. to the bar)? Are there disabled toilets, and do they need a radar key? Is there a quiet space that someone can go if they are feeling overwhelmed?
- You must state if there is going to be strobe or flashing lighting as part of the event.
- You must have a contact email or phone number available on your website for anyone with enquiries about access.
- You must be prepared to provide access information in different formats (e.g. Word, PDF, large print) as requested.
- You must be prepared to give a free carers ticket to anyone who would not be able to attend the performance without additional help. You can request proof of need (e.g. receipt of DLA/Carer’s allowance) but please be aware that asking why someone needs a carer ticket is not acceptable as it is an invasion of their privacy.
You could also:
Think about the information you provide ahead of time
- Include photos of the building; the entrance, the ticket desk, the space where the performance will take place. This can help people feel less anxious.
- Give detailed information about what will happen during the performance, and what is expected at different times. There is a great example here: https://autact.co.uk/info/.
- Give information about nearby disabled parking and/or public transport routes.
- Make your information readily available in different formats (e.g. Word, PDF, large print) and have these as downloads from your website.
- Have a social story or guide available for people who may not know what to expect when coming to this sort of event. Here is an example designed for children: https://catmcgill.uk/aama-information-for-children.html and a video example: https://youtu.be/5Ktw8KaGKCo
- Make it clear at the point of ticket purchase whether an event uses amplification, or if it’s likely to be loud or visually overwhelming (e.g. lots of movement).
Think about the physical landscape of your venue
- Is there a designated area for wheelchair users to sit? Are they able to be seated alongside their family and friends? Is there a good view of the performance or stage from your designated wheelchair space?
- Do you know how you will evacuate any wheelchair users in the instance of a fire? Or any audience members with other mobility issues? How will you support audience members with learning difficulties to evacuate safely in case of a fire?
- Is there an accessible route into, out of, and through the space? (i.e. nothing blocking gangways, the disabled toilet not being used as extra storage, etc.)
Think about the sensory landscape of your venue
- Are there any strong smells like air fresheners? (Remember some people may be more sensitive to these than you are.) Are there any electronic or mechanical noises? Heating systems, beeping alarms, coffee machines, etc? Are there any lightbulbs that need changing or are flickering? Are you using amplification for your event?
- Can you provide a quiet/safe space for people to go if they are feeling overwhelmed?
Think about the sensory landscape of your event
- Are there sudden or loud noises during the performance? Does the lighting level change?
- Do performers enter or leave the room from behind the audience?
- Is there any interaction expected between the audience and performer/s?
- Is it OK for people to get up and leave during a performance if they need to? If yes, have you made audience members aware of that?
(N.B. You may or may not choose to change any of the things that might affect the nature of your performance, but try to give your audience as much information as possible so they can make an informed decision about attending.)
Other things you can do
- Provide ear defenders for people to borrow
- Have a stock of stim or sensory toys for people to borrow
- Have a separate BSL signed performance (rather than putting together with a ‘relaxed’ performance aimed at people with learning difficulties)
- Have your front of house staff come to one of our free Makaton taster sessions so they know a few basic signs to greet people and answer simple questions using Makaton
- Sign up with The Makaton Charity as a Makaton-friendly organisation and use Makaton symbols on your venue signage