Accessibility by Tom Bailey (Arts & Minds Network)


At the October Arts Together Meeting we discussed accessibility. Often when we say that word it conjures up an image of a wheelchair. But often it’s so much more. Who comes to arts events? And who doesn’t? People can be excluded for all sorts of reasons. Factors can include disability, race, income, class, mental health and lots more.

Emma from introduced the idea of Hidden Disabilities. Someone may not have visible signifiers they have a disability.

The group came up with lots of brilliant good ideas to help make our events more accessible. Here are some of them. Please steal these ideas and use them!


Welcoming People!
Welcoming, well-informed and friendly people to put visitors at ease and make it easy to join in.

Quiet Space
a separate room or space away form the hustle and bustle

Art in Public Spaces
So it’s seen by people who wouldn’t normally go into a gallery

3D Tour
Make a 3D tour on video or as photos so people can explore a building before they visit. A digital 360.

Sensory Overload
Think about the lighting, sounds etc.

Ask People
Ask people you work with about their needs and what works for them. Don’t assume!

Meet & Greet
Offer a person to meet you at the venue and make sure you’re ok.

Access Committee
A group of people who face access issues to advise on how to make a venue or event open and accessible.


No forced audience participation
Don’t force people to join in if they don’t want to!

Taster Workshop
Devise a taster and bring it out to people to break geographical and psychological barriers.

Nature of the work
Make sure it’s relevant to people’s experience.

Relaxed Performances
Enhancing the experience, not reducing it.

Captioning/ BSL/ Audio Description
Do it all!

The Difference Engine App
A captioning app that hearing impaired and deaf people can read a script in performance on their smart phones without the need for a BSL interpreter.

If your performance explores particular health themes, make sure a health professional is at the Q&A to address concerns.


No Art Speak
Write the guide to the exhibition or performance in simple English. Make it easy to understand. Get rid of pretentious spiel!

Alternative Publicity
Don’t just rely on the same things – go and visit groups and extend personal invitations

Very Clear Signage
Nuff said

Multiple Contacts
Offer as many ways to contact you as possible

Use non-stigmatising language

Photo Guides
Actual photos of the venue, what to expect, walkthrough and clear timetable. See Made With Music for inspiration.

Accessibility on Website
Put very clear information on the site. Not just physical needs catered for. Picture of someone you might meet there.

Use Large Print – and readable fonts!


Cheap Tickets
Offer discounts to community groups

Providing transport for people who need it most from home to the venue.

Meet & Greet
Offer a person to meet you at the venue and make sure you’re ok.

Private Views
For anyone who requests it – some time when an exhibition is quiet. Invite specific groups for a special welcome.

Transport Budget
To help people in certain groups get there.

Buddying Scheme
To accompany people to gigs/ events etc


Attempt to include people on low incomes

Can we refund right up to the last minute if they don’t attend?

Virtual Performance
Facebook Live or Skype so people can watch at home. (Chapel FM do this for many of their gigs)

Eventbrite Alternative
Make sure online isn’t the only way people can get tickets.

At the end of the session we had a quick think about some ideas that we could all work on as a group. It seems clear that we should return to this topic and follow up on some of these ideas, such as:

  • Standard Template for Accessibility
    Small Group to meet to create this together.
  • Awards
    Could Arts Together give awards to highlight good practice. Could we work with arts@leeds on this?
  • Tech
    Students at Leeds City College to be utilized for things like 3D venue tours etc.
  • Check our websites
    All of us to look at our own sites to see how they could be improved.

All text and images are by Tom Bailey from the Leeds Arts and Minds Network.