For most people, attending a concert or festival is a no-brainer. You see the announcement, text your friends, get hyped, buy tickets and have the time of your life. Consuming, creating and being a part of culture is an integral part of who you are.
You would agree this should be the case fore everyone, right?
However, imagine having to enter a venue through a backdoor separate from your friends. Imagine not being able to choose your seat or spot in the room. Imagine having to view the concert from a designated area with just one friend. Imagine having to get in touch with a venue to check if all of the above is even possible, because the information on their website lacks clarity. Imagine life being disabled.
Leisure activities are a very good way to break through the isolation that many disabled people have to deal with. Culture brings joy and connects. However, several solutions for inclusivity actually lead to exclusion. If you want to go to a festival with a group of friends but you have to sit on a segregated wheelchair stage, you will again miss the social element that is so crucial.
Regular accessibility looks at practical solutions. Often it’s a quick fix for a medical limitation that doesn’t necessarily lead to equality or inclusivity. Organisations tend to look at the availability of facilities, i.e. whether you can access the venue, but they don’t take the quality of your experience into account. They simply think the problem is fixed because you can enter the building.
Another example. When a guide in a museum uses only sign language (or spoken language), deaf are separated from their hearing friends. Now, that is quite a statement and obviously there is a need for signing guides. Our intention is not to bash these options. They are good and should be continued as long as we do not have a better alternative. But it does separate, just like not making culture accessible has separated people with various limitations for centuries.
Before you get to the point of working on (in)accessibility, you need to look and understand the principles behind why one would work on accessibility. At the moment, next to the media hype, there is a wave of awareness going on: a change in bias. Organisations realise more and more that there is such a thing as people with a disability and the lack of (policy of) access to cultural venues. Yet, still many people see accessibility as something that costs money, time and effort and nobody seems to know how to do it. People question why they would do all the hassle for only a very limited number of visitors. In other words, it is seen as a burden or as a barrier. And as long as accessibility is seen as a burden, we will not see much happening. You can come up with laws, legislation, requirements, guidelines, tools and equipment but as long as there is no intrinsic motivation, the transformation will go very slow.
We think it makes more sense to look at the gains of accessibility. So on to a more positive note.
Revelland, part of Possibilize, came up with and coined the term “Creative Accessibility”. The definition of Creative Accessibility is as follows:
Accessibility in such a way that multiple groups can benefit; solutions that lead to an improvement of what was already there: a performance, a concert, a stage or any accommodation.
Embracing Creative Accessibility, you look at performing arts, culture, the creative sector – and the world for that matter – from an inclusive point of view. You ask the simple question: How do we get a disabled person to truly participate and how can we use their situation as a source of inspiration to enrich the cultural sector? You don’t make inclusion the last piece of the puzzle, but take it into account from the beginning. Simply because you see the benefits of inclusion.
So what benefits? Sencity Festival is one of our best practice projects. Initially targeted at a deaf audience, this multi-sensory music event offers accessibility in a way so multiple groups benefit. This means hearing people get to enjoy our solutions too: they like to smell, taste, see and feel the music just as much as people with auditory limitations. Every artist that has ever worked with us, realised a deeper meaning of their own work through our approach, because it touches the essence of their creation: the intention of their art.
At Sencity, music is considered as a translation of an emotion. A composer once was sad, passionate or joyous, and wrote a song expressing that emotion. Deaf people might not hear the melody but they are able to experience the emotion that the composer expressed in the music. With a multi-sensory approach, we want to evoke that same emotion. With matching scents you can evoke emotions just as with taste triggers and visual effects.
We invite and advise the performance arts sector to make their shows more immersive and while they do that, keep inclusion in mind. Or take it a step further: approach the limitations that inclusion might seem to bring as a source of inspiration. How about creating artistic solutions for inclusion problems, and ending up at a higher level than you imagined before? Let’s transform art experiences, together.
Are you interested to learn more? Book a free 30-minute consultation.