The Cultural Inclusion manifesto not only seeks to be a space where best inclusive practice can be shared across a number of fields, it also seeks to be a platform for activism for positive change with a focus on solutions that have real impact on the lives of people with disabilities. We will achieve this by supporting them in telling their stories and effecting change; by promoting inclusion structurally, attitudinally and on a policy level
Inclusion is part of the whole experience; an inclusive approach means the anticipation of barriers and the subsequent mitigation or removal of these.
If a venue has a rich inclusive offer but the physical access to these is problematic then whether it is real inclusion is to be challenged.
Transport – and particularly drop off - was a common theme identified at the inaugural Cultural Inclusion Manifesto conference, and here we aim to address that.
Every cultural institution to create an Inclusive Action Plan that supports inclusive travel to and from setting. This should be considered by funders, planning departments and all others involved in supporting the institution’s business plans. Over time no funding should be awarded – nor planning permission given – to an arts or cultural setting that does not have an Inclusive Action Plan.
Where guidance and support with transport is not embedded into a cultural institution’s offer from the earliest point of contact this can at best frustrate and at worst end engagement.
As an example during the West London Inclusive Arts Festival of 2018 the Festival team had to pay a significant amount of money to the local council (Hammersmith and Fulham) to suspend parking bays close to the Lyric theatre in order for young disabled people to access the venue safely. In 2019 the team successfully lobbied the council and had five parking bays suspended for free for the duration of the festival.
This consistent feedback on travel and transport – from parents, young people with disabilities and schools (particularly special schools) poses a number of questions:
- Why should a young person with additional needs, their family or their school have to pay additional money to access a cultural space when their neuro-typical and able bodied peers do not?
- Why – after so many years funding settings on inclusion - is this not included within a strategic offer of all cultural institutions?
Beginning thinking on an Inclusive Access plan
We are at an early stage of consulting on what an Inclusive Action Plan should like and are drawing down examples of cultural settings that do this well.
From feedback from teachers, young people and families so far we have identified the follow key criteria.
- The document should be written in accessible English (reading age 8) and be accessible in a number of formats. It should be clearly sign-posted on the setting's website. Ideally it should summarised in video format with sub-titles.
- It should include guidance on public transport, walking routes, routes suitable for wheelchair users & those with limited mobility and for private cars. This should include indicative prices where possible.
- Where possible settings should try and negotiate discounts for transport and travel to their venues. This might include special deals with train companies or exemptions from car parking fees.
- Where transport and travel costs may be a barrier to access settings should consider subsidies to ensure those with disabilities are not paying more than non-disabled peers.
- Cultural organisations should have designated parking for minibuses/cars that are either on-site, or working in collaboration with the local council/local business, have spaces designated that have easy access to the venue, i.e. reasonable walking distance when pushing a wheelchair with only a minimum of road crossings.
- There should be a map that clearly highlights the closest tube/train/bus stops with a map of how you can then access the venue.
- Public facing staff should receive disability awareness training.
This is a work in progress but is already being considered by some venues and funders as a potential 'kitemark'.
Views on the potential of an Inclusive Action Plan are welcome. As are examples of both where transport has been a challenge and examples of those venues that have got it right.
In some ways this should be one of the simplest aspects of Cultural Inclusion. Practical access issues. But – like physical venue design – it is an area that many years into ‘disabled access’ is still too often neglected.