As we previously mentioned, every person belongs to a variety of groups and has multiple identities. This could be in terms of race, (dis)ability, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, level of education, nationality, language and many others! What’s more, we’ve also explained that each of these identities carry important implications for people, given that societes privilege and benefit some groups and oppress and exclude others. Such power imbalances are reinforced through societal norms that establish what is ‘right’ and ‘normal’ and are internalised by individuals and institutions.Accordingly, such systems of oppression are strongly reflected in the culture and music sectors. From which instrument to learn to and individual’s opportunities to become a sound engineer or producer, gender stereotypes (and many other forms of intersectional discrimination) have prevented everyone (although to different extents) to freely choose and engage in music-related activities and roles.
WHY IS ACCESSIBILITY IMPORTANT?
Fostering accessibility to organisations, projects, events and spaces is a powerful way to stand up against norms and a radical pathway to promote inclusion and diversity. For example, disability has been traditionally conceptualised in terms of impairment, dysfunction and deficit. Nonetheless, models such as the social model of disability challenge this idea, posing that the oppression, exclusion and discrimination people with disabilites face is not a consequence of their impairment, but a consequence of societies’ attitudes and structure. Youth & music organisations can borrow from this perspective and stop thinking of people’s identities and characteristics as ‘barriers’ or ‘inconveniences’ for participation and engagement. Instead, we can make accessibility a mandate for our projects and programmes.
As previously discussed, awareness and knowledge is key. Look at the following list of identities. Which groups are relevant in your sociocultural context? Which are relevant for your organisation? Which are relevant for your projects and programmes? Are there any identities you particularly want to reach? This list is non-exhaustive and ever changing– so it’s important to reflect on any others that are important for your organisation and its specific sociocultural context.
HOW TO MAKE MORE ACCESSIBLE PROJECTS AND PROGRAMMES?
Type of oppression
Generally privileged groups
Racial / Ethnicity
Middle and owning class
People without disabilities
People with degrees and formal education
Natives, people with documentation
People who speak the majority’s language
As mentioned, this list is non-exhaustive and these are generalizations. We acknowledge that these groups are not homogeneous and that there may be people within these groups that are more or less privileged than others.
Now, here are some ideas on how to tackle different types of oppression through accessibility:
Racial / Ethnicity
Connect with relevant organisations, go to communities to advertise (see Outreach). Invite role models (e.g. artists) from different racial and ethnical backgrounds to get involved in your project (see Role Models). Identify how Westernised is the content of your project (see Knowledge). What genres are you covering? What instruments are you teaching/ providing? Celebrate other cultures in your programmes!
Use sliding scale prices, pay for transport fare, provide lunch during workshops, offer financial support without asking any questions.
Consult a local disabled people’s organisation and involve people with disabilities in your event or venue. Choose venues that have step-free access and accessible toilets. Have quiet rooms and make clear in your communications that personal assistants are welcome. Have a contact person within your organisation, specifically dedicated to answering questions about accessibility.
Make gender minorities the target group of your projects, have gender neutral toilets in your venues, ask people’s preferred pronouns.
Make very clear in your communications that projects, programmes and events are queer friendly. Provide safe(r) spaces where participants know they can express their orientation freely.
Offer programmes that do not require any credentials, previous training or specific levels of expertise.
Communicate clearly that ID’s are not required for participation and/or accept different forms of identification.
Have interpreters available, translate communications to different languages.
And some general recommendations:
When organising a project, programme or event, consider:
Schedules and dates (women tend to have caring responsibilities, be aware of prayer times or important dates in some religions, etc.)
Communication channels (not everyone has access to the internet nor owns a computer or mobile phone)
Physical venue: how far is the venue, is it accessible by public transport? Is the venue wheelchair friendly? Are service dogs (or other assistance animals) welcome? Who owns the venue?
Make very clear in your communications that your project, programme, event is accessible for your target group and how.
You can be very explicit about it, for example: “this programme is open for girls, trans and non-binary youth only”’ or “financial support given – no questions asked”. You can also use symbols to communicate accessibility, such as the International Symbol of Access or the rainbow flag.
Role models are key to making spaces accessible.
If you are inviting people from different identities to take part in your event or programme, it is important to have people in the staff as well as artists, speakers, guests that participants can identify with.
Be honest and clear about your access limitations.
For example, if there is no step-free access to the venue, it is better to say it from the beginning than having to turn people down on the day.
Similarly, do not promote access if the physical and social space is not actually accessible.
If you are advertising an event or project as queer friendly, staff’s attitudes and behaviours should reflect this. Make sure that staff and other people involved have been trained and are knowledgeable.
Explain and tell all of these things in information provided:
Will there be visual information, lights, sound?
Are the audience/participants expected to take an active part in the activity/event?
Are you expected to be quiet during the event/ activity?
Will there be references to violence or violent content?
What is the duration?
Are you able to sit down? / Do you have to sit still?
Will alcohol be served? Explain best public transport route and options
Is there parking for disabled?
Other types of information that someone might need?