As cultural venues in the UK prepare for reopening, a new report reveals that disabled audience members – and particularly those who are also vulnerable to Covid-19 – may be among the last to start booking for and returning to in-person cultural experiences.
Despite having similar cultural booking patterns pre-Covid to their non-disabled/vulnerable counterparts, vulnerable disabled audiences are less likely to have had a cultural experience in the period between national lockdowns. They are also more likely to say they plan to attend less often in the future. However, there are particular reassurances, including flexible booking options and clear safety and hygiene measures, which venues can put in place to ensure an inclusive reopening.
Over half of vulnerable disabled audiences have engaged with culture online. Beyond the pandemic, digital experiences will continue to be important for this group, who have a long history of engaging online – however barriers remain for some disabled audiences experiencing culture online.
This report examines data gathered during the October to December 2020 ‘baseline’ period which includes 11,833 responses from 42 participating organisations. The report compares responses of vulnerable disabled audience members with responses from non-disabled/vulnerable audience members, and urges cultural organisations to build back better, ensuring an inclusive and accessible recovery for everyone.
It also includes a section of high level comparison with similar data gathered in Australia.
- Only 14% of vulnerable disabled audience members have attended in-person cultural events since July 2020 – compared to 27% of non-disabled/vulnerable respondents
- 13% of vulnerable disabled audiences say they plan to attend less often in the future – compared to 9% of non-disabled/vulnerable respondents
- 76% of vulnerable disabled audiences have not yet booked for any future events – compared to 66% of non-disabled/vulnerable respondents
- Vulnerable disabled audiences were more likely to say that certain safety measures – including face coverings, socially distanced seating and temperature checks – were essential to their return
- 25% of vulnerable disabled audiences say they would continue to engage with and pay for digital content in future, with a further 57% saying they would consider it
Author of the report, disabled arts consultant Morwenna Collett, said:
"It's great to see this data being captured so comprehensively and at such regular intervals, though the Culture Restart Tracker, to help us understand the public's appetite for returning to in-person events and the continued availability of digital options.
"For disabled and vulnerable audiences, understandably there is a higher level of caution around when and how we return to live events. Things like flexible booking and considered safety/hygiene measures are particularly important to these groups. As these groups make up a significant portion of our community and of our potential arts audiences, we need to make sure we all consider them in our planning. A useful way we can do this is to use the '7 Principles to Ensure an Inclusive Recovery' (devised by the #WeShallNotBeRemoved alliance).
“In addition to making sure that our in-person arts events are accessible, we should also make sure that we continue to provide digital access to the arts. The plethora of digital arts offerings that have arisen during COVID have been welcomed by the disability community, as this can remove barriers and ensure art is available to a wider range of people.
“Something that we have learnt from the research conducted here in Australia is that there is a strong appetite from the disability community to not only view artistic content online, but also creatively engage in the arts online as well. This needs to continue into the future, so that the access that is now being provided doesn't suddenly disappear."
About the author
Morwenna Collett is a disabled musician and arts consultant, specialising in diversity, access and inclusion. Based in Sydney, Australia, she has held leadership roles at the Australia Council for the Arts and Accessible Arts and has worked with a wide range of organisations across all art forms.
Morwenna provides strategic advice, training and other support to arts organisations to help them increase their inclusivity and engagement with people from diverse backgrounds, including disabled people. More information at.