Accessibility in the Arts
what can + should be
Apr 16, 2021

Pollen is proud to join other Minnesota organizations and individuals in asking elected officials to fund accessibility renovations for venues so that disabled audiences, staff, and artists can take part in the arts and be represented in these spaces.

Pollen is all about community and connection, two things that simply cannot happen when part of our community is unable to even get in a building, let alone up on stage.

“Inaccessibility creates exclusion and when part of our community is unrepresented it gives us all a skewed understanding of who our community is and who we are fighting alongside and for.”

Arts organizations and venues must begin to remedy this by—at the very least—making both backstage and audience areas fully compliant with the ADA. This will involve buy-in from legislators, community developers, architects, venue owners, event planners, booking agents, funders, and arts organizations large and small.

Pollen is also all about imagination, and as we work for a better future we know that disability inclusion requires expansive, creative thinking about access and belonging.

Accessibility means more than ramps, braille, and other physical measures. True accessibility involves moving beyond legal requirements and the built environment and creating a social environment that welcomes and values disabled people.

A building may technically be accessible, but when the wheelchair-accessible seating area is jammed awkwardly off in the corner, as a wheelchair user, I sure as hell won’t feel like I belong there.

If a venue treats accommodations requests as a burden, uses ableist language, or doesn’t make their social media content accessible, then it’s not really accessible even if it does have a ramp out front.

So yes, bring the buildings up to code. All of them, even the old ones. But then think about where to go from there, because accessibility is a big, ongoing project—and one that ultimately benefits everyone.

When events have more built-in breaks, and spaces to sit down, everyone gets to rest. When organizations distribute materials that cater to different communication and information processing needs, everyone has the opportunity to engage more deeply with it. When venues provide sensory-friendly or quiet areas, everyone has somewhere to relax.

Accessibility efforts should always center disabled people, but the positive effects of improved accessibility reach far beyond disability. Access is not a niche issue, nor is it limited to the arts. Progress will require work and support from people across communities, disciplines, and identities.

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Posted by Samir Knego on Apr 16, 2021
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