Did you know that 20% of the population identifies as having a disability, making disabled people America’s largest minority? According to New York City's Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, New York City alone is home to more than 800,000. Did you know that disabled people have a reported $220 billion in discretionary income? Yet despite these numbers, disabled people represent a hugely underserved market, and that includes the thousands of disabled artists living and making work throughout the five boroughs. But the opportunity for you to connect with this vibrant and growing community of artists is lost if they can’t get through your doors.
While increasing your customer base may be your primary goal, making your venue accessible is about more than simply complying with legal requirements; it should celebrate the positive benefits of running a universally inclusive space. Improving the accessibility of your space and fostering a more inclusive environment can yield benefits that strengthen the culture of your venue from the top down.
How can I benefit from making my space more accessible and inclusive?
- More artists will be able to rent, rehearse and create in your space;
- More patrons will be able to attend your productions;
- Disabled artists and audience members will recommend your venue to others in the community; and
- Your space will be recommended by and recognized among artists as a place where the inclusionary impulse is celebrated and great work is made.
At Fractured Atlas, because our SpaceFinder NYC directory is home to thousands of spaces—some conventional, some not so conventional—we understand that New York City presents both unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to finding places to make compelling work. Whether you’re creating a site-specific piece on a boat or hosting an event in a turn-of-the-century church with no elevator, or even renting a studio in a building that isn’t your own, there are things you can do to improve accessibility While you likely won’t be able to take all of these steps and/or totally renovate your space, understanding how you can accommodate disabled artists and patrons and is a great starting point to move your space toward a more inclusive environment for all artists.Evaluate Your Space
Developed by disabled artists exclusively for SpaceFinder NYC, we encourage you to use the attached checklist as a guide as you walk through your space. While it's not exhaustive and some of the considerations on the list may not apply to your venue, it will help you look at your space with an eye on accessibility and inclusiveness.
There are many accessibility checklists available online. These are a couple of our favorites:
- Checklist for Existing Facilities, Adaptive Environments, Inc.
- New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s Self Assessment
- Web Accessibility Initiative's Guide
Addressing accessibility features is not just for audience members, but also for renters and artists interested in using your space. By making information about your space’s accessibility clear, you’re helping your organization to reach a wider audience and increasing it’s visibility.
- If it’s not already accessible, take steps to make your website accessible. (See bullet 3 above)
- Include as much information as possible about your space’s accessibility features wherever you advertise it: your website, social media, SpaceFinder, etc.
- Make accessibility information easy to find on your website. Don’t bury it ‘below the fold’, so to speak.
- Familiarize staff with these features so that anyone can have a conversation with a prospective disabled renter or patron.
- Address every issue and policy with the question: Does this provide equal access for everyone?
- Mandatory nondiscrimination
- Consider accessibility in all routine parts of day/operations.
- Apply accessibility law to all functions.
- Establish an advisory committee or enlist a staff member who can be seen as an expert and can field questions from the disability community.
- Barrier removal: Provision of reasonable modifications to achieve a basic standard for architectural access and equal access to employment, programs, services for all visitors.
- Budget for accessibility.
To learn more about the above steps, see these resources provided by the NJTA for more in depth details.More Organizations and External References:
- Disability and Dance Task Force Report: This report presents and analyzes issues facing disabled dance artists in NYC today, and provides resources and explanations of the task force's findings.
- Design for Accessibility (NJTA)
- Alliance Inclusion in the Arts
Thanks to Christine Bruno, actor and Disability Advocate from Inclusion in the Arts, for her assistance with this article.