“Audience access and being able to go to an arts event the same as anyone else can is essential, and it is the right of Deaf and disabled people to be able to do that,” said Stace Robertson, Arts Access Aotearoa’s Access, Inclusion and Participation Advisor, in a panel discussion organised by Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival.
The topic of the online panel discussion was access, inclusion and participation in the performing arts. Stace was joined by artist, curator and writer Pelenakeke Brown; comedian and educator Janaye Henry; and actor and singer Brady Peeti.
Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival arts wānanga
This was the final panel of Te Ara i te Matihiko Toi, a series of arts wānanga organised and presented by Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival. Stace spoke about the importance of accessible arts spaces and building relationship with Deaf and disabled people.
“Deaf and disabled people’s ability to attend and participate in the arts is directly impacted by accessibility, or the lack of it, so it’s important to consider access in a strategic way, and approach it with intention. Otherwise it can feel like tokenism,” he said.
Consulting with Deaf and disabled people
Stace also spoke about the importance of consulting with Deaf and disabled people.
“It’s essential to develop your accessibility in consultation with Deaf and disabled people. They should be engaged and leading the development and implementation of accessibility work. And honouring their time and experience and making sure that you’re paying people to do that work is really important too.
“Deaf and disabled people are best placed to tell you what does and doesn’t work. And it’s really important not to assume what you think will work for people.”
"We have skills and knowledge and experience that benefits everyone"
Stace concluded his kōrero by saying: “Because we live in a world that isn’t designed for us, disabled people are creative, we are resilient. We are strategists and problem solvers.
“And in times like now, with COVID and wider uncertainties in the world, we have skills and knowledge and experience that benefits everyone. We have different ways of working and different ways of being in the world that I think could help build a more inclusive and sustainable arts sector.”