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Thane Pullan at Parliament Photo: Andrew Strugnell

Working in partnership with like-minded organisations and individuals to make the arts, entertainment and culture in New Zealand accessible and inclusive is important to Arts Access Aotearoa. The work we do helps people and communities who face challenges to participation or inclusion.

Arts Advocates Christchurch at a meeting in the Isaac Theatre Royal A project we’re currently undertaking is about building partnerships across the country. Called Arts Access Advocates: A National Partnership, this project is funded through the Ministry of Social Development’s Making a Difference Fund. It builds on what we learned and achieved in the previous Making a Difference projects run by Arts Access Aotearoa.

With Arts Access Advocates: A National Partnership, we’re working with community participants to build their advocacy skills and forge partnerships across the country using digital platforms such as websites, video and social media. Greater skill development and confidence using these tools will lead to partnerships that increase advocacy about arts accessibility.

Three parts to advocacy project

There are three parts to the project. Firstly, a new website is being designed for community partners that share the objectives of the project. Activity on this site will be generated by community participants who advocate for more accessible and inclusive arts, entertainment and culture. Here they will be able to blog, share news and stories, photos and videos that highlight and promote accessible arts across Aotearoa.

A second part of the project is the production of two videos that capture current examples of accessible arts events, venue design and management in New Zealand: for example, audio described productions, and relaxed performances for music for children and families. Lala Rolls of Island Productions is filming and producing these two videos, which will be uploaded to the new website and promoted widely.

Advocacy training symposium

The third part of this project is a weekend meeting of community partners from around New Zealand. A training symposium, to be held in Wellington from 28 to 29 November, is an opportunity for advocates who have not met in person to share their knowledge and issues about arts inclusion. The result will be a national network of like-minded advocates who can work together on common projects. Included in the weekend will be training on advocacy tools such as the use of social media, and film and video making using smart phones. If you are interested in attending, read more here.

Companion card consultation

The Arts Access Awards 2015 in early July, Minister for the Arts Hon Maggie Barry announced she had the support of cabinet colleagues (including Hon Nicky Wagner, Minister for Disability Issues) to conduct a feasibility study into a companion card scheme for New Zealand.

Ministry for Culture and Heritage holds consultation meeting about a companion card schemeThe Companion Card Scheme in Australia provides a free ticket for the companion carer of a disabled ticket holder who requires fulltime care. I am pleased to say that this week the consultation process got under way with staff from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage conducting a consultation with representatives from the disability sector to ascertain their interest in and guidance about introducing a companion card here for New Zealand.

Christchurch comedian and software developer Thane Pullan, with his companion carer Paul Pullan, attended the meeting with me. Thane explained why the cost of an extra ticket was a barrier to many disabled people who want to attend ticketed events.

Arts Access Aotearoa has long advocated for a companion card to be made available for New Zealand and this step is a very welcome one. It was valuable for Ministry staff to listen to different perspectives from participants and groups such as Disabled People Organisations representing the different communities.

This will aid their research into similar schemes both in Australia and further overseas. While there was general consensus from participants on the need for and value of anything that would help get more disabled people to ticketed events, it was interesting to discuss just how inclusive a scheme such as this could or should be.

 I suspect further consultation that includes more representatives from the commercial (venues and producers) and disability sectors is still needed. This is all welcome progress on an issue that disabled people have wanted action on for some time.

National Partnerships to strengthen advocacy

 
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