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Accessibility and the Arts: Reconsidering the Role of the Artist

October 20, 202120 October 2021

Deaf and disability arts

Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture with the Center for Business and Management of the Arts at Claremont Graduate University


Katrina Sullivan and Bronwyn Mauldin

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Targeted to the visual arts but of interest to the broader arts community, this report examines the accessibility of artworks for disabled people. The findings are based on 23 “interviews with disabled and non-disabled artists and art professionals” in Los Angeles.

The report argues that “public perception and attitudes toward disability and people with physical and mental impairments mean that accessibility continues to be a secondary concern or even an after-thought in much of the arts and culture sector”. While individuals’ experiences with artworks may differ greatly, the report concludes that “it is possible to provide ways for all people to have a personal experience with an artwork”, if accommodations are provided.

A particularly useful section of the report provides recommended practices “to expand and normalize disability access to arts and culture”. Recommendations are directed toward individual artists, museums and galleries, educational institutions, as well as public and private arts funders.

Artists can work to incorporate accessibility into their works and push for accessibility at their exhibiting institutions. Artists (and arts workers) can reach out to disabled-led organizations to better understand their needs and suggested practices regarding accessibility.

Museums and galleries can provide “alternative experiences of artworks, while also continuing to expand accommodations and auxiliary aids”. Report appendices include a list of common auxiliary aids and a glossary of potential accommodations for Deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low vision, and disabled individuals.

At the level of organizational processes and policies, museums and galleries can “include disability and accessibility as part of their hiring processes. They can include it as a factor when recruiting new board members. They can include accessibility for disabled people as part of their diversity, equity, and inclusion policies.”

Educational institutions can increase awareness about disability and accessibility by incorporating teachings on disability and universal design, which “builds in accessibility from the beginning, taking as given that what works for disabled people works for all”.

Public and private funders can fund and help raise the profile of disabled artists, fund accessibility initiatives, “strengthen accessibility requirements when they fund artists and art projects”, include accessibility requirements when commissioning public art, and ensure that accessibility is part of their equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives.

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