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Picturing more inclusive arts

A portrait photo of Janice Florence

Art is very important to people's lives. But there are still many barriers that make it hard for people with a disability to enjoy the arts. Problems include cost, transport and accessibility. Two new Victorian government reports suggest ways to change this. The government wants people with a disability to have more opportunities to participate in the arts.

Posted by: Janice Florence, on 12/05/10

Michelle Waterfall and Richard Smythe performing in a play. Michelle is wearing a blonde wig and Richard has a hood on his head with large rabbit-style ears.

Michelle Waterfall and Richard Smythe performing in a play. Image: Arts Access

People have always had an urge to make art. Our ancestors drew on the walls of caves, told stories and danced to the beat of a drum. Today we might go out to hear a rock band or to watch a film. We might also make a video and share it with people via YouTube.

But people with a disability can face many barriers to participating in the arts. Australian statistics show that in 2006, Australian adults with a disability were much less likely than other Australians to attend an arts event or venue.

Improve participation

The Victorian Government wants to improve participation in arts by people with a disability. Since 2008, the Office for Disability has worked with Arts Victoria and the Disability Services Division of the Department of Human Services on the Victorian Arts and Disability Research Project. The partnership has resulted in two new reports called Picture This. The first document is a review of writing from around the world about disability and the arts. The second document is a community consultation report and analysis.

Information for the reports was gathered in forums with teachers, artists with a disability and arts workers. Picture This found four focus areas:

Contribution to the community

What do the arts mean to ordinary people? International research quoted in the reports show that the arts improves social inclusion. The arts also makes a huge contribution to community health and well-being.

Similar research has led to new programs in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has since seen dramatic increases in arts participation rates by people with a disability.

But the research found there are numerous barriers to participation in the arts for people with a disability in Victoria. Barriers include:

Increasing participation

People consulted for Picture This suggested a number of ways to increase participation in the arts for people with a disability. They include:

Despite the barriers, the reports tell us that the disability arts scene in Victoria is alive and growing. The reports should also encourage further steps towards equality. As the reports say, the opportunity to work, create and experience the arts is a fundamental human right.

The reports can be downloaded from the Office of Disability website (opens new window).

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