Bold moves towards Radical Access

Patternmakers Report – Access & Inclusion at Melbourne Fringe 2018-2020

At Melbourne Fringe, we work hard with artists, audiences, venues, as well as internally, to improve access for d/Deaf and disabled artists. Over the past three years with huge, invaluable input from disabled people in the sector, our Access and Inclusion program has made great headway in providing better outcomes for d/Deaf and disabled audiences and artists, and worked to start placing access at the centre of what we do.

The brilliant team at Patternmakers have just released a report detailing our work over the past few years, with incredible insights from Deaf and disabled artists themselves, including recommendations for how artists and organisations can work towards making the arts more inclusive and accessible. We’re super excited to share this report – it gives amazing insight into how the dial is moving on accessibility. And while we’re really proud of what we have achieved and the direction we’re heading in, we recognised there is still a long way to go. We are excited to have these great insights to help us hone our key goals for the future.

So what does the report cover? Some key factoids:

  • 440 Deaf and/or disabled artists registered for a Fringe show between 2018 and 2020.
  • 86% of Deaf and disabled artists feel that Melbourne Fringe is ‘accessible and inclusive to all artists’
  • 9% of audience members identified as Deaf or disabled
  •  4 in 5 audience members report their access needs were met

The report offers case studies from both Deaf and disabled and non-disabled artists, talking about how these artists embed access in their work, and how support from Fringe has helped artists develop their practice and offered a safe and encouraging space for them to make and present work. You can read these studies from Cheryl Ho, Chelle Destefano, Jacci Pillar, Olivia Staaf and Heifi Everette in the full report, or shortcut to them here.

Embedding access in the creative process is leading to better outcomes for artists and audiences, and, according to the report, Melbourne Fringe is a ‘trailblazer’ for access, increasingly influencing change in the wider sector. We’ll take it. 😊

Read the full report here.

A huge thank you to Patternmakers and all the brilliant contributors to the massive piece of work.

So what’s next? In 2022, we will be launching Radical Access – a program created and presented with Arts Access Victoria – pushing the boundaries of what access looks like. We want to see big changes in the arts community in the future. We want to embed access in the arts from the very beginning, where access becomes a part of the artwork itself, not an add on. We are also commissioning d/Deaf and disabled artists to make ambitious work, setting up an advisory panel, and providing funding for artists at all stages of their careers to create accessible work. Stay tuned for more announcements and events about Radical Access next year.