ArtsAbility Festival Celebrates Disabled South African Artists
ArtsAbility Festival celebrates artists with disabilities who showcase art pieces and performances during National Disability Rights Awareness Month
The eighth instalment of ArtsAbility Festival, held in late 2022, was themed “Disability, Dance and Diversity” and was a collaboration of Artscape with the Unmute Dance Company, who have partnered with guest productions from overseas that include Diversity in Dance UK, and Sensorium EX.
The festival, which is based in Capetown in South Africa, was initiated to pursue an innovative, creative space of exciting, heartfelt performances for disabled and able-bodied artists and performers. So, through inclusivity, performances, dialogue and workshops, the festival uses arts to employ social transformations that will address the issues people with disabilities are experiencing in their lives.
However, a research report documented in the African Journal of Disability explained a critical ethnographic study, headed by the Artscape CEO Marlene le Roux, which found out that youth with disabilities who were exposed to theatre performances was mostly influenced by becoming aware of possibilities for social and economic inclusion.
The Unmute productions activities were held on 30th November 2022 — saw on stage, two new works presented by the Unmute Dance Italian artist, dancer, and choreographer Alessandro Schiatarella.
Another production was staged on 1st December 2022 by the queer disabled artist Louise Westerhout, it captured a journey of struggles and triumphs in an altered body after treatment for stage 4 cancer and hip/ femur replacement.
The Diversity in Dance UK performances was staged on the 2nd and 3rd of December — aiming to expose all artists to the diversity of cultures through performing arts while creating a great standard of work that can attain huge recognition on the global stage.
Taking part in some of the performances are Pallavi Nair, Chinyanta Kabaso and Jia McKenzie, who is a deaf dancer. While the Unmute Dancers productions featured Nadine MacKensie, Yaseen Manuel and Tasmin Andrews.
The Artscape ArtsAbility Festival partnered with Sensorium EX to help stage a collaborative performance where artists can share with interesting audiences the magic of expression through the use of technology.
“Our aim is to build new methods for co-creation and inclusive practices in opera by developing approaches to casting and the artistic process which centre access, inclusion, and lived experience as the driving forces of the creative process,” said Paola Prestini, a composer and artistic director.
The Sensorium Ex opera is being funded by the following international organisations; Ford Foundation, VisionIntoArt, Beth Morrison Projects, the Atlanta Opera, and Enactlab.
The Sensational Museum
‘Using what we know about disability to change how museums work for everyone’ is the tagline for The Sensational Museum
Led by Professor Hannah Thompson from Royal Holloway, University of London, The Sensational Museum is a £1 million pound-funded project by the Arts and Humanities Research Council whose goal is to alter current access methods and introduce a deeper sense of inclusivity within the museum sector in the UK.
Thompson is joined by a plethora of professionals on this project who unite on the idea that disability needs need to be put at the centre of all museums’ strategies going forward. There is Social Design specialist Anne Chick from the University of Lincoln; Psychologist Alison Eardley from the University of Westminster; and Museum Studies expert Ross Parry from the University of Leicester. They will work together between April 2023 and July 2025 to really transform the way disabled and non-disabled people interact with the art and each other in museums in the future.
Collaborating with museum staff as well as disabled and non-disabled visitors, the more-than-equipped team will be looking into two core areas: new ways of accessing museum collections and cataloguing objects in a more inclusive way. The key idea is to acknowledge and put into practice the fact that the needs of diverse visitors are all unique and not everyone absorbs art in the same way. Sector organisations include VocalEyes, an initiative that works towards inclusion for the visually impaired and blind in the arts and heritage sector, Curating for Change which helps create career paths for the disabled community, and the Museums Association, a membership organisation that campaigns for socially engaged museums. They will all be on hand to offer acute advice and inspiration as to how this project can create innovative change within museums across the country.
“Many people want or need to access and process information in ways that are not only – or not entirely – visual. But museums are very sight-dependent places. Let’s imagine a museum experience that plays to whichever senses work best for you. The project aims to give all visitors inclusive, engaging, enjoyable and memorable experiences,” Professor Hannah Thompson.
Visit The Sensational Museum website to stay up-to-date with this project and how it’s developing. It has the capacity to create real social justice and impact the disabled community and how they will be able to engage with art in a more inclusive way in the future.
All I Want For Digital Campaign Calls for Inclusive Future
All I Want For Digital is Knocking Down Disability Accessibility Barriers Online Worldwide
Global digital transformation agency Cyber-Duck has launched the ‘All I Want For Digital’ campaign, which aims to remove digital accessibility barriers worldwide. Diverse users of the internet need to be heard and listened to. Is there enough being done to include them across all digital channels? Data from WebAIM, shows not, with less than 3% of website homepages being truly accessible to all users, meaning that the majority feel excluded from what most people take for granted. This is exactly what the #AllIWantForDigital campaign is shining a light on; the need for all brands, companies, and individuals to work harder to make all their digital experiences inclusive.
‘Ask yourself, what one thing would make digital better for everyone?’
This is the question Cyber-Duck team members asked a group of campaigners, Paralympians, creators and personalities with visible and hidden disabilities. The goal was to learn about their positive and negative experiences of online interactions in order to provide the world with inspiration to better the digital world.
Former tech journalist Rory Cellan-Jones, comedy writer Sara Gibbs, author and campaigner Sandi Wassmer and gold medal Paralympian Giles Long are amongst others, featured in the campaign as representatives of people living with disabilities and how they’re affected by non-inclusive digital experiences. They share their reasons why they want to see positive change in this space. Take Mik Scarlet, TV presenter, co-CEO Phab, and wheelchair user, who says, “I want people who design or own a website or app to have a mind shift change. To stop thinking that they’re designing for disabled people or for those people over there and remember that good products work for everybody.”
Danny Bluestone, CEO and Founder of Cyber-Duck says, “Whether you are trying to pay utility bills online, order groceries, find gifts for friends and family, apply for a job or keep in touch over the holidays, no one should feel excluded because of poorly designed digital experiences, which are not inclusive.”
Bluestone explains further that this inclusive mindset should be adopted at the first stage of a web design, “Accessibility guidelines are a tick box activity for some. But we and our campaign partners want to see more positive action taken to design with inclusivity in mind, creating accessible experiences, which benefit everyone. Accessibility can’t be an after-thought and can’t be solved with plug-ins.”
The campaign has been supported by key charities and initiatives including the Royal Association for Deaf People, Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion, para-sports
classification organisation LEXI, disabled children’s community Phab, digital disability awareness training platform AbilityNet, and the British Interactive Media Association, which supports the next generation of digital professionals through knowledge sharing and developing talent. This campaign alongside this powerful group of initiatives together have the power to create impactful solutions to improve the usability of digital products for everyone.
Take a look at the All I Want For Digital campaign here.
Tatiana Lee: Advocating for Accessibility and Inclusion in Media and Tech
Tatiana Lee is an award-winning disability inclusion and accessibility consultant, producer, model, actor and activist
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, Included is proud to be sharing in the joys of women and their successes. International Women’s day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. The globally-celebrated day was initiated in 1908 when women marched through the streets of New York calling for higher pay, shorter hours and the opportunity to vote. A year later, the Socialist Party of America celebrated the first National Woman’s Day. Notably, today we will be celebrating Tatiana Lee, Apple TV+ Accessibility Lead.
Tatiana Lee is an award-winning disability inclusion and accessibility consultant and is herself a wheelchair user. She has also modelled in campaigns for Apple, Target, Zappos, and a host of others. Lee’s activism was influenced by the underrepresentation of people with disabilities in the media and entertainment industry. Her passion and commitment to creating a more inclusive Hollywood and creating accessible working places pushed her to advocate for accessibility and disability visibility in the entertainment scene.
She was known to be very consistent on social media platforms — raising awareness and seeing that emerging disabled creatives access opportunities to be included in Hollywood films and other entertainment platforms. Speaking on her experience of navigating the entertainment industry as a disabled woman of colour, Lee expressed that “I have discovered a more profound passion advocating for accessibility and inclusion in Media and Tech.” She continued,“I never thought six years later that I will be taking on a role that encompasses all those passions into one,” Lee said.
However, Lee’s advocacy, consultation, and production projects won her numerous awards, notable among them was the Hollywood Fringe Festival Encore Producers Award. Most of her works were featured by reputable media outlets, including Forbes, CNET, Washington Post, and Apple Newsroom.
Tatiana Lee is not only an incredible example of what disabled women can achieve but her work is also increasing opportunities and improving the lives of disabled women.