Within our community, writers constantly work hard behind the scenes (over and above their own writing) to help in various ways. Some people volunteer to organise events or writing retreats. Others mentor another writer.
Julie Farrell (shortlisted for the 2021 WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award) and Ever Dundas are working hard to promote and improve accessibility for literary events.
As you know, this is an important thing for us at WriteMentor, too. I am disabled, and many of our community are, too. Improving accessibility is about a LOT of things – it’s not just about meeting specific needs (though that’s hugely important), but also about removing other barriers, from finance to geography, and making people feel like they CAN attend and get involved.
Here’s more about it below:
A kickass guide to making literature events accessible for disabled people
A project to develop a guide to make literature events accessible for disabled people has received support from the Edinburgh International Book Festival, with a contribution of £4,000. Inklusion is now launching an appeal to raise the remaining funding needed to complete the project.
The Book Festival also commissioned Inklusion to carry out a venue assessment during August 2021, looking at accessibility and equality of access at their new site at Edinburgh College of Art.
Covering accessibility for both invited speakers and audience members, the Inklusion guide will outline best-practice access for book launches, festival events, conferences, panels, workshops, fellowships, to residencies. It will include information on running in-person, online, and hybrid events. The guide will be available free as a PDF and a printed booklet.
Julie and Ever hope the guide will take the onus and emotional labour off disabled individuals to educate events providers and publishers. The pair are now seeking to raise a further £16,000 which will allow them to complete the guide and improve access to all literature events.
Commenting on the funding and appeal, Julie Farrell said:
“The funding we have had from the Edinburgh International Book Festival has been incredible, as has the support we’ve had from world-famous authors like Val McDermid, Kit de Waal, Frances Ryan and Helen Sedgwick.”
“The pandemic has seen a rapid increase in access and inclusion in the arts all over the world, and for the first-time disabled people are feeling included where they didn’t before. For so long we were told access was ‘too complicated’ or that organisers didn’t have resources, or it was ‘logistically challenging’. The pandemic has proven this is not the case — and we must not go back to our old ways.”
Also commenting, Ever Dundas said:
“1 in 4 of us is disabled, and it’s time we were included. We want to make access in the literature sector consistent, transparent and reliable. And fun! In all our hours consulting with organisations in the sector, the most common response to accessibility was fear of the unknown. We’re here to demystify access provision and instil confidence in every event provider.”
The pair hope to launch the guide at an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2022. Anyone interested in helping fund the project can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
“Paradoxically, lockdown made festival access easier for many disabled people because everything went digital. What’s important as we emerge from that is to make sure this access is replicated in the face-to-face world. A guide to make that more straightforward for everyone organising a book event of any kind is exactly what we need. I want to live in a world that’s inclusive; books break down all kinds of walls, and access to books and writers should also be free from barriers.”
— Val McDermid, author
“At last! A no-excuses guide to make sure disabled people are included in literary events, right from planning through to the event itself. A much-needed resource that will do away with bolted-on, afterthought provision and help make literary events thoroughly accessible for everyone.”
— Kit de Waal, author
“To put it simply, Inklusion’s work is essential. The literary sector has to become accessible to disabled and chronically ill people, and only through that accessibility can literary events be truly relevant in the modern world. Through information and education, Inklusion is offering the opportunity for real, meaningful change, and I urge organisations across the sector to listen and to support their work.”
— Helen Sedgwick, author
“Having a centralised guide to access would be a much needed solution for disabled and chronically ill people too often left adrift in the book industry. As a disabled author, I know access needs are a fundamental part of us being able to do our job on a level playing field. This guide could help reach all the untapped disabled talent out there.”
— Frances Ryan, Guardian columnist and author of Crippled