Performers with a disability have ALWAYS been around, and on stage. Now more than ever, audiences are becoming more receptive to performance artists with a disability, and are tired of the same old cookie cutter looks or acts. What makes you different than all the rest? If you are a classically trained artist, how can you fuse your style into something else that is fresh and innovative? These are the questions that are often asked of performers in general, which begs to state that people want to be surprised, and have their minds changed from traditional stereotypes.
In fact, now more than ever audiences across the globe are craving local and inter national talent. Although tours from big stars are still very much in demand, Millennial and older generations are looking for singers to sing live, and dancers or actors to provide refreshing performances. Despite this large demand for more than DJ's and songwriters, we rarely see performance artists with disabilities. Why is that? Perhaps its because not many venues and agents actively seeking out performance artists with disabilities to book and promote?
So how can we change that? How can we move forward from here, and take the first steps in the right direction? Well, let us start with the benefits of booking a performer with a disability.
1. You are becoming Allie to voices that desire a platform.
2. You are demonstrating through action that performers can, are, and should be just as diverse as the audiences you have.
3. You are providing the audience with a diverse experience, and showing them the richness life has to offer.
4. You are providing a platform of inspiration for generations of performers with disabilities. The next generation of performer's with a disability need to see other performer's with disabilities on stage to lead the way.
5. Audiences with disabilities are one of the fastest growing markets, as more employment opportunities become available, they have more disposable income. People with disabilities come in all age ranges, and from diverse economic backgrounds. There are very successful people with disabilities that desire to use their income for entertainment and travel purposes. If your provide more accessible events, and put more diverse performers on stage you are becoming inclusive and desirable by this growing market.
THE TRUE MESSAGE
All performers with or without a disability should be treated with dignity and respect. As such, they should not be your token for sensationalism in trends. This means, that performer's with a disability should be given the opportunity to perform based on the merit of their talent, and evaluated the same as performers without a disability. Whether you are an even planner for corporate and charitable events, weddings, concerts, or festivals, you can add a performance artists with a disability to your set list. A google search is a good start, but reaching out to local arts organisations that support performer's with a disability is even better. You would be surprised what people will put together when given the opportunity.
IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?
Don't wait until you think you have all the answers to begin this process. There are alot of organisations and grants ready to support an initiative that supports performers with a disability, so reach out to them! There are also amazing PDF free printable resources if you are looking to integrate performers with disabilities into all of your showcases. Keep in mind there are ALWAYS audience members with a disability that would like to see diversity on stage too. Many venues wonder who their target audience will be, but that is simply not important. What IS important, is becoming a diverse venue, agent, festival Host, etc.
GETTING THE FACTS STRAIGHT
Yes, there are some things you should know when trying to become more inclusive. Here is another article I have written with resources and links to get you started:
WHAT NOW? - CONTRACTS/ INSURANCE/ ACCOMMODATIONS
There are many elements in contracts, insurance, and accessibility accommodations that are apart of Canadian Legislation that you should be aware of. These laws do change from province to province, so it is recommended that you start with Canada Arts Council to find out what laws are relevant to you. It is important you keep your insurance up to date in general, but what is most important when becoming for disability inclusive is to understand what the expectations are from a legislative stand point first and foremost. This way you can protect and prevent alot of the problems that would cause you to need to file with an insurance provider. Never the less, you should equip yourself fully with these new laws by doing as much research as possible before planning large productions with performers with a disability. I recommend starting with a performance troupe or solo artist with a disability, and asking them directly what you should and should not do to provide reasonable accommodations so that they can perform at their best. You will learn more as you go, but not seeking information will for sure prevent you from being fully accessible, and can hinder the trust you want to gain with artists with a disability.
Looking to bring in performance artists with a disability?
Contact DDSP for a consultation: P: 204.894.1075 / E: firstname.lastname@example.org