Policy and Procedure – What do we need to be aware of, when creating and implementing our Covid-19 responses, to ensure we aren’t accidentally excluding?
Whenever we have to respond quickly to a changing situation it presents challenges for accessibility. Have we consulted with our audiences/artists/participants? Have we had time to test and review a new policy? Have we been able to research and find best practice in the sector? Are we able to ensure our new policies are actually being used?
The situation with COVID-19 has meant that many organisations and individuals have had to completely change how they work with everyone exploring new territory at the same time. In lots of ways this has been a good thing, showing how possible change can be. Disabled people have been pushing for more flexible working procedures for a long time, and now it is clear that they can be achieved on a large scale. However, without awareness, consultation, careful thought and research, it could be that new exclusionary barriers are created by accident.
Something which may seem innocuous – like choosing which platform to use for your regular virtual team meeting – could end up excluding. For example, Zoom doesn’t current offer automatic subtitling, whereas Skype does. Each platform offers different pros and cons, different access opportunities or barriers. Often the reality is that access is in how you use the technology, as much as the platform itself.
We can use these tools to create accessible virtual spaces if we ask people what they need, listen carefully, make a plan together and then stick to it. Practicing what we preach is an important part of setting policy and procedure, and an important part of building and maintaining trust with Disabled audiences, colleagues and artists.
When setting policy and procedure we have to balance many different things; safety, risk, cost, time, practicality of implementation and more. Add accessibility into that list as you make your plans to re-open or renew after COVID, and let’s recover inclusively together.
We discussed with the Disability Collaborative Network for Museums around inclusive policy and procedures and with Graeae Theatre Company to get their current thoughts on touring and running a building. Both had lots to say, great tips and useful resources to share.
Useful resources we have found online
Equality in Progress: Fair Access, Inclusion and Representation in Museums from Glasgow Women’s Library
Access to Work Factsheet from Gov.uk
Access to Work: A Guide for the Arts and Cultural Sector from Disability Arts Online
Access to Work Step by Step Guide from Disability Arts Online
What are Reasonable Adjustments? from ACAS
Caring for your workforce and making fair decisions in a time of rapid change from Arts Council England
Equality Impact Assessment – a step by step guide from Arts Council Wales