Supporting Disabled Visitors:

Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Festival

Celebrating Disability recently delivered a disability awareness training session for Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest. The session focused on improving accessibility for disabled visitors at the festival.

Fringe! described working with us as “really, really great.”

1

Training session

12

Participants

“The training was absolutely critical” 

The Background

Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest is a volunteer-run organisation rooted in London’s queer creative scene. Every November, and indeed throughout the year, Fringe! showcases an eclectic mix of films, arts and events celebrating LGBTIQA+ stories from around the world, welcoming everybody.

Fringe! was established in 2011 as a community response to arts cuts. Over the last twelve years, the festival has been built by a labour of love from a passionate collective of volunteers, with new people recruited every year. Fringe! events are hosted in different venues across London, with differing levels of accessibility.

“It’s always challenging, because we don’t have a super fixed team or our own venue,” said Kel Grogan, the festival’s Accessibility Coordinator. With its changing teams and multiple venues it was a challenge to provide consistent accessibility for visitors. With multiple venues in use across the city, it was also hard to provide clear information about access. 

“One of the main barriers before anything else is people’s attitudes,” said Kel. “So the main challenge is always to address that. And then everything else slots around.” 

To make sure that all of the newly-recruited volunteers understood accessibility and aligned with the inclusive mission of the festival, Kel decided to seek out disability awareness training. Although they had lived experience of disability and an awareness of the topic, they appreciated that they were “not trained”. They explained: 

“I wanted someone who I could rely on to deliver training in a really meaningful and engaging way.”

Our Successful Proposal

While working for Real, a disabled people’s organisation (DPO) in Tower Hamlets, Kel was recommended Celebrating Disability by a colleague who had worked previously with Esi. 

They soon reached out to us and was drawn to our approach, which sounded refreshingly “human.”

“Sometimes you get really corporatised forms of disability awareness, and I was quite keen not to have something like that,” said Kel.

Supporting Disabled Visitors

The training session, called “Supporting Disabled Visitors”, took place on the 2nd September 2023 on Zoom. There were 12 participants in attendance: a mix of the festival’s core team and this year’s volunteers.

The interactive session was intended to help its participants to better understand how to support disabled guests attending the festival. Participants “came in at different knowledge levels” about disability, and initially this concerned Kel. They worried that it would be “quite challenging to keep everyone engaged.” But soon enough, their nerves were quelled:

“What Esi did really well was cover the basics. People learnt about the social model, but she also managed to keep those who already knew about the social model engaged. She gave people the space to think about it a little more deeply. So people who had already had disability equality training still found it useful and relevant to Fringe. I’d already had quite a few sessions of disability equality training, but I found Esi’s really very good.”

After opening the session with a powerful introduction to the social model of disability, participants moved into a discussion about language and etiquette. “We filtered into discussion groups, which were really useful,” said Kel. The groups were reassured that this was a safe space: no question was too silly to ask. 

In order to dispel some of the awkwardness that sometimes arises when talking about disability, participants discussed examples of disability-inclusive language. They also discussed a theoretical “What could you do?” to support disabled people in various different situations. 

“There were so many points that people ran with and connected to. We had some really great discussions,” said Kel.

Finally, the group discussed the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), which is the legal obligation that requires that services provide access and reasonable adjustments to disabled people. 

In a lively discussion, participants explored how we can create access in several different ways: by changing the way things are done (eg. a shop that usually only takes cash might accept card payments from disabled people who cannot handle cash); by making alterations to the physical environment (eg. an accessible entrance); and by providing auxiliary aids (eg. a hearing loop). Of course, access also means understanding that each individual may have their own unique support needs.

Key Takeaways For Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest

  • Learning about the social model of disability as a framework
  • Knowing practical ways to support disabled visitors
  • Differentiating between access and inclusion
  • Increased confidence when talking about disability

Next Steps

Kel is particularly proud of Fringe!’s commitment to representing disability, not only in the audience, but throughout the festival’s programming: “The team made some key programming decisions this year, which brought new audiences to us.”

Going forward, “There are still a lot of things that can be built on next year. I would really love us to continue to do those things, and hopefully we will.”

“One of the main things that I will be saying is that the training is absolutely crucial,” they said.

Training sessions tailored to your needs

Designed around your specific goals and outcomes to empower disability inclusion

Designed and delivered with lived experience of disability

All trainers talk from a pan disability experience. We couple that with realistic recommendations for your workplace.

Immersive, interactive and outcome focused

Using a variety of engagement methods to encourage safe, open conversation

Resources to track your return on investment

Benchmarking and action plan tracking enabling you and your delegates to track progress

To discover how you can build disability awareness and confidence across your organisation, send us an enquiry or book an exploratory 45 minute call with Esi. We would love to discuss your goals, objectives and how Celebrating Disability can best support you and your team: hello@celebratingdisability.co.uk