The Inklusion Guide: Making Literature Events Accessible for Disabled People
By Joanne Boustead
Co-founded by Julie Farrell and Ever Dundas, Inklusion was created in response to the rapid increase in access and inclusion in the arts that was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and implores that the creative industry continues to improve accessibility for disabled people. Organisers repeatedly claim that they do not have the resources to plan accessible events, and this has not only served as a barrier to disabled people who wish to attend these events but has also been disproved by the industry’s fast response to the pandemic.
In 2022, Inklusion partnered with Penguin Random House UK to design and deliver an accessible and comprehensive access guide for UK literary organisations to use when planning in-person, online and hybrid events. Designed to take the “emotional labour off disabled individuals” to educate event’s organisers on accessibility needs, the Inklusion Guide has been directly informed by disabled writers and other disabled people working within the publishing industry. Current research into accessibility in publishing provides a supportive foundation for the guide. The demand and support for this free resource has seen Inklusion receive funding from the Edinburgh International Book Festival, as well as other sponsors such as Hachette UK and the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS). Find out who else is sponsoring the Inklusion Guide here.
Launched in print and PDF on 10 March, the Inklusion Guide features four handy sections on accessibility for authors and audiences, as well as how to fund access provisions and employing disabled staff. Additional formats (large print, easy read, braille, BSL video and audio) will be launched soon.
The Inklusion Guide opens with an explanation of the language used within the guide and addresses how non-disabled people often worry about what language to use and the fear of “saying the wrong thing.” The guide plainly states that “disabled” is not a “dirty word” and is often only considered as such by non-disabled people who believe it to be shameful. Identity-first language (e.g. “disabled person”) is often preferred to person-first language (e.g. “person with a disability”) by the disabled community – the Inklusion Guide reminds the reader that, when referring to disabled people, identity-first language should be the default.
Throughout the guide, the word “disabled” is used for simplicity and to encompass a wide range of people, including but not limited to, those who are neurodivergent, deaf and chronically ill. The definition of “disabled” and the foundation of the Inklusion Guide is based upon the Social Model of Disability, which was created to directly challenge the traditional Medical Model of Disability – this model often views disabled people as needing charitable assistance and that they have a medical problem that needs to be prevented, cured or contained. Although the Inklusion Guide refers to the Social Model, it is important to note that not all disabled people (for example, those with chronic illnesses) believe that this model fully realises their experience, as even if societal barriers were to be removed, their impairments mean they would still be disabled, and the guide acknowledges this.
Access for Authors
According to the Royal Society of Literature’s ‘A Room Of My Own’ Report, 74% of writers who are disabled or have a long-term health condition have a lack of income or expectation. This section covers provisions for general events and discusses how “disability narratives are overwhelmingly white.” There is also advice on accommodation and travel provision for in-person events, as well as guidance on specific online and in-person events (author networking and career development events form integral examples in the guide).
Access for Audiences
Did you know that businesses lose approximately £2 billion a month by ignoring the needs of disabled people? “Access for Audiences” shows that by being accessible, businesses can increase audience outreach and engagement, as well as increase the demand for books by disabled authors – in turn businesses are then supporting disabled authors to write more books and helping to facilitate positive change! Consider your marketing and advertising approach: are you using a range of formats to promote inclusivity? Have you considered the socio-economic barriers that are preventing people from accessing online, as well as in-person, events?
How to Fund Access Provision
Most organisers and businesses claim that a lack of money prevents them from providing good accessibility at events. This section provides a brilliant and creative checklist for businesses to use when trying to generate funds to increase accessibility. It urges you to find solutions and to build-in access plans and budgets from the very beginning in order to save money and ensure a welcoming event for all disabled people.
Employ Disabled Staff
The Access Denied report shows just how inaccessible the industry can be to publishing hopefuls and jobseekers – 40% of disabled publishing jobseekers have found a publishing industry event inaccessible. Disabled people have a legal right to be supported in employment and the Inklusion Guide provides an abundance of ways to support disabled employees.
It is vital that we continue to push and advocate for accessibility in the creative industry. Read the Inklusion Guide for yourself here!