Nican's submission to the National Arts and Disability Strategy

Date posted: 
3 November 2008
Submission: National Arts and Disability Strategy

It is with great anticipation of significant change to occur in the disability and arts landscape that Nican contributes this submission to the National Arts and Disability Strategy consultation process.

To fully understand Nican's position it is important for those analysing the submissions be aware that Nican provides a national information service in the areas of sport, recreation, tourism and the arts for people with a disability. We have performed this role for 20 years and over this time have found engaging with the arts world at times difficult and at other times delightful. Accessing information from mainstream arts has not always been easy but we have always endeavoured to build good relationships and influence the creation of inclusive practice. There have been some positive signs of changing times of late. We are aware that other organisations have also undertaken steps to create inclusive practice and open the arts world to all and we support any organisation which works towards this goal.

The discussion paper produced by the National Arts and Disability Strategy Working Group of Australia's Cultural Ministers Council highlight some very pertinent points which we will elaborate on to provide further understanding of these issues from our perspective.

Barriers to access and participation

It has been brought to our attention that many of the art facilities in Australia were built prior to building standards incorporating access requirements. Many of these facilities have failed to upgrade their accessibility including catering for people who have vision or hearing impairments. Often when a facility is made accessible it is only being addressed from a wheelchair users perspective. It is important that physical access caters for a range of disabilities. The fundamental aim of accessibility is to allow individuals to participate at the level of their choice as independently as is practical and not experience barriers whether they be environmental or attitudinal.

Nican believes it is important that arts and cultural activities communicate their accessibility to potential participants. This is particularly relevant if barriers to accessibility have recently been removed. This does not need to be costly exercise but does need thought and preparation and may be as easy as posting this information on a website and contacting other organisations that have a relationship with people with a disability. If people don't know - they won't come…..

Transport continues to be a barrier to social participation for many. There is no use having an accessible train, tram, or bus if the user cannot enter or exit the vehicle due to access to the platform. This is not rocket science!

Whilst a percentage of individuals with a disability are in a difficult financial situation there are also many people with a disability who have the same means as an average Australian. Therefore the solution to addressing financial barriers to participation in the arts and cultural activities is a difficult issue which has the potential of creating an inequity to another subsection of participants or creating financial stress to the organisation delivering the service. Nican supports the concept of a 'carer' or 'support worker' accompanying a person with a disability to an event at no charge. If an individual is required to have the support worker with them to attend an event they should not be financially penalised for having to do so. There are many organisations who have signed up to the companion card scheme around Australia who already offer this service. Nican supports the ratification of individuals who require their service such as is done with the companion card scheme to ensure that it is not abused.

As with most service sectors in Australia such as tourism the need for educating staff on disability awareness and thus removing preconceived prejudices against people with a disability and the elderly is imperative. Attitudinal change in society will only come about through education. Nican strongly believes that this education needs to begin in the formative years of children who have not developed discriminatory prejudices and thus there is a role with the Australian education system in doing this.

Further research into barriers of participation for people with a disability needs to be undertaken to fully understand what stops or limits participation in the arts. As with many issues affecting people with a disability the lack of research and supporting anecdotal evidence does not assist in developing sustainable strategies. Nican would support further research in this area.

Barriers to arts practice

Artists with disabilities need to be assisted like any artist but their support needs associated with their disability must be taken into consideration. This may mean that the costs associated with the support needs of the individual need additional resources to be met. The need for additional resources to support an individual must never be used to discriminate against an individual and therefore the development of a separate fund to resource such assistance is suggested.

Artists and emerging artists also need to be supported through an education process, so they can represent themselves in decision-making processes affecting their ability to work and continue working in their field.

The government must ensure that a person or people representing and having knowledge of disability are part of the decision-making process for funding and grants. Nican would ideally envisage the individuals filling this role be practising or recently retired artists with a disability.

Audience development

Further research is required to understand the barriers to audience development from both the perspective of mainstream and disability specific productions. Until these barriers are fully understood it would be difficult to develop a strategy that addresses the needs of participants, future participants, and organisations delivering activities.

From an anecdotal perspective audience development must insure that a broad spectrum of disabilities is taken into consideration when developing target audiences. Any event that receives funding through government at any level must ensure accessibility for all. This means factors such as the installation of hearing loops, of transcribed performances, appropriate signage, and physical access need to be factored in to the costs associated with delivering the activity. If fundamental accessibility cannot be met then funding should not be given.

Other issues for consideration

Nican has developed a set of guidelines which if adopted by any organisation would see the provision of outstanding service to not only people with a disability but to all participants. The guidelines are targeted towards recreational experiences which includes the arts. The guidelines are based on the disability standards but of course makes sense to any service provider regardless of their engagement of people with a disability. Following is an extract from the Nican National Recreation Guidelines document which we believe apply to any arts orientated organisation and should be the back bone to a sustainable National Art and Disability strategy. The use of the word recreation is interchangeable with arts provider.

Guideline 1


Each person with a disability seeking a recreation experience has access to a service based on need, interest and available resources.


1.1 Physical access to the facility is not a barrier to the participant.

1.2 Services that are available are clearly identifiable to potential participants.

1.3 Personnel demonstrate an understanding of service requirement for individuals with varying needs.

1.4 Documentation of policies and procedures in relation to fair and equitable service.

Guideline 2

Individual Requirements

Participants receive experiences and where necessary are tailor made, flexible and adaptable to the particular needs of each individual.


2.1 Individuals have an avenue for advising organisations of their requirements.

2.2 Individual support strategies are identified and implemented according to needs and goals.

2.3 Organisations ensures that services are flexible enough to accommodate changing needs.

2.4 Personnel are trained to appropriately assist individuals.

Guideline 3

Choice and Decisions

The individual has ownership of choice and decision making including planning, participating and evaluating recreation opportunities.


3.1 Opportunities and assistance (when required) are available for participants to make informed decisions on their choices of recreation.

3.2 Organisations develop strategies and demonstrate the ability to respond to a participant's changing needs.

3.3 Organisations take reasonable care to avoid risks whilst maintaining an individuals ability to decide or chose an experience in the least restrictive alternative.

Guideline 4

Privacy, Dignity and Confidentiality

Organisations ensures that relevant ethical practices are upheld in relation to confidentiality and privacy legislation and that individuals are treated with dignity and respect.


4.1 Organisation has policies and procedures addressing privacy and confidentiality.

4.2 Personnel demonstrate the ability to implement privacy and confidentiality policies and procedures at all times.

4.3 Participants are advised of the usage, storage and disposal of personal information.

4.4 A Code of Conduct is developed for all relevant stakeholders.

Guideline 5


Organisation develops and implements when necessary the least restrictive alternative guidelines which ensures that individuals can participate in opportunities within their community.


5.1 Organisation recognise and develop strategies to address barriers to participation in recreation opportunities.

5.2 Stakeholders encourage the development of formal and social networks to enhance the recreation opportunities of the individual.

5.3 Strategies are developed and implemented that build on participants' ability and skills to access further community participation.

Guideline 6

Valued Roles

Recreation opportunities are developed to enhance individual skill and abilities to promote a positive and valued role within the community.


6.1 Organisation provide the opportunity for individuals to contribute as valued members of the community.

6.2 Organisation develop and implement strategies that prevent discrimination and negative community perceptions.

6.3 Stakeholders develop and encourage participation in capacity building of individuals.

Guideline 7

Grievance Process

Encourage and promote an evaluative process that fosters a continuous improvement model which is accessible to all stakeholders and ensures satisfactory resolution is achieved.


7.1 Organisation develop and implement frameworks that provide accessible complaints and dispute resolution system.

7.2 Participants are provided in appropriate format the complaints and dispute procedure.

7.3 Organisation develop a system to link complaint resolutions to their continuous improvement plan.

Guidelines 8

Organisational Management

High quality standards in the delivery of recreation are achieved through sound management practice and governance.


8.1 Organisations corporate governance including structure, values, objectives and practices complies with legislative, Standards, administrative, financial and performance requirements.

8.2 Organisation develop strategies to review and assess operating performance.

8.3 Organisation through a continuous improvement model demonstrate effective service delivery.

Guideline 9

Legislation and Human Rights

Organisation abide by relevant legislation and human rights standards to ensure a positive recreation experience.


9.1 Organisation has Member Protection Guidelines in place and ensures they are adhered to.

9.2 Organisation train personnel to be knowledgeable of rights and develop strategies for the recognition, reporting and assisting people who have been identified at risk.

Guideline 10

Human Resources

Organisation recruit, employ and develop personnel that are committed to furthering their values, skills and knowledge to ensure recreation opportunities are facilitated within regulatory requirements and 'good practice' standards


10.1 Organisation has transparent policies and procedures in place for the recruitment and selection of personnel.

10.2 Position descriptions outlining roles and responsibilities are in place for all paid and unpaid personnel.

10.3 Appropriate personnel induction procedures are in place.

Recreation including the arts is valuable in creating a healthy society as it has social, psychological and physical outcomes for an individual and for communities at large. Participation in the arts can build skills used in other parts of people's lives.

Nican supports a national strategy in the delivery of Arts and Disability. A level playing field across Australia including rural and metropolitan settings is welcomed.

Should any questions arise from this submission we would more than happy to address them.

Yours sincerely

Suzanne Bain-Donohue

Executive Director


31 October 2008

P.O. Box 110

Michell ACT 2911

PH: 6141 1220