Students to help improve access to visual arts for people with disability

September 10, 2015

Marketing students Ian Weng and Daniel Lim assited each other during an exercise with blindfolds

The students participated in an interactive exercise using blindfolds

Marketing students at Murdoch University will be gaining real world experience while contributing to the community in a new project with social inclusion arts organisation DADAA.

As part of their university studies, the 35 third year students will be writing competitive marketing plans for DADAA to support its launch of an expanded program of audio support – including audio description and access tours – so that people who are visually impaired, blind, frail and autistic can enjoy the arts.

Audio description is a verbal commentary that captures vividly the visual elements of theatre or artwork for users. Access tours enable people who are blind or vision impaired to access the stage and backstage to touch the set, costumes and props prior to a performance, or to touch artworks, like some of those featured in the Sculpture at Bathers exhibition.

Audio descriptions and access tours can accompany a number of different arts performances and events, but access to these services is inconsistent in WA.

To address this, DADAA aims to pilot a program entitled Access All Arts that facilitates equal access to the arts for people with disability in WA in 2016.

The organisation will provide this improved access to at least two arts events a month in 2016 with audio descriptions and access tours of Perth Fringe Festival theatre, puppet shows, opera and musicals.

“There are 40,000 people who are vision impaired in WA – 3000 are registered legally blind and 70 per cent of these people are above the age of 65,” said Jackie Homer, who is developing the new program at DADAA. “So we are trying to reach out to a range of people. We want the students to devise ways of reaching these target market groups so that people with relevant disabilities know about audio description or access tour opportunities.

“We also want the students to reach out to their families and carers and the wider community with their plans.

“It is also essential that we keep our funders and stakeholders, such as foundations and trusts, the corporate and government sectors, informed about Access All Arts – not only because this could bring us more funding and support opportunities, but because their engagement will help the project to be more effective.

“We are really looking forward to seeing what the students produce.”

In their first tutorial on the project, the students were given the opportunity to meet Pam Barras, who is visually impaired and is an independent consultant to DADAA. She explained why audio descriptions and access tours were important to people with disability and led the students in an interactive exercise using blindfolds.

Their lecturer Dr Carol Osborne said in future weeks the students would be undertaking focus group research as part of their assessment activity.

“This is an excellent wider learning experience for the students based on a real world case,” said Dr Osborne. “The work they do on this project will be contributing to improving access to the arts for these disability groups and give them some fantastic community engagement experience.”

Student Brandon Highy said it was extremely useful to be working on a real life case study. “It gives us an insight as to what actually takes place in a real life marketing campaign,” he said.

His classmate Ian Weng added: “It gives us a greater understanding and appreciation of different people.”

DADAA is a national leader in the community arts and cultural development sector. The organisation supports artists with disability through professional development opportunities, and builds audience engagement in the arts and health space.

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