Deaf and disabled performing artist’s: our experience of Access to Work

A research report examining Deaf and disabled performing artists’ experiences of the Access to Work scheme has been released.

Image Credit: Dancers on stage by Chris Parkes photography.

The research was conducted in the summer of 2019 by Alison Beck for her MSc dissertation at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Alison carried out in-depth qualitative interviews with 10 performing artists, and four people who work for arts organisations managing Access to Work (AtW) applications on behalf of performers that they have engaged for productions.

The key messages from the research:

  • AtW is a powerful enabler which helps disabled performing artists to work and pursue successful careers
  • But while the AtW funding itself creates equality, the way it operates creates inequality
  • AtW does not ‘get’ performing artists.

The research found that:
“All the performing artists felt strongly that AtW helped them to work as performing artists. Indeed, 8 out of 10 performer participants explicitly stated that without AtW it would impossible for them to work. Moreover, 7 out of 10 of the performers perceived that AtW had helped them progress in their careers as performing artists.”

However, the research also found that AtW also,
“creates a host of practical and emotional difficulties for disabled performing artists that their non-disabled peers do not experience…..”

“Participants experienced a system which is not well-designed for performing artists, which can result in the threat of losing out on work. “

Also “all the performing artist interviewees felt that AtW simply does not ‘get’ performing artists”.
“I think they struggle also with people who do freelance work, as well. They seem to manage better if you have a regular job. But if you’re stopping and starting, as actors and performers do, they kind of – that seems to fry their brains.” Mike, actor.

The research report is available to download here: Access to Work and performing artists