Starting a Folk Club

Accessibility - "What about us crips?"

The subject line appeared in a letter to Folk Roots some 20 years ago. Little has changed - well, not in my neck of the woods anyway. It could be helpful if your page covered some of this stuff. Even if clubs cannot find an accessible venue, I believe they are required under the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) to have a policy on disability.

Folk clubs are NOT private functions unless there is NO membership and access is by invitation only. The Licensing Act 2003 and the DDA - and any other law for that matter - does apply to them. A person being Disabled is no more reason for refusing membership of a folk club than their being Black would be.

And as you point out, Folk Clubs rarely if ever have their own premises - they either rent or borrow a function room or bar from licensed premises and it's the access to those which would be challenged in court - preferably when they apply for the new premises license beteween now and November.

Sunday last went to a Workshop at Edinburgh run by the Alps group and had nothing but help. Totally accessible and even given my own key to the lift. Plenty of offers of help and no staring at me which is very common.

Yes, the Potteries Folk Club has an accessibility policy. We aim to (a) provide physical access to the club room, (b) access to the performance and (c) access to information for people with disabilities.

We now meet in a museum (!) rather than a pub. Although we are in an upstairs room, we have full wheelchair access by means of a lift. Also, for hearing impaired people, the room has a hearing loop.

We can, on request, supply information in large print, braille or recorded on cassette.

One of the members of my ceilidh band is disabled, and uses a wheelchair. In venues where we are expected to use a stage, he often has considerable difficulty in getting on to the stage. Even in venues which claim to be wheelchair-accessible, and are fully equipped with ramps and lifts and suchlike, there is usually no access to the stage. Presumably, disabled people are only expected to be members of the audience: it never crosses anybody's mind that there may be disabled performers who require access to the stage.

The Performing Arts Yearbook usually states whether the stage is accessible to disabled performers. Some are, some aren't, but at least they've thought to gather the information. This doesn't cover village halls, though, only theatres and arts centres.

The British Performing Arts Yearbook is published by Rhinegold and costs about 25 quid. Rheingold's book sales department: 020 7333 1721; Website Rheingold

The stage at <deleted> is inaccessible to wheelchairs. The steps to the stage are too narrow for anybody to carry a wheelchair and a couple of years ago I had to give up doing the Community theatre, which I really enjoyed, because even without the wheelchair I had to go behind the stage before a performance and sit there right until the theatre cleared. Sometimes for 4 hours in silence. No access to an easy loo. On one occasion I was at the bottom and found the lift had been switched of and the technician had gone home! On another the cast had a party in the dressing room on the last night and forgot to tell me or even bring me a glass of wine. there still is no access for disabled actors actresses to the stage but the theatre is disabled friendly if you can open the heavy main doors.

Some links for your further reading:
The "Open 4 All" campaign by the Disability Rights Commission with links to pages which contain downloadable guidance documents among other things.
and Making websites accessible also at the Disability Rights Commission site.

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