Literature event accessibility guide hits funding target after industry support

Literature event accessibility guide hits funding target after industry support

A project to develop a guide to make literature events accessible for disabled people has reached its research and development phase target budget following support from the industry.

The Inklusion guide was conceived by disabled writers Julie Farrell (pictured above) and Ever Dundas (below right) after they became frustrated by “the litany of excuses” about why literature events couldn’t be made accessible. They will create an easy-to-use, best-practice guide for event organisers and individuals, to ensure consistent and reliable access in the industry for book launches, festival events, conferences, panels, workshops, fellowships and residencies.

It will include information on running in person, online and hybrid events. The guide will be available free as an accessible PDF, as a web page on the Inklusion site, and a printed booklet which will be distributed to organisations across the UK.

In September, Inklusion received a contribution of £4,000 from the Edinburgh International Book Festival and organisers have since reached their target of £18,574 after receiving support from Penguin Random House, Hachette, Fane, the National Centre for Writing, Literature Alliance Scotland, Publishing Scotland, Scottish Book Trust, Write Mentor and The Edinburgh City of Literature.

The project also has the backing of authors Val McDermid, Kit de Waal, Frances Ryan and Helen Sedgwick. 

Farrell and Dundas say they hope the guide will take the "onus and emotional labour" off disabled individuals to educate events providers and publishers. The pair are now embarking on a five-month research and development phase where they will collaborate with university researchers in the industry, interview disabled authors about their experiences and discuss challenges faced by events organisers in order to inform the guide.

Farrell said: “This funding allows us to create the content for this much-needed resource which the industry has really got behind and we can’t wait to get started on bringing the Inklusion guide to life. The support from the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Penguin Random House, Hachette and others has been incredible, as has the ongoing support we’ve had from world-famous authors such as Val McDermid, Kit de Waal, Frances Ryan and Helen Sedgwick.

“The pandemic has seen a rapid increase in access and inclusion in the arts all over the world, and for the first time disabled people are feeling included where they didn’t before. For so long we were told access was ‘too complicated’ or that organisers didn’t have resources, or it was ‘logistically challenging’. The pandemic has proven this is not the case — and we’re not going back to our old ways.”

Dundas added: "I’m thrilled we’ve reached our funding goal. It’s been a real joy seeing the amount of support for the work we’re doing, and we’re both excited about getting started on the research phase. One in four of us is disabled, and it’s time we were included. We want to make access in the literature sector consistent, transparent and reliable. And fun! In all our hours consulting with organisations in the sector, the most common response to accessibility was fear of the unknown. We're here to demystify access provision and instil confidence in every event provider.”

The pair hope to launch the guide at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2022 and have asked anyone interested in helping fund the second phase of the project to email them on hello@inklusionguide.org.