[Note: Article updated on 24 November to upload the letter of response (PDF) from the DCMS.]
While we welcome The Mendoza Review: an independent review of museums in England published yesterday, and find much to admire within it, as two leading organisations promoting access to museums for d/Deaf and disabled people, we were dismayed that the needs of disabled visitors appear to be missing from the report. Rightly, the Review includes ‘Growing and diversifying audiences’ as a key priority; however, the only factors mentioned and the only case studies cited relate to participation across socio-economic and ethnic groups, and geography. There is no mention of the participation gap evident between disabled and non-disabled visitors, or the need for museums to improve access information, services or resources to address this gap. We were disappointed not to see these given equal weight.
VocalEyes submitted evidence to the Mendoza Review in the shape of our State of Museum Access 2016 report, that comprehensively sets out the lack of access information and services provided by UK museums.
The Review was undertaken on the recommendation of the Culture White Paper of 2016. In the months before that paper was written, the DCMS team, led by the then Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey and Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, consulted with leaders of disability arts and access organisations working in the culture sector (including ourselves, representing our organisations Stagetext and VocalEyes, along with colleagues from Attitude is Everything, Include Arts, Shape Arts and others). Through us, the voices of disabled people were reflected in the ambitions and language expressed within that report.
If something is absent from a list of priorities, or not identified as being relevant within one of those priorities, the conclusion has to be made that it is not a priority. We ask DCMS to explain why, over the period since 2016, access and inclusion for d/Deaf and disabled people should no longer be a priority for the sector, despite the positive message sent out by Arts Council England’s NPO 2018-22 funding round?
Matthew Cock, Chief Executive, VocalEyes
Melanie Sharpe, Chief Executive, Stagetext
15 November 2017