01 Why cinemas should engage with more disabled people as audiences
There are both social and economic arguments for cinemas to engage even more effectively with disabled people as audiences, particularly in these times of increased emphasis on quality of life, social inclusion, building inclusive environments (as best practice, not just compliance) and diversifying income generation in the arts and cultural sector.
According to The Office for Disability Issues, there are over eleven million people with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability in the UK. The prevalence of disability rises with age and around 6% of children are disabled, compared to 15% of working age adults and 45% of adults over state pension age. This percentage is set to increase dramatically over the next few decades, as UK demographics shift towards an increasingly older population.
In DWP’s 2013 report, ‘Fulfilling Potential – Building a deeper understanding of disability in the UK today’, it states that “disabled people’s spending power in the UK is estimated to be at least £80 billion a year”.
With the world’s attention in 2012 on disabled people’s access to cultural engagement during the Cultural Olympiad; combined with the aging population and subsequent growth of the spending power of disabled people, there is increased impetus for arts and cultural organisations and commercial venues investing in and committing to the development of an inclusive society, where all people can participate in arts and cultural activities equally, independently, with choice and with dignity.
Many disabled people are excluded from experiencing arts and culture due to the barriers society places on them. Most disabled people differentiate between a medical and social model of disability when looking at equality within society. The medical model focuses on the individual and their impairment; perceived as a problem that can be improved through medical intervention. The Social Model takes the focus away from impairment and places responsibility on government, organisations and individuals across all sectors of society, to identify and implement constructive changes to remove barriers and increase access.