The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is particularly challenging for people whose inclusion needs were not being met even before the pandemic. In this resource, we’ll consider how new barriers can arise when adapting in-person activity to be COVID-secure, and how to address these to create a new environment where everyone is welcomed and included.
The UK Disability Arts Alliance has produced '7 Principles to Ensure an Inclusive Recovery' to ensure deaf, neurodiverse and disabled people are not discriminated against as creative work begins again, and it's useful to bear these in mind when you are planning.
Inclusion and the social model of disability
Inclusion is about giving equal access and opportunities, and that includes designing inclusive spaces, activities and events that enable everyone to take part. The way spaces are designed affects our ability to move, see, hear and communicate effectively. The design of an inclusive activity or event removes the barriers that create undue effort and separation and enables everyone to participate equally, confidently and independently.
The social model of disability says that disability is created by barriers in society. Using the social model helps identify solutions to the barriers disabled people experience, and encourages the removal of these barriers or the reduction of their effects.
Consider the barriers
Designing a space, event or activity that is COVID-Secure requires you to go through a risk-assessment process that should be undertaken in consultation with your group. Making sure everyone in your group has the opportunity to feed into this process is an opportunity to find out which barriers to taking part people might have.
A survey is a good way to do this – use the Making Music survey, or online tools like Survey Monkey, send a document or even call people. Avoid asking people to identify their disability or other challenges. Instead, ask them what barriers they can see to their participation in the activity you are planning. Continue to ask this throughout the planning phase, as barriers may appear as your planning develops.
Once you have identified all possible barriers, these need to be addressed by those planning your activity. It may be that they need to appear in your risk assessment. For example, if a person will need support to be evacuated in an emergency, then this may require the person supporting them to break social distancing so this risk should be fully assessed and mitigations sought. Removing some barriers may simply require a creative solution that would not be considered an additional risk.
Possible barriers – and some solutions
Some barriers to inclusion are more likely to arise as you plan your changes, so even without consulting, you could consider these.
- Physical access – to the space and within the space
- Communication – new signage and verbal instructions
- Change to previous routines
- Giving assistance while maintaining social distancing - when people can't sit close together
Here are some examples of new barriers that creating a COVID-secure activity might raise for people with existing inclusion needs.
- Limiting the number of people that can safely be in the building: ensure you have factored in any carers who need to attend.
- New one way system to ensure social distancing: are all new entrances and exits fully accessible? Also consider - steps, narrow doorways, places where people might stumble, changes of surface from carpet to hard surface etc. If a one way system cannot be created that is completely accessible, can you create an exception that could be used before the rest of the group enters?
- New one way system for people with visual impairments: they may require a guide through this new environment. Can someone physically guide them through the building the first time? Will this create a social distancing issue which would need to be considered?
- Support rails/grab bars etc for people with mobility or visual impairments: these will need cleaning prior and post rehearsal.
- Signage for direction/to advise on procedures: signage needs to be easy to read (black text on white backing, big font size). Use images and pictograms as well as text. Place signage at an appropriate height for everyone to see (e.g. lower signage for someone who uses a wheelchair).
- Verbal instructions: consider people with hearing impairments when you are making verbal announcements. Facing people and not speaking over background noise may help or you could provide the information in writing.
Change to previous routines
- People who will need to make adjustments to their previous routines and behaviours or who are anxious about change should be given lots of information prior to their first attendance. You could record a walking tour through the building and take pictures to show the space as it will be set out.
- People with memory impairments or people who might get more easily confused or disorientated may need support to adjust to new routines. Signage, buddy systems and spoken reminders by MD and others can help.
Giving assistance while maintaining social distancing - when people can't sit together
- The effect of physical distancing for people with hearing impairments: can people hear instructions or comments from other people that are now further away?
- Does everyone tune their own instrument? If not, how can people be supported to do this for themselves. Is it possible to safely pass instruments between people to tune by putting hygiene measures in place?
- Do some people receive support with reading sheet music or other interpretation during the rehearsal? How can this 1 to 1 support still be offered safely with social distancing?
- Do some people normally receive help turning pages of music - especially if they normally sit 2 to a desk? Do some adjustments need to be made to the sheet music so that these people can turn the pages themselves, or so there are no quick page turns?
Making sure barriers are addressed
Once you’ve addressed the barriers in your risk assessment, you should write any actions to mitigate these into new procedures. All those involved in running the activity must have access to these procedures and commit to following them.
When you are producing information for all members about new procedures, include any specific instructions to address barriers along with a more general briefing about new procedures. But avoid naming people who need assistance in whole group briefings and instead approach members individually who will need to assist with specific tasks.
It is important to fully involve your MD throughout this process. They will be very useful particularly in helping to find ways to address barriers to music making. But they will also be key in ensuring the barriers are addressed during the activity. They are likely to have to adjust their behaviour or instruct others to do so to make sure everyone is fully included, so make sure they are consulted and on board.
We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.