How do we promote accessible culture? How are foundations mainstreaming disability in their culture and art-related work? How does an inclusive culture promote social cohesion? How do people with disabilities experience inclusive culture?  These were just some of the key questions that philanthropic funders explored at the session ‘Leave no one behind – Inclusive cultures for people with disabilities’ on Wednesday, 30 May at the European Foundation Centre’s Annual Conference ‘Culture matters: connecting citizens, uniting communities’ which attracted more than 600 philanthropy professionals from 37 countries.  

The session, organised by the EFC Disability Thematic Network, aimed to explore how philanthropic organisations can help ensure cultural inclusion for people with different type of disabilities and other groups at greater risk of social and cultural exclusion such as the elderly, low – income families, children in institutions and prisoners.

The session highlighted various examples of cultural inclusion initiatives: from improving the fruition of art works in museums, to supporting artists with disabilities and from enhancing the accessibility of cultural heritage to encouraging participation in performing arts:

  • The Karuna Foundation’s support of the inclusion of children with disability – watch this testimony from Amir, a Nepalese teen born without use of arms or legs who makes beautiful art. 
  • Working with museums, monuments centres, theatre companies, correctional facilities, elderly care units etc, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation talked of its support for a variety of projects striving for inclusion of all age groups and all types of disabilities.
  • Fundaciòn Once, supporting the Biennial of Contemporary Art, showed an initiative fostering accessibility to culture with high level technologies and how it helps artists with disabilities to gain employment and social inclusion.

Figures from these projects show a dramatic increase in the number of people benefiting from these initiatives which result positively impact their lives and help to increase public interest and awareness.

Inspired by these examples, participants brainstormed a variety of aspects involved when organising accessible culture events in terms of involving relevant stakeholders, physical and psychological barriers, lack of information, financial means and social stereotypes to name just a few. 

During the discussion, several areas  have been identified to help encourage funders to be more strategic when promoting the message that access to culture is a right, not a privilege, and that accessible solutions developed for people with disability can benefit all. 

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it’, Bertolt Brecht

For more information, contact Giulia Lombardi, Thematic Networks Coordinator, at [email protected] 

To view images from the EFC Annual Conference ”Culture matters – connecting citizens and uniting communities” you can visit our Flickr account