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Animated, Autumn 1997. Suzanne Bull on the real access issues for people with disabilities
When I was asked to speak about the real access issues for disabled people at the Arts Marketing Association's Three Dimensions Conference in August, I thought about how difficult it is for disabled people to access information. Before going to a venue, disabled people need to know certain details about it, for example, whether there is an alternative entrance for wheelchair users, or if guide dogs are permitted. This allows disabled people to make informed decisions about where they go.

Artsline is London's information and advice service for disabled people on arts and entertainment. Part of my work is to edit access guides to London's arts and entertainment venues. Access details include - number of steps, number of wheelchair spaces and availability of signed or audio described performances. We determine what to include by the type of questions our service users ask, and the experiences they have had at venues. However, we do not say if a venue has good or bad access - different disabled people have different requirements. Our explanations in the guides simply describe what the access is like, allowing disabled people to make their own decisions, which is really important.

My aim at the Conference was to show how a venue can make its publicity accessible to disabled people. It is not enough to simply provide information - it must be written in a way which is understandable to disabled people. Not everyone understands or receives informa-tion in the same way, for example, blind or visually impaired people.

An effective way of providing access information is by using symbols. There are 17 public information symbols specifically about access which you can buy from Letraset or the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR). However, you must give a clear and easy-to-follow explanation of what the symbols mean!

Firstly, break down the explanations into simple stages and statements, keeping each one brief and to the point. Make sure the information is in a logical order, for example, all the information symbols for wheelchair users should be placed together. Avoid jargon or technical or complicated terms.

The Royal National Institute for Blind People can give you further guidance about producing information on accessible formats, but generally, most blind people prefer to receive information on tape. Visually impaired people need other print formats. When designing an accessible format, remember to give a clear contrast between the text and the page. Text over pictures is difficult for the eye to distinguish. It is better to use very dark ink on a very pale colour page, increase text size to 16 point or above and make the typeface medium or bold.

Suzanne Bull, Attitude is Everything Project Manager

For further details on Artline's services, or for a copy of one of their access guides, telephone 020 7388 2227 (voice/minicom), email access@artsline.org.uk Web site Artsline. Contact RADAR on 020 7250 3222 and The Sign Language Bureau on 020 8292 1091. The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP) offer a directory of signers and are the examination board for the British Sign Language on 0191 374 3607. For audio transcription and information and courses on disability equality training telephone 01920 466005.

Key
The symbols used in this guide provide information on the type of access to a building for disabled people. Attached is a list of basic symbols with an explanation of their meaning. Whenever these access symbols appear, this means that our Access Officers have visited the building. However, part of this guide is a list of useful organisations which we did not visit and so there are no access symbols. If you need more detailed information about access, or the Key in another language, please contact Artsline's Cultural Diversity Project on 020 7388 2227 (voice/minicom). If you need language support, please approach your local borough interpreting services or community group.

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Animated: Issues 1996 - 2001