In The Stage this week, we explore the access problems faced by disabled actor and writer Athena Stevens, who calls for a change in venue infrastructure to improve working conditions. Twenty-nine years ago (November 28, 1991), we reported on a campaign for new legislation to achieve this. Our reporter Helen Gould wrote:
“Disability campaigners have called for a law change to oblige all new arts buildings to open up to disabled people, and for arts subsidy and sponsorship to be tied to arts access. MPs Emma Nicholson and Gwyneth Dunwoody led a Commons lobby on behalf of Access for Disabled People to Arts Premises Today and Artsline calling for new legislation to benefit disabled arts-lovers.
“Disabled people who are wheelchair-users, blind people, deaf people, people with mobility impairments and learning difficulties all have a right to the facilities that would enable them to enjoy the cultural life of our society on an equal basis with anyone else.”
Nicholson’s demands were backed by Lord Snowdon and arts minister Tim Renton. “I regard it as a basic right of all disabled people that this opportunity should be provided automatically by all institutions,” commented Renton. “Most arts venues still remain inaccessible to disabled people. Obstacles whether physical or in terms of attitude are a daily reality, and a huge amount of work needs to be done by everybody if we are to change this situation,” [he] commented.
If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive