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How to make your workshops more accessible – advice for creative tutors

Posted in Information for course providers/tutors.

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Is your workshop or studio accessible to all? How can you be more inclusive to students with additional needs? We know from our community that many people will use the wheelchair accessible search filter when browsing - but what about requirements that may not be so visible?

As a creative tutor, you no doubt want your workshops to be as inclusive as possible and welcome all interested students, including those with additional needs, physical challenges or hidden disabilities. This requires preparation and forethought, and sometimes a few practical changes to your workshop setup can make all the difference. We reached out to the CraftCourses community for advice on how to make your studio or workshop a welcoming, safe and accessible environment for all learners... and got some fantastic advice and tips back!

Presume competence and keep an open mind

Tutors generally wish to keep the door open to students with a range of abilities and welcoming someone with different or additional needs can be extremely rewarding for all involved. If you have concerns about the safety or feasibility of the tasks involved, then respectfully share them, just remember to “Ask about their needs, not their disability”.

 

If the person has asked to attend your workshop (or a family member or carer has on their behalf), then they believe themselves to be capable. Trust their judgement and discuss together what adaptations may be necessary.

"My hearing has never stopped me doing anything…I have piloted planes, abseiled off cliffs… course members are to some extent self-selective. A person will apply to do something that they know they are able to do. It is very unlikely that they will want to put themselves and other members of the group in danger or cause embarrassment." Prof M. Parsons, who has a hearing impairment.

Think ahead and be prepared

If your workshop isn't yet accessible for wheelchairs, are there any alternative spaces or venues you could use to run the workshop when necessary?  Could your course content and materials be adapted for someone with additional physical, sensory or cognitive challenges - such as more lightweight tools, ear defenders or additional handouts? How could you make your craft accessible to someone with a visual or hearing impairment? What supports might smooth communication with someone who doesn't use speech, such as pictures or symbols? Thinking it through in advance will help you respond quickly and appropriately when you are approached. 

 

In practise, it's difficult to prepare for all eventualities and you may feel concerned about safety considerations for a student who has additional needs that you aren't familiar with. Think through how you can make changes to accommodate their needs, but if in doubt, discuss it with them in advance and be open about your concerns. After all, your student knows far more about their capabilities than you as the tutor ever will.

"I recently taught a profoundly deaf student... I offered a one to one workshop so I could teach at a pace that suited her. It meant that she could lip read easily and she felt comfortable to ask any questions... It was hugely rewarding." Becci Harvey-Browne

 

Remember hidden disabilities

80% of disabilities are invisible so bear this in mind when planning the course structure. Your students might be managing chronic pain or fatigue, mental health issues or have learning requirements, such as dyslexia, that affect how they access the information you present.

 

“Slopes and ramps don't help someone whose afraid of walking into a room of strangers, or somebody who can only walk 50 yds if your workshop is 200yds from the car parking area. Making someone 'show and tell' or introduce themselves to the class can be difficult.”

Include details of accessibility in your course description to let people know in advance what they can expect. Does your course require long periods of standing? Do you need a lot of hand strength? Are parts of your workshop accessible, but others not (and are there ways you could overcome this, with advance planning)? Encourage students to provide feedback on any issues they have and how you can best accommodate their needs in advance.

 

On the day of the course, put everyone at ease and invite them to let you know if there is anything you can do to make them more comfortable. Creating a welcoming atmosphere where people can feel comfortable, without judgement, is key.

We hope you have found this useful... what other advice you would like to share as a tutor or, as an individual with additional needs, what other issues do you wish more tutors would take into consideration?

And is there any information that we, CraftCourses, should include or make clear in our course page listings or search filters?  Thanks in advance for your feedback.