Arts and disability


The Arts Council uses the term ‘arts and disability’ to cover how people with disabilities participate in the arts and how the mainstream arts sector gives consideration to people with disabilities in all aspects of its work.   The term encompasses a range of arts practices and activities involving people with disabilities as artists, participants, arts workers, and audience members.  It embraces a wide range of contexts including disability arts, Deaf arts, disability-led practice, collaborative practice, access services, and advocacy.
In 2012, the Arts Council published an updated policy and five year strategy Arts and Disability (2012 - 2016).  It was developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and it is envisaged that the Arts Council will work in partnership with the sector in its implementation.

The new policy is built on six key values including:

  • Equality - a commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities can engage fully in the artistic and cultural life of Ireland at all levels in line with Article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • The Social Model of Disability - a recognition that access must be considered at the earliest planning stages so that barriers to participation are not created or further perpetuated.
  • Complexity and diversity of people and practices - an understanding that the sector is made up of artists, participants and audiences of all ages with physical, sensory, intellectual and mental health impairments as well as a wide range of people working professionally and voluntarily in the arts and disability sectors.  The Arts Council is committed to the provision of support for an evolving range of artistically ambitious practices.
  • An Holistic approach - a commitment to the mainstreaming of access and participation in parallel with the provision of strategic targeted supports and a process of capacity building.
  • Inclusion - a commitment to Arts and Disability as part of the larger commitment to social inclusion.
Back to top >>
Financial support

There are a number of key agencies, funded by us, who have a central role in supporting these areas of work including: Arts and Disability Ireland and Kilkenny Collective for Arts Talent. Other funded organisations such as venues, local authority arts officers, festivals, and production companies have an important role in improving access through programming arts and disability work and targeting people with disabilities as artists, participants and audiences. 

The Arts Council offers a wide range of financial supports across artforms and arts practices, including Arts and Disability. Those supports, direct and indirect, that are available are described in detail in financial support.  They include bursaries, projects, and travel and training awards as well as specific schemes such as the Arts and disability awards scheme, which is managed externally by ADF and co-funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  The scheme offers bursaries for artists with disabilities on a 32-county basis.  In addition, the Artist in the community scheme, offers opportunities for artists and groups to work alongside each other in the making of collaborative art.  It is externally managed by Create.

Back to top >>
Arts and disability networking

Arts and Disability Networking (ADN) is an innovative capacity building model in the area of Arts and Disability, which was initiated by the Arts Council in 2008. It is built on partnership and aims to increase access and opportunities for artists and audiences with disabilities at local level. It was first piloted with Arts and Disability Ireland (ADI) and Mayo County Council Arts Office in 2009/2010. Since then, it has been rolled out in partnership with the local authorities in Galway City and County in 2011 and in Cork City in 2012. ADN takes account of the specificity of local needs and resources and is built on four key elements:

  1. The delivery of Disability Equality Training to venues and individual artists.
  2. The provision of support to venues and individual artists in developing access audits and extending the scope of arts and disability practices in the county.
  3. The presentation of high quality, professional, contemporary arts and disability work in a local venue (or venues).
  4.  The generation and dissemination of resources relating to good practice.

Following the successful completion of the ADN Cork programme at the end of 2012, all of the national and local partners came together and agreed to work together to:

  • Explore and develop joint commissioning and touring opportunities for artistically ambitious Arts and Disability work.
  • Adapt the ADN model into an annual or biennial scheme that would assist in building Arts and Disability capacity at local level around the country.
Back to top >>
Arts and disability resource pack

The arts and disability resource pack - Shift in Perspective (PDF, 1.43 MB) - is the result of a partnership between the Arts Council, Arts & Disability Ireland (ADI), Mayo County Council, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) and South Tipperary County Council. It grew out of the partner organisations’ work to develop innovative approaches in high quality contemporary arts and disability practice, and to make arts venues more accessible to artists and audiences with disabilities.

The material is based on three specific initiatives: the Arts and Disability Networking Pilot, the Altered Images exhibition, and an audio description and captioning programme for theatre. The resource pack aims to capture the learning from these initiatives and share its practical application with artists and all who work in professional and community-based venues, galleries, theatres and related arts organisations.

Back to top >>
Mary Nugent and James O'Shea
arrow bullet icon

Mary Nugent and James O’Shea from Croi Glan, 2012

Find funding tool