A new report has found disable musicians are "absent" in music education.
The Reshape Music study by Youth Music found these artists are missing out on music-making opportunities due to a lack of understanding about the additional support a disabled musician may need, knowledge about where to source adapted instruments and how to access financial support.
Conducted with the Take It Away Consortium, a group of leading music charities, the report is the first-ever national survey of disabled people’s experiences of music education and music-making.
“While there has been some progress, particularly over the last five years, Reshape Music illustrates in very stark terms that the views, lived experience and expertise of Disabled people are still absent in the planning and delivery of music education and music-making," said Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music.
"As a result, policies, programmes and infrastructure are often developed in a way that excludes their involvement and participation. This is discriminatory and particularly alarming knowing that there are 13.3 million Disabled people in the UK equating to 21% of the total population. COVID-19 has brought these inequalities into sharp focus with Disabled people being disproportionately affected, facing further barriers to accessing services and being at higher risk of contracting the virus."
According to the report, a majority (52%) of disabled people surveyed have not been able to find a teacher who meets their learning needs, while only a quarter knew how to find adapted musical instruments.
Despite this 80% of disabled people surveyed find music-making a positive experience, although only 61% know how to find the available financial support to make it possible.
The views, lived experience and expertise of Disabled people are still absent
Matt Griffiths, Youth Music
“Music has always been my way of expressing myself, it gives me a sense of purpose. Just because a musician is disabled or needs specialist equipment or adaptations or even support, shouldn’t stop them from having the chance to make music," suggested Jess Fisher, disabled musician and Reshape Music co-researcher.
"Disabled people often feel overlooked and excluded, but music-making can make you feel connected to others and part of something bigger. Especially throughout the pandemic, it has been a lifeline for so many people. I hope by sharing my experiences it inspires others and helps music educators and the industry to understand how to make music-making more inclusive.”
Recommendations made by Reshape Music include an action plan to increase the representation of disabled people within music education, spaces – including venues, education spaces and retail outlets – that are fully accessible for disabled musicians, performers and audience members and a call for music education and industry organisations to work closely with disabled musicians to better understand the barriers they face.
"Disabled musicians are often forced into choosing an instrument because it works for them, not necessarily because it is what they want to play," explained John Ramm, a blind drummer and Reshape Music co-researcher.
"I’ve always loved music and since discovering the drums at fifteen I couldn’t imagine my life without it. As someone who has always been blind, music helps me to understand the visual concept of beauty. I hope this research helps to bring more awareness of the barriers disabled people face. For me, recording music can be difficult, and although it’s possible, it takes much more effort which puts people like me at a disadvantage. I hope by highlighting some of the different problems we face it makes things better in the long run. Even a small change could make a massive difference for someone with a disability.”
The full Reshape Music survey can be downloaded at www.youthmusic.org.uk/reshape-music.