Access riders, you may have heard of them, but what on earth are they? How do you make one, and how do you use it? Find out in the latest helpful addition to our Resources page.
An access rider is a working document that anyone who identifies as disabled or neurodivergent might find beneficial in setting out their access requirements and what they need to make their best work. The idea of using access riders comes from the social model of disability, which holds that disabled people are disabled by society, not by their disability.
There is no one correct way to write an access rider, and they can be of different lengths. Don’t worry about adhering to a certain form, or being overly formal – the important thing is to be clear about what you need. Some people prefer to include details about what their disability is but this is by no means essential and disabled artists should never be required to give their medical information if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. You can create your own access rider from scratch, and there are also various templates available online which can be modified to suit your needs.
Examples of things that might go on an access rider:
Wheelchair access (ensuring the rehearsal room is accessible to a wheelchair user, that there are no steps or curbs, that any lifts are in good working order, and that there are wheelchair-accessible toilets which are in good working order and available).
A BSL interpreter.
Any written material to be available in large print.
Regular breaks or shorter working days if fatigue is an issue.
No fluorescent lights in the rehearsal room.
A break room to rest in during breaks.
Your preferred method of communication (all information must be given in writing as well as verbally, for example).
Some of these are more obvious than others. It’s obvious that a wheelchair user needs wheelchair access and a deaf BSL user needs a BSL interpreter (obvious, yet unfortunately still sometimes overlooked) but other accommodations such as shorter days or rest breaks for fatigue can equally be access needs. An access rider exists to document what you need to be able to be your best self and do your best work; if you are capable of struggling though a long day but it would cause you fatigue and brain fog and thus hinder your ability to work to the best of your ability, it’s completely okay to ask for accommodations.
Your access needs might fluctuate. Someone whose disability is a chronic illness, for example, might experience significant fluctuations in their illness and their ability to work. People with fluctuating conditions might have a range of potential access issues, things that may or may not come up during rehearsals. It’s completely up to you what you want to include and how detailed you want to be (or not!) in explaining this.
Disability Arts Online offers the following tips (as well as an excellent background in disability justice and the need for disability activism to be intersectional):
- Have someone else you trust to talk through and write this with you. This could be a professional or a friend/family member.
- Take some time (and breaths) to think through a day where most things have gone or felt wrong in terms of access while at work – e.g. pain levels, negligence, conversations that were challenging or felt excluding. Think carefully through what was debilitating and what communications and practical procedures would have helped if they had been put in place and available. This can be a challenge – hence having a companion to write this with you or for you.
- If helpful, anchor in your lived experience and value. It is your right to have accessible work in a safer space.
You can also download a free access rider template from their site:
So, what do you do with an access rider when you have it? The purpose of the rider can potentially be shared with employers, clients, theatres, organisations, directors, creative collaborators, or anyone who you are making work with, so they have a better understanding of how to create the best working environment.
An access rider isn’t a set of demands, but a starting point to have a conversation as to how best organisations can support your needs. Some disabled artists find it helpful to divide their access riders into two categories “Essential Access Requirements” (things that are non-negotiable) and “Things I Need To Make My Best Work” (areas where there is space to have a conversation).
Other helpful resources on access riders:
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