ACSPRI Conferences, ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference 2016

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Evaluation design for true accessibility: Lessons from an impact evaluation of the Unlimited Commissions Programme for disabled artists

Tandi J Williams, Morwenna Collett

Building: Holme Building
Room: Holme Room
Date: 2016-07-20 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2016-07-06


Evaluations that engage with people with disability can present several challenges for evaluators and participants, requiring an understanding of and sensitivity towards disability identity and considering access in evaluation processes and outputs. These challenges are heightened in projects with limited budgets and tight timeframes. In this presentation, Australian independent evaluators Morwenna Collett and Tandi Williams reflect on their experience carrying out the 2015 impact evaluation of the UK’s Unlimited Commissions Programme for disabled artists.

Following the success of the Unlimited project at the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the Unlimited programme offered commissions to disabled artists to develop, produce and show ambitious and high quality work, with mentoring support. The associated Unlimited Impact Programme expanded the reach of Unlimited’s work by supporting young disabled people, presenting venues and festivals, and thought leadership.

Delivered in partnership with Shape and Arts Admin, with funding from Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales and Spirit of 2012, the Unlimited programme engages with disabled people from a wide range of backgrounds, physical and mental health experiences and abilities, while also aiming to shift public perceptions of disabled people more broadly. Equality of access is integral to the program’s design, delivery and impact evaluation.

The evaluators structured a team and adopted a phased methodology that would maximise inclusion of people with disability in all aspects of the work from planning, fieldwork, analysis and reporting. An Access Statement was developed to guide communication with evaluation participants and stakeholders. It incorporated accessible and flexible methods of communication during data collection and a budget for access costs such as venue hire and interpreter fees.

The methodology enabled the consultants to collect data from 135 program stakeholders, including approximately 50% who identify as disabled. The consultants worked to ensure the access requirements of a wide range of participants were met. In particular, face-to-face depth interviews were successful in building rapport with participants and delivering rich reliable data. Immersion in program-related events at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival also assisted the consultants to quickly develop a strong understanding of disability issues, access awareness and program impact areas. The phased approach allowed them to seek feedback about levels of inclusivity and make adjustments as required.

As well as analysing their methodology, the authors conclude with recommendations for inclusive and accessible evaluations, and propose a set of design principles that empower people with disability to participate fully in evaluation.

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