Accessibility and the arts is an area of increasing importance; one which we’ve addressed in the past and will return to occasionally as we look at the range and quality of facilities to accommodate disabled people at performances.
But there is another aspect to it which is demonstrated in Creative Health, the report produced following a lengthy and detailed inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPG).
The APPG was chaired jointly by Lord Howarth of Newport and Ed Vaizey MP. Their report was published in 2017 and is currently being rolled out with a series of briefings and conferences around the country.
Much of the work concerns itself with the primary care side of things, but there are many findings which relevant to people who are disabled, whether temporarily during convalescence, permanently after accident of illness, or for other reasons.
The report highlights the savings that can be achieved in health and social care by introducing the arts and culture into prevention and treatment programmes, and it also emphasises the feelgood factor. People who have opportunities to enjoy art and culture are more likely to feel better.
Even the short version of the report is very long, so we won’t go into the detail here. But the highlights include:
Music therapy reduces agitation and need for medication in 67 per cent of people with dementia.
Arts therapies help people to recover from brain injury and diminish the physical and emotional suffering of cancer patients and the side effects of their treatment.
Poor-quality built environments have a damaging effect upon health and wellbeing, and 85 per cent of people in England agree that the quality of the built environment influences the way they feel.
Anxiety, depression and stress are leading causes of disability at any age. Visual and performing arts in healthcare environments help to reduce sickness, anxiety and stress. A mental health recovery centre in Wales which was co-designed by service users is estimated to have saved the NHS £300,000.
Lord Howarth said: “People told us about the transformational effect of arts and culture with sickness and disability and what improvements it had made to their lives. We need to create a healthy and health-creating society.”
One particular point resonated with me. Elaine Burke, an arts and health consultant and project manager who has worked around the UK and internationally, made the point that it is never too early to introduce the arts and culture into a health environment. Ideally it should happen at the design stage.
It’s exactly the same with accessibility. If you design good accessibility into a building, the results will be quicker, longer-lasting and more effective.
The full APPG report can be viewed here.
A shorter version of the report can be viewed here.