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Accessiblity Centred

We can hardly believe it but in just one week’s time we will be installing our exhibition at Custom Lane gallery! So, now might be a good time to talk a bit about some of the features we’re trying out to make the exhibition more accessible, particularly for neurodivergent visitors.

Ear Defenders

The exhibition in in open plan building, sharing space with a busy cafe. Noise can be overstimulating, so for those who would benefit from them, we have six pairs of ear defenders to borrow

A simplified drawing of ear defenders.

Quiet Evening

Places like cafes have plenty other sensory distractions – for instance the bustle of people, movement, vibrations and smells. Plus, there are some people who just prefer to go out at quieter times of day, avoiding commuters or crowds. So for folk who prefer a quieter environment, we’re running a special Quiet Evening on Tuesday 23rd November. It’s limited to small numbers to help people not to feel overwhelmed, and you’ll be able to wander around the exhibition with the cafe closed and quiet. If you’d like to visit during the quiet hour (actually 90 minutes!), we still have tickets left – book them here, for free:

Communication Badges

Sometimes, you would like to be able to speak to someone, but maybe don’t know how to get things started, or who might welcome a chat. Other times you just want to be left alone! Communication badges make it easy to know who is up for a blether, and who isn’t, or to let people know, without hurt feelings, that you just don’t want to talk to strangers.

There are three colours of badge – Green, Yellow, and Red.

Green means that you are happy to chat with anyone

Yellow means that you would prefer just to chat with people you already know

Red means that you don’t want to be approached

We will have lanyards with coloured badges on them for you to borrow, if you would like to. Not everyone will want to use them, but for some folk, knowing they can wander round without worrying a stranger might talk to them can make a huge difference to their anxiety.

A drawing of a lanyard and badge, with green, yellow and red rectangles beneath it.

Audio Description

A lot of text can be intimidating! So, all our signage and labels will have a QR code you can scan with your phone to hear it read out

A drawing of a hand holding a smart phone, with a QR code on the screen. A speech bubble comes out of the phone, saying "AD".

Reading Aids

Having text on coloured paper can make a big difference to readability for folk who have Irlens, visual sensitivity, or dyslexia, but which colour is helpful is really personal. So rather than try to have materials printed out on every colour of paper, we’ve got coloured overlays in 11 colours for you to use with any of the printed material in the exhibition. We also have reading windows and line trackers which you’re welcome to use.

All our signage/label text is sans-serif, right-aligned, and no smaller than 14pt.

A drawing of 3 different coloured overlays, a reading window, and a line tracker.

The Chill Out Nook

Sometimes you just get a bit overwhelmed and need to have a quiet sit, away from overstimulation. So we’ve carved out a wee nook in the exhibition space, with some beanbags, cushions, and ear protectors, where you can go to calm down if you need it. No need to ask – just pop in! These signs will point the way:

A circular green sign with a little figure sitting cross-legged in the middle, wearing headphones.

Manifesto Formats

We want our message to be accessible to everyone! We are making the manifesto text available in 6 formats

We hope there will be something for everyone. If you need it in a different format, please do get in touch.

A set of 5 icons arranged in an arc. They show: a plain tet document, a figure reading a book that says "Easy Read", Braille, an ear hearing audio, and two hands signing with the label "BSL".

Wheelchair Access

Custom Lane is a wheelchair accessible venue, with a ramped entrance and accessible toilets in the cafe. The nearest Changing Places toilet is either in Wardieburn Community Centre or Edinburgh College’s Granton campus (approximately 10-15 minutes by car).

The door/aisle clearance is 120mm.

Improving access is a continuous process, as we learn more and get more experience. If you have any feedback about access at the show, we would love to hear it! Please send us an email at and we’ll get back to you.

Hope to see you from Saturday 20th!

About Neuk Collective

Neuk Collective is a new collective of neurodivergent artists, formed as part of a project funded as part of Creative Scotland’s Create:Inclusion funding stream. Over the next year, we will be working on a manifesto outlining our vision for the inclusion of neurodivergent artists within the Scottish arts scene, culminating in a group exhibition in 2021. As part of this process we are reaching out to other neurodivergent artists to hear about the barriers they face and what their priorities for change are. For those who are interested in the project and would like to get involved, we have three ways to get involved:

We welcome input from all neurodivergent artists but particularly invite input from artists from marginalised or underrepresented groups.

Why a neurodivergent artists collective and manifesto?

The contemporary art world is in many ways inherently hostile towards people with social disabilities, and there appears to be little understanding of the problem, let alone the will to change. Neurodivergent artists are frequently shut out by the system of networking for exposure. Issues with executive functioning and cognitive load can make dealing with funding bodies and applications overwhelming. Neurotypical gatekeepers often insist on work that fits with their ideas of what autism is or should be, as something tragic and pitiable. But when artists do create work around our difficulties, it can keep us siloed in a separate “disability” or “outsider” arts track, devalued and tokenised.

We are more likely than the general population to be unemployed and to experience poverty. We can’t afford to “work for exposure”, and our slow, considered artistic process doesn’t fit with the pressures of the commercial art world. The system simply isn’t built for us. And as budgets are squeezed and priorities shift in a post-Covid-19 world, these issues look set to get worse.

On top of this, neurodivergent artists often face these issues alone, without support structures or bodies to advocate for them. If we are to create alternatives to the current exclusionary model, neurodivergent people need to organise. The current state of dislocation and uncertainty presents challenges but it also an opportunity to remake the system – to imagine and demand a better one.

This project uses an artists’ collective as a starting point to highlight and challenge the exclusion of neurodivergent artists through the development of a manifesto for neurodiversity in the visual arts. We will then stage an exhibition that showcases the work of neurodivergent artists, and challenges public perceptions of neurodivergent people more generally.  

My hope is that long-term, the collective will be a starting point for a broader network of neurodivergent artists, a peer group that can support one another, advocate for our place in the arts, and help create opportunities and forge alternative career paths outside the mainstream.

– Tzipporah Johnston, visual artist and project originator

Neurodivergent Artists – What’s holding us back?

Last year Neuk Collective conducted two surveys investigating the experiences of neurodivergent artists in Scotland. We wanted to find out what ND people felt the barriers to them working in the arts are, and what ND people felt would help them to overcome those barriers. We’d like to take this opportunity say a massive thank you to the 50 people who shared their experiences with us across our two surveys, and the 10 people who came to one of our discussion events.

Today we’re publishing our report on the findings of the research. This blog post is a very brief summary that necessarily leaves a lot out, but you can access the full report, a shorter summary, and an Easy Read summary below and on the Resources page of our website. We also have audio versions of the two summaries.

Key Findings

Neurodivergent artists face a lot of additional barriers to working in the arts. Financial insecurity (specifically as a result of their neurodivergence), challenges in social settings, and, in particular, difficulties with the administrative tasks associated with a career in the arts (e.g. disproportionate time required to complete tasks such as applications, emails, or research) were considered the most important barriers. However artists also reported that difficulties accessing fundingnegative attitudescommunication gaps and barriers, lack of access to peer support, lack of access to quiet spaces/rest breaks, and unfeasible workloads/pace of work all also represented significant barriers.

The survey also showed that neurodivergent artists believe there are concrete, short- to medium-term improvements that would make the arts more accessible for neurodivergent people. All the possibilities suggested in the survey received high levels of support, but those considered most important were: assistance with administrative tasks (e.g. advice and support with writing applications), providing access to quiet spaces and rest breaks, and tailored mentoring schemes, opportunities and funding streams for ND artists. Longer-term, artists also favoured incentivising accessibility through attaching conditions to organisational funding. There was also strong support for setting up a professional network for ND artists that would enable supportive community-building.

A couple of issues were also brought up spontaneously in the free text section of the surveys:

–       People expressed a lot of anxiety about selling work, or receiving funding to make work while on disability benefits and there was strong support for lobbying on this issue.

–       Some artists reported frustration that ‘disability art’ is siloed and treated with less respect than mainstream art, and were uncomfortable being classed as disabled artists.  

What’s Next?

We’re currently writing a manifesto outlining our vision for the inclusion of neurodivergent people in the arts, due out in autumn 2021, and our research will feed into this. Longer term, we hope that understanding other ND artists’ priorities and experiences will help us to advocate for ND artists and produce resources to benefit the neurodivergent creative community and the organisations that want to work with us.

Download the reports Here

Survey Update

Firstly we would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who took part in our survey and discussion events. We really appreciate people taking the time to talk to us about their experiences and priorities for change.

We are still fully analysing the data but wanted to give people a look at some preliminary results of the two surveys – the long, in-depth survey and the Easy-Read survey.

The In-Depth Survey 

An amazing 43 people responded to our in-depth survey on the barriers ND artists face, and the changes they want to see. It was great to see so many people interested in the project! We still need to do more analysis of the monitoring section, but early results show a diverse group of artists responding. 

The first section of the survey asked people to consider potential issues and rate how much of a barrier these were to them working in the arts. Most of the issues listed scored fairly highly but the three issues consistently rated as significant barriers were financial insecurity (specifically related to your neurodivergence), challenges in social settings, and difficulties with administrative tasks.

A bar graph showing the % of people who answered important/very important to each survey question about barriers. The highest numbers are for financial insecurity, challenges in social settings, and unfeasible workloads/pace of work.
Graph showing the percentage of survey participants who considered each issue to be a significant/very significant barrier to them working in the arts.

Participants also had the option to write in and tell us about issues they felt we missed off the survey, and a number of people raised the issue of disability benefits. In particular, artists reported feeling caught in “benefits traps” where disabilities, health conditions, or issues related to their neurodivergence made it impossible to earn a living, thus qualifying them for disability benefits, but receipt of those benefits then meant they were unable to sell work or pursue even a small side business: 

“Money [is the] biggest issue. U get trapped. I’m too sick to work, I can’t earn enough in the hours I can manage to pay my bills, so I get ESA. But then u get stuck not able to do anything, I worry if I sell a painting I’ll lose my benefits. But I couldn’t make a living selling paintings or even working part time. So I get stuck in between, can’t advance my career but I don’t just want to sit about. But even the £20 a week allowance is no good cos they use it as an excuse to take ur benefits away saying ur clearly able to work if you can do 2 hrs a week […]”
– Survey respondent

Another issue that artists brought up was frustration about being marginalised as “disability” or “outsider” artists, and the sense that by making art about their personal experiences they would be taken less seriously, or feeling that they were only allowed to make work about their neurodivergence or disability:

Not having to “commodify our cripness”. What I mean by this is that there is often an attitude in the art world that if your work is not about your disability, of if your disability does not have some kind of marketable value, then your needs are not taken seriously.

– Survey respondent

People only want to see art about my illness but when I make art about it, I get put in a separate box as an “outsider artist”

– Survey respondent

The second section asked participants about what changes or improvements would make it easier for them to work in the arts. The results of this were very tight – pretty much all the potential solutions we listed were scored as Important/Very Important by most participants. But the five highest (scoring over 90%) were 

Administrative assistance/advice and support with writing applications (90.7%)

– Access to quiet spaces and rest breaks (93%)

Tailored mentoring schemes that support neurodivergent artists (90.7%)

Tailored opportunities and funding streams that specifically support neurodivergent artists (90.7%)

– Establishment of a professional network for neurodivergent artists to meet, collaborate and self-advocate (93%)

– Lobbying for financial support or policy changes to enable disabled artists to create work without fear of losing their benefits (97.7%)

A bar graph showing the % of people who answered important/very important to each survey question about ideasthat might improve things for ND artists.
Graph showing the percentage of survey participants who considered each potential solution to be important/very important to them.

The Easy Read Survey 

In addition to the longer in-depth survey, we also had an easy read version foor people who prefer less text. This followed the same structure as the in-depth survey, except that it didn’t have a monitoring section. This was because we felt that monitoring questions would be more for our benefit than the artist respondents’, and they could add a layer of difficulty and inaccessibility. Seven people completed the easy read survey, and the results were broadly in line with those of the in-depth survey. 

What are we doing with the results?
I think it’s important to note that the surveys will help inform our manifesto, but they won’t dictate it. It’s not a matter of excluding any issue that scored ‘low’, or only picking the ‘top’ five issues to focus on. It’s really helpful to get a sense of the wider community’s priorities but issues that affect smaller groups within the community are still important. For instance, the survey found that the majority of respondents didn’t find it difficult to access formal education, but for the 30% who do, that could be a major barrier with a significant effect on their life chances. We also had the opportunity to hear in greater depth and nuance about some of these issues at our two discussion events, and the final manifesto will reflect those discussions too. 

The surveys are also giving us a broader, more holistic understanding of the community in terms of age, ethnicity, geography, and co-occurring disabilities. For instance, 40 out of 43 participants (93%!) had at least one disability or long-term health condition in addition to their neurodivergence – something that institutions will also need to understand when working with us. The monitoring section has also helped us see if we have been successful in reaching out to marginalised parts of the ND community and ensuring those voices are reflected in the final manifesto. 

What about the discussion events?
We held two discussion events in November and December 2020. These aren’t the kind of events that produce tables or graphs, but they were very helpful as they have added a layer of nuance, allowing us to hear about people’s experiences in greater detail and drill down into why people felt things, and we want to thank everyone who was involved for sharing your time and experience with us. 

One of the more interesting findings from the events was that although in many areas survey and discussion participants agreed, in a couple of areas they notably diverged. For instance, the survey results have quite heavily favoured tailored opportunities for neurodivergent people, whereas participants in the discussion groups were much more ambivalent about whether these were a good thing. Having the time and space to talk about why this might be has really improved our understanding of the broader issues that hold neurodivergent people back.

What next?
As I said at the beginning, it’s still very early days – there’s still lots of data analysis to be done! But I wanted to give people a sense of where we’re going with it and what all this research has revealed. We’ll share more information over the coming weeks and months and of course keep you posted once the manifesto is a bit further along.