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Tallinn supports the creation of cultural events for people with disabilities

Tallinn supports the creation of cultural events for people with disabilities

Until March 8, 2024, applications for funding professional cultural projects designed for people with disabilities can be submitted to the Tallinn Culture and Sports Department. The grant supports the creation of new events that consider the specific needs of people with disabilities and are artistically compelling. The city also organized an inspiration day to gather ideas and information.

According to Deputy Mayor Kaarel Oja, this is the first funding measure in Estonia targeted at groups for whom simply improving accessibility is not sufficient. "There have been unacceptably few cultural events created for people with disabilities, and we aim to improve this step by step," says Oja. "The goal of the new funding measure is to enrich the city's cultural calendar with professional events designed from the outset with a particular group of people with disabilities in mind. Besides, our aim is to expand understanding of disabilities and increase awareness that basic efforts, such as installing lifts or ramps, are just the first steps towards creating accessibility."

Deputy Mayor Betina Beškina also notes that physical aids may not be enough for, for example, concert-goers with visual or hearing impairments to access the experience. "At a recent Eesti Laul concert, a young sign language interpreter made such a spirited effort that it provided a bonus experience even for the general audience. However, for the hearing-impaired viewer, his work was essential to access the message of the songs. There are many more methods and opportunities to treat people with disabilities more equally in the context of culture, and this is what we want to support," Beškina explained.

Jari Pärgma, a board member of the Estonian Sign Language Society, a junior researcher at Tallinn University, and a member of the Estonian sign language research group, emphasizes that accessibility should be considered more broadly than making existing events accessible. "Adding sign language interpretation to events is great. But it's like a desk lamp that helps illuminate a specific event. We need more. It's not enough for someone to make choices for us about which events to access through interpretation. Deaf people, like everyone else, want the opportunity to access events that speak to them," Pärgma says, adding that the field must be addressed as a whole.

Given that the mentioned funding measure is new and so is the perspective on understanding accessibility, the city organized an information and inspiration day for cultural organizers on February 21.

The discussion panel of the information day was led by director and festival Erisuste Erinevused (Differences in Abilities) and the blind's theatre Terateater manager Jaanika Juhanson, who is convinced that culture is what binds us together as a nation. "But as long as it does not include everyone, as long as it is not accessible and available to all, it is not truly the culture of a country and its people. We are so few that it is an extreme waste if we do not open participation in cultural events to everyone. Similarly, it narrows our cultural richness if we do not allow all of us to contribute to culture on equal terms," Juhanson said.

Experiences in organizing accessible events were shared at the information and inspiration day by Edmar Tuul (conductor, one of the organizers of the unity concert "Mina olen olemas /I Exist"), Tuuli Potik and Eve Mutso (creators of the Estonia education project "Tajuleebe tantsulugu/Tactile Dance Story"), and Lee Saarsen (Tartu 2024 accessibility specialist). A discussion panel also took place, where the audience's viewpoint was opened by Artur Räpp, Jari Pärgma, and Heidi Kask. It emerged that often making events accessible to people with disabilities does not require as much financial resource as a willingness and knowledge – which was exactly the focus of the information day.

"Listening to the panelists from communities of people with disabilities, it's increasingly clear to me that an accessible, inclusive, and equitable cultural creation and experience is a vitally important right and need for all of us, not just some distant, separate populace, a small group of activists and advocates," commented Jaanika Juhanson.

The new funding measure is aimed at creating cultural events for audiences with disabilities, whose participation in society on equal terms with others is hindered by their disabilities. The city supports professionally conducted projects that are developed with a specific target group in mind and in consultation with a representative of that group or experts in the field. Consultation concerns the needs and possibilities of the target group but may also extend to choices of form and theme. Grants of up to €20,000 per project are available.


Photos from the information and inspiration day (photographer: Aleksandr Guzhov)