In 2023, Acesso Cultura celebrates its 10th anniversary. Ten years of “action, attitude and a light”, as someone who participated in our courses once told us.
The mission of Acesso Cultura is to promote access – physical, social, intellectual – to cultural participation. We work trying to contribute towards a curious and inclusive society, in which everyone can dream, have opportunities to participate and be the best they can.
Over these 10 years, access and inclusion have become a natural part of the discourse of professionals in the cultural sector. Hundreds of professionals have participated in training courses, conferences and public debates organised by Acesso Cultura. Thus, we managed to create a considerable ‘critical mass’, which questions intentions and practices, increasingly aware of the need to know and defend everyone’s cultural rights.
Still, in many ways, the gap between theory and practice remains wide. While we celebrate the small steps taken to improve access conditions, we are all too aware of all that remains to be done. We need to reflect and debate, but we also need to act. While we do not act, people’s opportunities to participate become conditioned. A country that aims to have a democracy of quality and that understands the importance of knowing how to care, of happiness and well-being in the construction of this democracy, cannot afford to exclude.
Since 2013 and through multiple consultancies, studies and publications, Acesso Cultura has sought to collaborate and help the Portuguese cultural sector to identify and eliminate:
Physical barriers: Natural or artificial (structural) obstacles that prevent people with disabilities from approaching furniture or urban equipment, transferring or circulating in a space.
Intellectual barriers: Barriers that prevent or hinder the cultural participation of people who: have low literacy; do not have specialised technical and/or scientific knowledge; have sensory impairments or disabilities – for example, visually impaired people, D/deaf people, people with intellectual disabilities, neurodivergent people; people whose first language is not Portuguese; among others.
Social barriers: social situations that may constitute a reason for difficulty in accessing cultural participation, for example: level of education, illiteracy, unemployment, ethnic/racial origin, disability, social isolation, lack of cultural offer in the area where a person lives, geographical isolation , low income, serving prison term; among others.
Some of the most important projects in these 10 years were:
- The creation of the Network of Theatres with Accessible Programming (2021), with the support of BPI/Fundação La Caixa;
- The publication of the manual “The cultural participation of people with disabilities: how to create an accessibility plan” (2020), commissioned by the Lisbon City Council / Polo Cultural Gaivotas|Boavista;
- The creation and management of the website Cultura Acessível (2018), with the support of the Millennium BCP Foundation;
- The organisation of the meetings “Beyond the physical: barriers to cultural participation” (2017) in every region of Portugal, with the support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation;
- The training course for audio-describers (2022), with the support of the Regional Directorates of Culture of the North, Algarve and Maderia; the City Councils of Funchal and Porto; and El Corte Inglés;
- The publication of the manual “The inclusion of migrants and refugees – The role of cultural organisations” (2016);
- The introduction of relaxed sessions in Portugal (2016): tsessions of theater, dance, cinema or other cultural events that take place in a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere, where rules regarding movement and noise in the room are more relaxed. They can also involve small adjustments to the performance (lighting, sound, etc.) and in welcoming the members, to better suit their needs.
It is also important to mention the attribution, since 2014, of the Access Culture Awards, which aim to give greater visibility to professionals and entities that stand out for the development of exemplary policies and good practices in promoting the improvement of access conditions – namely physical, social and intellectual – to cultural participation in Portugal.
In 10 years, many things have changed, others not so much. The slowness of change can sometimes become frustrating and demotivating. However, we know that we are not alone and that this “family” – which involves colleagues, cultural organisations, public and private partners – is growing every day, as is its determination.
“I realised that, sometimes, it’s in the little things that we break the greatest barriers”, a person wrote to us after a training course. This kind of feedback, coming from colleagues, allows us to remain focused and continue to work and evolve. We remain very committed and curious, open and sincere. What moves us is being able to see that anyone in this country, regardless of where they come from and where they live, can be the best they can.