Personal Assistants / Access Workers

What do Personal Assistants (PAs) or Access Workers do?

They are employed by an arts organisation to focus on access issues at an event where disabled people are attending or participating.

PAs may be expected to carry out tasks such as:

  • Act in a supporting or facilitating role at participatory events
  • Give a disabled person essential information in a way they can understand
  • Shift chairs and tables to organise better space
  • Fetch materials / refreshments
  • Help people reach drinks / meals
  • Organise transport
  • Make phone calls
  • Line-feed for blind and visually impaired actors
  • Read written materials aloud
  • Scribe or take notes
  • Guide a blind or visually impaired person
  • Help wheelchair users manoeuver

Tasks that Personal Assistants / Access Workers should not be expected to do

  • Provide personal care to an individual
  • Provide medication or other medical care
  • Lifting people

What makes a good Personal Assistant / Access Worker?

  • Worked with disabled people before in some capacity
  • Good communication skills
  • Good listening skills
  • Quick responses
  • Uses initiative
  • Practical
  • Understanding that facilitation is an enabling role

How many PAs / Access Workers will you need?

It depends upon the type of event and numbers of disabled people expected to attend.

EXAMPLE: For a writing workshop with ten disabled people attending, one or two Access Workers should be sufficient.If any participants need specific assistance such a scribe or note taker throughout the session, more might be needed.

Disability Arts Cymru can advise further.

Finding a PA / Access Worker

There is as yet no recognised training for access workers in the arts.

Ask for recommendations from disability arts organisations or other arts organisations who have employed access workers for events before.

Action points

  • If you have never worked with PAs / Access Workers before, you are advised to consult first with a Disabled people’s organisation or with Disability Arts Cymru
  • Include budget for Access Workers in grant applications

When you have found and booked the Access Workers:

Send full information about the event. Include:

  • outline of the individual’s responsibilities
  • running order or agenda
  • timetable with get-in and get-out times
  • directions and parking
  • contact details of key staff
  • On lists of attendees, Access Workers should be listed separately, and not included in the list of participants

Practicalities at the event

  • PA / access workers should wear a T-shirt or something to identify them. Disability Arts Cymru PAs wear navy T shirts with big yellow lettering. At one Disability Arts event, all the PAs were wearing flowery garlands! At a small event this may not be necessary but at least introduce PAs to people at the start of the event.
  • Delegate a key person to be responsible for liaising with Access Workers during the event
  • Before event starts, show Access Workers round so that they know where to find everything
  • Refreshments: Include Access Workers when calculating meals and refreshments for company and crew

For further information contact:

Disability Arts Cymru: Tel / Minicom 029 2055 1040, email: post@dacymru.com

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