Widening Engagement

Richie Turner and Associates has written up a research report looking at the reasons why D/deaf, disabled, learning disabled and neurodiverse people do not attend arts events or visit National Museums’ Wales or attend very infrequently. The report presents several recommendations to any organization, venue or space to properly engage with people in an inclusive and respectful way and we recommend that you take a look at it. Cooked Illustrations was invited to help in communicating several of the real life stories gathered by Richie Turner and Associates in a way that would be more engaging to those very people they were talking to, and much more impactful and real to those in positions of power. We all know that reports can be very distant, clinical documents - their document and numbers-driven approaches often make it hard to really imagine, let alone understand, how certain lived experiences. We worked closely with Richie Turner and Associates to ensure that the stories we were telling were respectful, kind and used a variety of narrative techniques to make the situations more relatable. Our task was to build empathy without portraying the characters in a way that was either condescending or reductive. The main audiences for the report were twofold. One the very participants of the research, people with one or multiple disabilities who we wanted to see themselves portrayed in the illustrations. It was agreed that if the participants did not recognize themselves, or understood the comics, or even felt in any way negative that we would have failed. The secondary audience was, of course, the commissioners of the report (National Museum Wales and the Arts Council of Wales) and heads of organizations who would be reading, responding and implementing the report. Here it was agreed that the illustrations should serve to make the report more memorable, shareable, and perhaps become a little indictment about current practices. The result of this project is four comics. Three telling real life stories, and one imagining what a perfectly accessible arts experience and event would be. The Cooked Illustrations team was privileged in collaborating with Richie Turner and Associates in this important piece of work, and we hope that this helps show how illustration and visual storytelling can help humanize data, improve empathy with the subject matter, and make reading through important reports a little more engaging.

If you want to see more on this project check out the page on our website! https://www.cookedillustrations.com/blogposts/widening-engagement