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The wheelchair is invisible

On 11 April, Linda Yates, Margaret Smith and Heather Strohschein presented The wheelchair is invisible – a conversation about accessibility and inclusivity in the time of Covid  at MACSEM 2021, a conference organised by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter for the Society for Ethnomusicology.

  • Margaret – a community musician who facilitates Good Vibrations’ Resonate project, which provides inclusive musical workshops
  • Linda – an amateur musician, participant advisor for Good Vibrations and representative of people with additional support needs
  • Heather – an ethnomusicologist whose works centres on gamelan outside of Indonesia, and community music-making

The video paper explored inclusivity, consent, ethnomusicology, academic language and accessibility. It was crafted from hours of conversations between Scotland and the USA. In it, Linda defined an inclusive session as one where, “All of it involves everybody. Nobody says, ‘You’re disabled, you can’t play that’. You learn at your own pace. Each person has got a different level of ability and they learn in their own time.” And, Heather, said the pandemic enabled her to do things she would never have been able to do before, like go to Resonate sessions (online) – “I can’t pop down to Resonate in Glasgow from Bowling Green, Ohio, usually!”

The approach they took and the resulting film was notably different, at an academic ethnomusicology conference. Katherine Metz, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Oberlin College, who was chairing the panel, was visibly moved. Delegates were “In awe of the presentation”. They “Loved this approach in that it’s focused on how it feels to engage with this process”. They remarked, “We so often lose the laughter in the translation to the academic realm”, and felt that “This presentation and format speaks to so many issues”.

Linda, Margaret and Heather want their conversation about accessibility and inclusivity to become a conversation with you. They invite you to watch it, share it and use it to start a conversation. Please feedback your thoughts by emailing Heather on  hastrohs@hawaii.edu or Mags on mags@good-vibrations.org.uk.

Date: 25 June, 2021

Author: Katy Haigh, Executive Director, Good Vibrations