Rhinegold Photo credit: Youth Music
'Disabled people often feel overlooked and excluded': Jessica Fisher

Harriet Clifford

Disabled students are missing out on music, new report finds

5:10, 14th October 2020

New research from Youth Music has found that disabled musicians are absent from music education and miss out on music-making opportunities, with 52 per cent unable to find a teacher who meets their learning needs. 

In light of this research, Youth Music has today published Reshape Music, a report setting out the significant barriers faced by disabled musicians to access music education and music-making. 

The report has been developed with a group of leading music charities, the ‘Take it away Consortium’, and includes the first ever national survey into disabled people’s experiences of music education. 

Views were gathered from hundreds of music makers, music educators and music retailers and the research team conducting the study included eight co-researchers who are all disabled musicians.

Key findings of the Reshape Music report include: 

  • 52% of disabled people surveyed have not been able to find a teacher who meets their learning needs and understand what additional support they require
  • 25% know how and where to source an adapted musical instrument
  • 80% find music-making a positive experience, but only 61% know how and where to access financial support to make it viable
  • 67% cited financial reasons and a severe barrier to access
  • 7% of disabled children and young people surveyed are making music in groups run by their local Music Education Hub
  • 48% of music educators surveyed feel confident teaching music on adapted instruments and 27% of Music Hubs provide adapted equipment as part of their instrument loan service
  • 63% of surveyed music retailers are unaware of any specialist products or adapted instruments, and only 38% know how and where to source them

Youth Music believes that the upheaval of 2020 provides an opportunity for music education, retail and the wider industry to build inclusivity into the recovery. The report sets out the need to improve access for disabled musicians, increase representation in the paid workforce, and to upskill music teachers to better support disabled musicians. 

CEO of Youth Music Matt Griffiths said, ‘While there has been some progress, particularly over the last five years, Reshape Music illustrates in very stark terms that the views, lived experience and expertise of disabled people are still absent in the planning and delivery of music education and music-making. As a result, policies, programmes and infrastructure are often developed in a way that excludes their involvement and participation. This is discriminatory and particularly alarming knowing that there are 13.3 million disabled people in the UK equating to 21% of the total population.’ 

Jess Fisher, disabled musician and co-researcher, said, ‘Disabled people often feel overlooked and excluded, but music-making can make you feel connected to others and part of something bigger. Especially throughout the pandemic, it has been a lifeline for so many people. I hope by sharing my experiences it inspires others and helps music educators and the industry to understand how to make music-making more inclusive.’ 



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