AN innovative digital arts space that aims to show disabled creatives are “a force to be reckoned with” is to launch on Tuesday.

The Locked World website will not only put accessibility front and centre but will also allow people from all over the world to contribute their own artwork.

It’s thought the website, developed by Aberdeen company Fine Day Studio for Scotland’s leading disability-led theatre company Birds of Paradise (BOP), will be the first of its kind.

Designed for and by disabled people, it is being launched to celebrate BOP’s 30th anniversary year.

It was conceived during the Covid-19 pandemic by BOP Young Artists and hosts a collection of digital art – from video to illustration to writing – that honours and amplifies disabled voices as a central tenet, rather than treating accessibility as an afterthought.

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The creative platform will open with an event on Zoom, inviting visitors to interact with BOP and Locked World’s contributing artists.

Through the collaboration with Fine Day Studio, Locked World is aiming to demonstrate ways of rectifying the accessibility issues posed by digital theatre – such as a lack of captioning or flashing imagery – and create an artistic space where equity and empathy are honoured.

Locked World will also invite audiences to interact with the work through creative contributions where they will be presented with a question or an invitation to respond to the artworks in a creative way – from video or movement pieces to an audio recording.

Morna McGeoch Fergus Arnott, who runs the BOP Young Artists development programme, said the idea came from an autistic member who felt some parts of the world were locked off from them.

From that remark, an in-person theatre piece was developed but before it could be performed, the UK went into national lockdown during the Covid pandemic.

“That opened up a question of what opportunity comes from not being able to perform live and it was decided to create a digital platform where they could share their own work but also be a space for other disabled creatives to have their voices amplified in a way that is really far-reaching,” said Arnott.

It was agreed they would develop the platform with accessibility at its core.

“A lot of websites have accessibility widgets and they are a great tool but it means that content is not accessible to start with,” Arnott said.

“This website flips that on its head by not hiding its accessibility but instead putting it at the forefront. That aligns with BOP’s aim of putting accessibility at the centre of main-stage productions so that it is not an afterthought and people don’t feel like second-class citizens. They are the primary audience.”

She pointed out that the website will also be unique because people will be able to contribute artistically.

“You can post comments on a lot of websites but here people will be able to submit a creative response which can be a piece of writing, a BSL video, photographs, a sound recording or any other artwork,” she said. “Our hope is that we can find a way to engage with more disabled creatives internationally because it is a digital platform that transcends space and time.

“It’s really exciting. People have asked why we are continuing to put artwork in a digital space now the national lockdowns are over, but the web is still not accessible for a lot of people and this work is important.

“We want people to be more aware of the experiences of disabled people and also become more aware of the potential of disabled creatives and that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

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