(Jess Thom performs as Touretteshero at the Southbank Centre in 2014. Photo: Rachel Cherry)

(News by David Hutchison – Jul 25, 2016)

A new website has been launched to help disabled performers promote their work internationally.

Set up by the British Council, Disability Arts International also aims to help connect artists and disability-led companies with each other.

Artists can sign up to the website to create a profile, on which they can list their upcoming shows for the benefit of international promoters who may be interested in booking them.

There are also films, blogs and guidance on how arts organisations can represent disabled people on stage and increase their access for disabled audiences.

Performer Jess Thom, from Touretteshero, said the online tool would help disabled artists and performers become “more visible within our cultural spaces”.

“There’s a rich and vibrant disability arts scene in the UK and I think it’ll be really important to have a platform that shares this with disabled and non-disabled people across the world,” she told The Stage.

She added that it could help overcome some barriers that prevent disabled artists promoting their own work, such as physical access, communication and confidence.

As well as helping those abroad access UK performers, Thom said it would help make sure that disabled artists “are connected with each other’s work and can challenge each other to make interesting and creative pieces”.

She also expressed hope the website would help boost the profile of disabled performers within the UK theatre world, to encourage the next generation of disabled performers.

“If you don’t see yourself represented on stage then you’re much less likely to think that’s a space you can occupy, and less likely to think acting or performing is an option for you,” she explained.

British Council disability arts programme manager Ben Evans said the website was set up in response to a surge in interest in disabled artists since 2012.

He continued: “We do appreciate that there are specific barriers to international promotion faced by disabled artists and companies, and we want to help break down some of those barriers by offering additional promotion.”

“For some venue managers and arts organisations who have never really thought about promoting disabled artists or thought about how to build access to disabled audiences, it’s a nice introduction to those things,” he added.