Anyone looking at theatre audiences or museum visitors will see little diversity represented in them even today. As is true of culture in general, it’s hard for the literary sector to reach new and different target groups. How can you ensure that as an organization or publishing house you get through to groups that have traditionally been remote from you? How can you attune your work to a reader or viewer with a disability, perhaps a visual disability, who grew up speaking a different language or has a different cultural background? How can you ensure that your products and events are open to them both literally and figuratively?
First of all, make sure you are presenting them with a safe and hospitable space where both authors and readers feel welcome and secure. Avoid stereotypical images in your external communications and invest in adaptations for people with disabilities. Some adjustments require only minimal expense, such as employing a sign-language interpreter at a festival or making your website accessible to the blind and partially sighted, but they do make a huge difference. Some adaptations are practical, like providing accessible toilets at your event or sufficient space for a wheelchair between the bookcases of your library. In choosing a location you might want to pay extra attention to whether it’s child-friendly and reachable by public transport.
No idea where to start? For many target groups you can contact an organization that will help you on your way. For example, non-profit Inter (Inter Vlaanderen), non-profit GRIP (GELIJKE RECHTEN VOOR IEDERE PERSOON MET EEN HANDICAP - Grip) and OPEN (Open Belgium) specialize in making products, websites, buildings and festivals accessible. See also https://www.inclusieambassade.be/
Don’t be afraid to change your organization’s image, or to indicate to the public that you are willing to consider improvements and implement changes that contribute to inclusion and diversity. Venture to abandon familiar options and avoid choosing the most obvious solutions every time. To convince people of your commitment, it’s best to be honest. Working towards more diversity is a learning process for institutions. That’s not to say that you won’t have to change anything, but it’s impossible to do everything at once and making mistakes along the way is an inevitable part of the process. Acknowledge the resulting vulnerability as a necessary part of change, and as evidence of your integrity and sincerity.