True Colours Festival: Embracing inclusivity for artists and attendees with disabilities

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
(PHOTOS: Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Hong Kong & Aliénette Coldfire)

Come March, artists with disabilities will have a chance to let their true colours shine at an upcoming festival in Singapore. But the festival will not just be a talent showcase – the organisers are aiming to make the event fully inclusive by taking special measures to attract disabled attendees.

For one, the True Colours Festival, which will be held in Singapore for the first time from 22 to 25 March, will see 240 bay spaces reserved for wheelchair users per evening during a three-day concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

In response to queries from Yahoo News Singapore on seating arrangements for wheelchair users at events held at the venue, a Singapore Sports Hub spokesman declined to reveal specific numbers but said that “lower seating tiers are movable, allowing the venue to cater to events of varying capacity and seating requirements”.

 “The Singapore Sports Hub works closely with all our hirers to ensure that their venue and seating requirements are met and fit for purpose,” added the spokesman.

Tickets for these bay spaces, located at the front of the stage, can be purchased via the Sports Hub ticket hotline at +65 3158788 or at the Singapore Indoor Stadium Box Office. All tickets sold are priced at $30 each.

Festival Director Audrey Perera said, “Other attendees with visual impairment, physical mobility challenges and guide dogs will be accommodated with advance notice through the (same) hotline.”

Ticket sales campaign MyTreat, which is running in conjunction with the festival, will allow individuals and companies to purchase concert tickets that will go to the beneficiaries of more than 50 local disability organisations.  The administrative charges for tickets bought under this campaign will be waived.

With an estimated “90 to 95 per cent” accessibility rating, the festival’s website has also been designed to be screen reader-friendly for people with visual impairment, along with adjustable font sizes and colour contrast for easier reading.

Closed captions and subtitles have also been added to video content hosted on the site to cater to the deaf or hard-and-hearing.

These additions will allow them to “know the true breadth and scope of what is possible in the arts and culture field for people with disabilities”, said Ken Chua, director and co-founder of (these)abilities, a design and technology company that helped develop the website.

“People have come to deem internet access as almost a basic human right. (It is about) letting them know what events are out there, so that they have the motivation to do something themselves,” said Chua.

Some 20 artistes and troupes – both local and international – are set to perform at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and a free-admission outdoor festival village at the nearby OCBC Square.

These include Singaporean beat-boxer and hip-hop music producer Danial Bawthan, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at a young age, Canadian virtuoso violinist Adrian Anantawan, who was born without his right hand, and Filipina blind singer Aliénette Coldfire, who was crowned the second runner-up in France’s Got Talent 2016.

Presented by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Japan-based non-profit philanthropic organisation The Nippon Foundation this year, the festival’s first edition was held in Laos and Vietnam in 2006.

The True Colours Festival will also play host to the inaugural Arts and Disability International Conference. 

Perera said, “We want to celebrate exceptional talent in a way that is never done before and in the process, we hope that it changes misperception about disabilities. We hope that it fits into a new narrative about what ability means.”