This week on my website and socials I'm focusing on moving private voice studios toward greater accessibility for clients with all kinds of physical abilities. I must admit that as I've been thinking about accessibility, I have been faced with the reality that generally speaking, when I am thinking about how to structure and operate my voice studio, I rarely consider the needs of those who might have physical challenges. I almost always consider only folks without any sort of disability, and that is a line of thinking that needs to change.
Accessibility is more than making exceptions for people who need accommodation. If we are only thinking in exceptions, that is a type of ableism that can unfortunately discriminate against singers with physical disabilities. Instead, I am now actively looking for ways to change my focus from making exceptions for those with physical disabilities, to rolling out the red carpet for them and inviting them to work with me with the same enthusiasm as I do for clients who have no physical challenges. Here's how I'm thinking about it right now.
If you're running your own business, you've likely spent a fair amount of time thinking about your ideal client. These are the people that you serve best and that need the services you provide. I have realized that when I consider my ideal client, I rarely picture them as someone who is in a wheelchair, or might use another kind of mobility device, or with a chronic physical issue. And the truth is the services I provide have nothing to do with anyone's physical capabilities. I can serve folks with a range of physical abilities without changing the way I serve them in any meaningful way.
I don't want these clients to be an afterthought. I want to purposefully consider how I can invite all of my ideal clients, regardless of their physical capabilities, to work with me. Now that I am aware of my thought process, I need to shift my marketing language.
To be honest, I'm still trying to figure out exactly how to shift my marketing language from the assumption that anyone is welcome to the overt invitation to singers with all kinds of bodies. I think this is going to be a work in progress for a while, and if you've got help for me, please reach out and point me in a helpful direction. For now, I'm going to do my best to try and then adjust and tweak as I go along and get feedback from people I trust. For now, I think the best thing I can do is to openly say that I welcome singers with all kinds of physical capabilities. I will still keep language that I hope will attract my ideal clients, because I think I can serve those folks best. But I don't want to accidentally exclude any ideal client who might think I can't make room for their disability in my studio. I want them to know they are absolutely welcome and are not an afterthought or an inconvenience.
Now, I also have to be honest that my physical space is not the most welcoming for people who use mobility devices. I teach out of my home when I'm teaching in-person (though at this time I'm online only). I still have some thinking to do about how I can serve clients within the limitations of my home. I don't have the answers for that yet, but I'm not giving up.
I know this will be a long process for me as I'm learning where my blind spots are and how to address them. However, the change I've had from thinking in exceptions to the idea of actively rolling out the red carpet for all of my ideal clients has been a challenging but fruitful experience. I hope if this is a shift that is needed in your thinking that it can also challenge you and lead to fruitful changes. If we want a diversity of bodies on stage, as we all should, we need to invite a diversity of bodies into our studios. As private voice teachers, we have the incredible opportunity to shift the performing industry in a way that could bring swift and lasting change. Let's do it! Roll out that red carpet!