Baluji Music Foundation (BMF) has launched the Blind To The Facts survey to expose the challenges faced by blind and visually impaired people across the U.K. music industry. Funded by the Vision Foundation and conducted by Dr. Claire Castle in collaboration with Dr. David Baker of the University of London Institute of Education, the survey will reveal what is needed to drive greater inclusion.
Castle, a Baluji Music Foundation research fellow and senior scientist, (social and welfare) Bravo Victor said: “This project is a really exciting opportunity to ensure equal opportunities in music, regardless of disability or impairment. We need feedback from both those who employ musicians in the UK, and musicians themselves. By sharing their experiences, these individuals will highlight how the industry can do better in its employment, support and encouragement of blind and partially sighted professionals across all areas of the music industry.”
The 2023 survey updates the Blind To The Facts research completed in 1995, which highlighted the dearth of professional performing opportunities for blind musicians, and led to the establishment of the Baluji Music Foundation and the Inner Vision Orchestra, the only orchestra of professional blind musicians in the U.K.
Blind To The Facts 2023 is an update and extension of research commissioned by Baluji Shrivastav OBE in 1995 and supported by the RNIB and Platinum Trust (Blind To The Facts – An exploration into the needs of blind and visually-impaired musicians,1995, John Ludlow, Inner Visions Music Co.).
Shrivastav says: “Being great at music isn’t enough to get you employed as a musician. That’s true for all musicians, but the 1995 survey showed it’s even more so the case if you’re blind. I have experienced this myself. I have lost jobs or been made to feel that including me on a tour would be an inconvenience because of my blindness — the music doesn’t even come into it.
“The point of this survey and what we’re trying to do with the BMF is to find out why, and remove these pointless obstacles — not just for musicians but for promoters, sound technicians, composers etc. — and create opportunities across the whole U.K. music industry. Blind people may not be able to see you, but we deserve to be seen and heard.”
The low number of blind and visually impaired musicians and individuals working in the U.K. music industry is reflective of a broader situation. There are more than 2 million people in the U.K. living with sight loss, causing a significant impact on their daily lives. Only one in four registered blind or partially sighted people of working age is in paid employment, a figure that has worsened in the last decade. This compares to 51% of disabled people and 75% of the general population and is even worse for people who are completely blind. Only around one in 10 people with poor functional vision is in paid employment (Slade, J; Edwards, E, 2017. Employment status and sight loss – RNIB. See my Skills, 2021 – Vision Foundation)
The survey will be open until April 3 and can be completed online HERE or over the phone. Data will always be made confidential, and participants will not be identifiable by name. Participants can request a copy of any report or publication produced during this project by contacting the lead researcher.
Founded 15 years ago by blind Indian multi-instrumentalist and composer Shrivastav and Linda Shanson, the Baluji Music Foundation is an arts charity programming and promoting events featuring blind and partially sighted musicians and advancing access to musical and artistic experiences for blind and partially sighted people. Its showcase project is the Inner Vision Orchestra of professional blind musicians, which performs nationally and internationally and has released music on Arc/Naxos. For more info, email them or visit their website.