Attitude is Everything: DIY Access Guide

Country Profile: Portugal

In the first of a series of country profiles by local experts, Maria Vlachou gives an overview of the Arts and Disability and access initiatives in Portugal. Maria is the Director of Acesso Cultura, a non-profit association of culture professionals and people interested in accessibility issues, based in Almada, Portugal.

Country Profile: Portugal

Unlimited Access

Unlimited Access was in many ways the precursor to Europe Beyond Access, a pan-European collaboration between 7 leading arts organisations, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Commission.

It was a programme designed to support best practice in the commissioning, creation, dissemination and programming of performing arts by Deaf and disabled artists.

In Portugal, Croatia and Greece, a series of ‘Creative Encounters – dance workshops, talks and presentations of work designed to encourage disabled artists and audiences into cultural spaces.

Inclusive Design Workshop

The British Council Portugal invited international designers to join a design team to work with artists with special needs from Fundacao LIGA Studios. The idea was to develop a series of images to commemorate the British Council's 80th Anniversary.

We chose Tokyo-based British Designer Laila Cassim to supervise and advise the designers. Laila has significant experience in this area of inclusive art and design practice.

Watch some of the workshop highlights in this Inclusive Design Workshop video

This Project aimed to help promote the artistic talents of disabled artists through designing stamps. But it had a wider aim of improving the artists' social and financial independence through creating revenue from the imagery from the stamps and their accompanying products. 

For more information please contact

Open call for designers 2018

Our recent work in audio description and accessibility in Portugal

Many people think that the visually impaired have no interest in visiting exhibitions or attending shows and performances. The truth is that the interest exists, the practice as well, but often the experience as complete as it could be because of the absence of audio description.

Here is our work so far

Course: Introduction to audio description techniques – March 2016

A partnership between the British Council and Acesso Cultura, this course defined and discussed the importance of audio description for creating a more inclusive and accessible culture examined how to produce an audio description script adapted to various artistic and cultural events gave trainees the opportunity to work the production and narration of a script .Twenty culture professionals working in museums, monuments, theatres, foundations, as well as actors attended the course

Our trainer, Anaisa Raquel, had the opportunity to travel to the UK and meet with VocalEyes – one of the British experts in audio description – and attend one of their training courses

Seminar with VocalEyes – March 2016

In partnership  with Acesso Cultura, and with the support of the Programa Descobrir of the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, we organised a seminar on 08 March with VocalEyes looking at their philosophy and their working methods. Twenty eight people from diverse cultural organisations attended the seminar.

Debate: Access to the Arts - a management issue? March 2016; D. Maria II National Theatre

The debate examined the following questions: How to achieve a real breakthrough in the promotion of awareness and practice in the area of accessibility - physical, social, intellectual - if there is no commitment at management level? And what would that commitment look like? Would there be differences in how we promoted access to culture in Portugal and the UK? 100 professionals from diverse cultural organisations looked at access in cultural management and the responsibility of every member of the team, starting from the President of the Board / Museum or Theatre Director etc.

Speakers: Andrew Holland; Roz Chalmers. Andrew was instrumental in setting up VocalEyes in 1998 and spent 10 years as Head of Description. He is a describer, trainer and adviser. He describes regularly at the Royal National Theatre. Roz worked for many years as a lipspeaker for deaf people. She was trained in 2000 and joined the team of audio describers at the Royal National Theatre and now combines that with work for VocalEyes and with Stagetext, a charity providing captions in theatre for deaf people. The discussion panels included the National Theatre, EGEAC – Lisbon’s Municipal Company for Culture), the Sub-Director General of Cultural Heritage (the organisations managing museums and monuments), a disabled artist, as well as VocalEyes and Tate Modern. 

Audio description texts – British Council Collection Portugal

In 2016 as part of our work in audio description and accessibility, the British Council invited three of the students that attended the course on audio description to describe the art works from the British Council Collection currently on display in the Lisbon building. These are currently only available in Portuguese. If you would like more details, or you would like to visit the Collection in Lisbon, please contact Isabel Lopes.

More about Arts and Accessibility 

We have participated in  the Accessibility Week at Gulbenkian Foundation contributing with audio guided tours for visual impaired people.

The British Council’s new Website, offers global opportunities for Deaf and disabled artists, enabling venue programmers, producers and art curators, with an unique window onto the work developed by disabled artists and disabled-led organisations.

Catering for the needs of a professional global arts audience, the Website allows artists to showcase their work on an international scale, broadening their reach and markets. It also offers promoters resources, case studies and personal testimonies, sharing insights into why the UK is recognised as world leader in disabled-led arts. was inspired by Unlimited - a London 2012 Cultural Olympiad project.

Clarence Adoo at the Setubal Music Festival, May 2016

Setubal Music Festival, 26–29 May 2016

Clarence Adoo, a former professional trumpet player who was paralysed in an accident 20 years ago, now performs on specially invented new instruments. He is inspiring generations of young people who have previously only been able to dream of being musicians.

He, and almost 1,500 young people, along with internationally-acclaimed guest artists from Portugal and overseas, joined the local community in the 6th Setubal Music Festival in the creation and performance of music. Visitors to the Festival enjoyed concerts in some of Setubal’s beautiful and historic buildings

The Festival’s 2016 theme was Salt, which has played an important part in the history, culture and economy of Setubal for thousands of years. 

Past events

Dance: A Step Forward

December 2014

Alongside the presence in Lisbon of two international Dance companies known for the innovation and excellence of their work - Akram Khan Company and CandoCo Dance Company - the British Council and Centro Cultural de Belém presented an informal discussion exploring the challenges and questions faced by dance companies, dancers, choreographers, and other dance professionals. 

What characterises a successful relationship between producer and choreographer? How can a company build a successful international touring programme whilst retaining the artistic rigour of the work? How does a dance company relate both to rigorous artistic practice and to the different audiences it serves?

The panel included Farooq Chaudhry (Akram Khan Company), Pedro Machado (Candoco Dance Company ), Donald Hutera (British Dance Critic, Producer and Dramaturg) and Rui Horta (O Espaço do Tempo / Rui Horta Company ), and was moderated by Maria Vlachou (Cultural consultant and author of the blog ‘Musing on Culture’).

An initiative promoted by the British Council and Centro Cultural de Belém.

External links