Accessibility and poetry

Hannah Hodgson Headshot - Kendal Poetry Festival 2021 Blogger in Residence


For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a disabled poet with a life limiting illness. One of the reasons I decided to join the Kendal Poetry Festival team is that they have shown a commitment to accessibility. Navigating the world as a disabled person is a political thing, so aligning myself alongside an organisation is also political.

Outside of Kendal Festival I’ve had some interesting experiences with inaccessibility. From arriving at a gig to find a flight of stairs between me and the stage; to being lifted inside a cathedral by four puffing and panting men (my wheelchair weighs 20 stone!), I know the pain of T-loops without batteries and excuses a plenty.

In ordinary times, we have an extensive accessibility plan to make the festival as easy for everyone. So, what are we doing to keep our festival accessible this year?

Free tickets for disabled people

Tickets are available for free for disabled people when booking through the Brewery website. The team are aware that the pandemic has hit our community really hard, with many of us shielding, so we wanted to do something to help out. Not only this but we know how expensive having a disability is, and how sometimes that means you have to go without extra’s. We really hope that the online format will encourage people to attend when in previous years they have been unable.

Otter AI Captions

All events will be captioned. In the end we decided to go for Otter AI due to the speed at which it can translate and its accuracy.


During readings poems will appear onscreen. One bonus of zoom is that we can show the poems as they appear on the page, with linebreaks and punctuation kept in place which isn’t something captioning can offer.

The option to view a screenshare or not

If you find the screenshare option distracting you can instead pin the person reading. To do this you need to be in speaker view, go to the three dots at the top right corner and click ‘pin’. This will mean the speaker takes up the whole screen and you will have a more traditional poetry festival reading experience.

Events have large gaps between them & zoom etiquette

Zoom fatigue is real! We’ve planned the events so that there are large gaps between them for rest breaks. During the events we don’t mind if you have your camera on or off, just as long as you remain muted so everyone can access the events to the best of their ability. Of course, we would love to see your face, but if you’re in pyjama’s or this is an accessibility issue for you, please know we understand.

Showcasing disabled talent

Every year we make a commitment to increasing the amount of disabled talent we showcase during the festival. It’s important to be the change you want to see, and we want to lead from the front. This year we have poets including: Jamie Hale, Jackie Hagan and Abi Palmer. 

If you have any concerns about accessibility now or during the festival please do get in touch with us on and someone from the festival team will get back to you. 

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