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Student artworks showcase marketplace accessibility issues

Leah Clayton with her artwork
Leah Clayton with her artwork, an umbrella showing autistic experiences and solutions in supermarket settings.

Lancaster marketing students showed off their artistic talents to produce a gallery of artworks capturing disabled people’s accessibility issues in our commercial world.

Members of Lancaster University Management School’s MSc Marketing programme produced works ranging from paintings to ceramics to song, each designed to show how people with a disability can encounter difficulties in the marketplace.

The artworks went on display in the Management School as part of a special exhibition open to students and staff from across the University.

Alanna Walker with her artwork
Alanna Walker with her artwork, a 3D model showing how poetry can be used as innovative and accessible audio descriptions for visually impaired consumers

The exhibition was the brainchild of Dr Leighanne Higgins, Senior Lecturer in Marketing and lead on the Marketplace & I project.

The Marketplace & I is an art exhibit featuring works by people with a disability and their families. It includes art by individuals and groups, all showing their own experiences of the commercial marketplace.

The project has been displayed in Lancaster and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and MSc Marketing students developed their own artworks after seeing the originals.

Dr Higgins said: “The Marketplace & I project has been so inspirational to the companies we have worked with, the organisations we have taken it into, and to the public who have visited our exhibitions. It just seemed natural to take that art-based method into teaching for our students.

“We had the students almost put themselves into a disabled person’s shoes, so they can open their eyes and get an enhanced sense of empathy about what it means to be disabled within the marketplace. The artworks show that it has worked. I am really proud of all of them.

“I was so excited to see the finished products. Some of them are so wonderful, and what is really touching is how they have become emotionally connected with the work as they have gone through the process. They genuinely feel moved by the artworks and the assignment, and they want to do something to help improve accessibility within the marketplace. Every artwork speaks to that.”

Some students made models from Lego, others designed strikingly colourful paintings and posters – one featuring embedded braille and 3D stars to make it more accessible to visually impaired visitors – and one exhibit featured an umbrella which displayed autistic experiences and solutions in a supermarket setting.

A close-up of Lego figures used on Alanna Walker’s artwork

The works considered people born without limbs, wheelchair users, sign language users, and many other groups.

Dr Sandra Awanis, MSc Marketing Programme Director, said: “The exhibition allows students to really think about disability in the marketplace, and to think about ways in which the marketplace could be made more inclusive and accessible. This is an important topic.

“The results are amazing. There was a big range of artwork– digital artworks, handcrafted artworks – and the students have really put a lot of heart and soul into it. You can see they have put out their best work.

“This is unique experiential learning, a Lancaster University special, something you don’t get really anywhere else.”

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