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Arts Access
        made easy:
  Successful Strategies from the Award of Excellence in Arts Access
“A teenage girl... is sitting across the table (in an art class) from this guy

named Joe,    who’s blind. He can’t see anything, and he says ‘Pass the
blue paint.’ And she says, ‘How do you know what blue paint is?! ’
And he says ‘Blue like the sky, blue like the water. You don’t have to see

blue to know what blue is.’”
                Dwight Graves, from The Journey to Here
If we need proof that awareness of arts access is on the rise, we need only look at the
number of venues that applied for this award. Three times as many arts organizations
submitted their access programs for consideration this year—a sign that everyone is
learning how important it is to reach out to the more than 59 million people with
disabilities in the United States.
Arts organizations recognize that by providing accessibility services they expand their
audience. People with disabilities are not a small fringe group in your community—they
are an integral part of every community.
By including everyone in the design, your programs become more relevant and engaging.
If our arts define us, then so does our audience. Define yours as broadly as you can.
The average attendee does not exist. We’re all different, and our needs vary. Access strives
to meet the needs of everyone in your community.
For arts venues just beginning their access efforts, let the excellence of this year’s awardees
guide and motivate you. And let this booklet serve as an introduction to the network of
resources open to you as you launch your own programs.

Soula Antoniou
VSA arts

                                                                                                  Letter from the president   |   2
                                  P     roviding physical access for your

                                        visitors is not enough anymore,

                                  but it is a great beginning. Now, the goal
                                                                               Through thoughtful planning, organizations
                                                                               can create full access to the arts. Access
                                                                               is created when people of diverse abilities
                                                                               have an equal opportunity to attend,
                                  is to create events that meet the specific
                                                                               participate in, and enjoy arts programming.
                                  needs of people with disabilities and that   An organization can contribute to access
                                                                               by being sensitive and responsive to the
                                  make them feel welcome and involved.         needs of people with disabilities through—
                                  Making adaptations in the presentation         The design and implementation
                                                                                 of a program;
                                  of art exhibits, theatrical performances,
                                                                                 The guidelines and policies in place
                                  activities, and workshops that enable          to support the development and
                                  people with and without disabilities to        implementation of its programs;

                                  have the same opportunity to richly            The printed materials created to
                                                                                 promote the program;
                                  experience these events, this is access
                                                                                 The means through which the program
                                  and inclusion.                                 is communicated to the public; and
                                                                                 The physical design of the facility used
                                                                                 to implement the program.

3   |   Arts Access   made easy
Arts access allows community access.
It’s that simple. If you want to reach
                                                Ten Surefire Ways to Achieve Arts Access
                                                1. Approach Access as a Process. The first       WHAT IS ARTS             access?
the largest possible audience, then you         step is one of attitude. Don’t think you’ll        Arts access is achieved when people
need to make your programs available to         one day be finished with your access               with and without disabilities have the
them. All people must be able to attend         responsibilities. Arts access is an ongoing        same opportunity to experience the arts,
your arts events, and to meaningfully           process, and it’s as fundamental to your           whether they are audience members,
experience them.                                organization as the arts events you produce.       artists, or patrons.
                                                (Why? Because it’s about creating an audience,
Don’t let arts access become a daunting                                                          Arts Access manifests itself in many ways:
                                                and art isn’t art without an audience.)
task. Break it down into manageable                                                                Physical accommodations, such as
projects, especially if you are just starting   Make arts access part of the fabric of             seating for people using wheelchairs
your access efforts. You may designate an       your organization. Just as you never               and Braille signage
access coordinator, but full access requires    stop producing new events, exhibits,
                                                                                                   Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)
a team effort. True access requires much        and programs, you’ll find endless ways
community outreach, and it can even require     to include the greatest possible audience.         Infrared Listening Systems
architectural renovations. The simplest and                                                        ASL interpreters
                                                2. Make Access Somebody’s Job. At every
cheapest solutions, however, are frequently                                                        Open Captioning
                                                arts institution, there should be a person
the most powerful. Let’s get to the basics.
                                                who has the specific responsibility of             Audio Description
                                                arts access. A full-time position is rarely        Touch Tours
                                                allocated. This coordinator needs to juggle
                                                this role with several other duties, which         TTY phones
                                                is why number three is so vital.                   Inclusive Arts Education Programs

                                                                                                                  What is arts access?    |   4
                                                  3. Build Relationships. No matter how           include the creative works of people with
                                                  small your city, there are organizations out    disabilities? Who should receive brochures
BUILDING BLOCKS                                   there that represent people with disabilities   promoting upcoming sensory tours?
    OF    accessibility                           (see list, page 7). Introduce yourself and
                                                  your arts institution to these groups, and to   4. Evaluate What You’ve Got. To know
                                                                                                  what you need, examine what you’ve got.
    Ask patrons and involve people                leaders in these communities. Schedule a
                                                  meeting. Everyone has to begin somewhere,       What physical alterations do you need to
    with disabilities in your planning.                                                           make at your facility? Who on the staff
                                                  so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Soak up
    State your commitment to access               what they have to say. What are their needs?    needs sensitivity training? (Everyone who
    in your mission and press materials.          What do they want? How can you make             works with the public needs it, even the
                                                  your theatre or museum more accessible          security guards.) Ask your new accessibility
    Designate an accessibility coordinator.                                                       committee to help conduct the evaluations
                                                  to their groups?
                                                                                                  and the training sessions. Use the “People
    Obtain input from people with disabilities.
                                                  They can make your job easier. Create an        First” guide in the back of this booklet as
    Train all staff on accessibility and          accessibility committee made up of these        a starting point for your staff.
    disability awareness.                         representatives and key staff at your
                                                  organization. The dialogue at these             5. Take Advantage of Free Resources.
    Conduct a review/evaluation of facilities     committee meetings will help you establish      Only at number five and you’re already
    and programs to identify existing barriers.   access priorities for your venue. Find out      overwhelmed? Don’t be—it’s a process done
                                                  what you’re doing right, and what needs         in baby steps. Free help and resources exist
    Implement short- and long-term plans.                                                         at every level. For instance, just do an
                                                  improvement. Are assistive listening devices
    Establish a way for feedback and              the biggest priority, or an accessible          Internet search on “cultural access” to find
    constructive criticism to be heard.           bathroom on the second floor? How many          a wealth of online resources.
                                                  people have used the TTY phone line to
    Continue to review your progress.
                                                  purchase tickets? Does your programming

5    |   Arts Access   made easy
6. Make Goals You Can Achieve. Don’t            informative brochures to mail to the senior
aim to rebuild your theatre to adhere to        centers, schools, and organizations that work
the principles of Universal Design if you       with people with disabilities. Advertise your
are working with a small budget and no          access offerings in the publications read by
staff. Start with what’s doable—so if you’re    these populations (which are often the same
a small-town theatre, maybe that’s just to      publications read by the general public).
include an American Sign Language (ASL)         Use your newly developed relationships in
interpreter or volunteer audio describer at     the disability community to get the word
one performance. Arts access isn’t an all-or-   out. Include the Graphic Arts Guild symbols
nothing proposition, but it’s easy to get       for accessibility in all of your printed
discouraged when you don’t think you have       materials. Make sure there is sufficient and
the financial resources or manpower to make     clear signage in your arts venue that
changes. Some changes don’t cost a thing,       publicize the accessibility options available.
like building relationships (number 3).         Even if your arts access budget is tiny,
Remember that it’s better to do something       dedicate some funds to marketing your
small than nothing at all.                      adaptations.
7. Market to Community. After actually          8. Consider Both Sides of the Stage.
incorporating arts access into your venue,      Arts access isn’t just about the audience.
this is the most important thing you can        People with disabilities sing, dance, act,
do. Access is useless if the people who can     paint, direct, play instruments, choreograph,
use it don’t know about it. Create an access    do set design, produce, write, sculpt…
statement that clearly describes what you       everything artists do. And their work needs
do offer and your commitment to include         to be staged, performed, and exhibited.
all people at your institution. Produce         If you’re renovating your physical space to

                                                                                                 Top ten paths to access   |   6
                                                  adhere to Americans with Disabilities Act         10. Build on What You Create. Never stop
Partner Potential                                 (ADA) codes, make sure the backstage area         creating access. Keep coming up with new
                                                  is accessible. If you’re deciding which artists   ideas and innovations. Remember, it’s
To reach people with disabilities,
                                                  to exhibit in your gallery next year, consider    a process. When you receive feedback
target groups like these in your
                                                  the work of artists with disabilities as well.    from people with disabilities, put it to use.
                                                  Seek out the works of playwrights and             Let the advisory committee you create
    Senior Centers                                musicians with disabilities. When holding         (see number 3) be a breeding ground for
                                                  auditions, include aspiring actors who have       new ideas and new goals for your
    American Association of Retired Persons       disabilities (and don’t just consider them for    institution.
    (AARP)                                        roles in The Miracle Worker !)
    Community Centers                             9. Accept Criticism. Establish a grievance
    Public Schools                                process where people can lodge complaints.
                                                  Ask for feedback, and bravely receive it.
    Hospitals and Rehabilitation Hospitals        Yes, it sounds like an invitation to a
                                                  headache, but if the disability community
    Health Care Providers (i.e., a poster in an
                                                  has an easy way to let you know what’s
    audiologist’s office will probably be seen
                                                  not working (i.e., “Why are there no ASL
    by many people with hearing loss)
                                                  interpreters at matinees?”), you will have an
    Vocational Rehabilitation Centers             easy way to improve on the adaptations you
                                                  implement. Besides, you might occasionally
    Independent Living Centers                    get a compliment, and that makes all the
    Parent Information Centers                    complaining worthwhile.

    Human Service Agencies

    State Arts Councils

7    |   Arts Access   made easy
                                                                                                FIVE things you can
Common Questions and Complaints                How do I afford this?
                                               Fear not, funding sources for your accessible       do that DON’T COST
Where do I begin? Where do I buy a
TTY phone, and how much does it cost?
                                               programs do exist. The Department of
                                               Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
                                                                                                 additional MONEY
Who can add Braille to my signage? How         offers Community Development Block
do you find the ALDs, the Infrared                                                               1. Build an advisory committee, and
                                               Grant Programs that provide funds to state,          create an access statement that
devices, etc.?                                 county, and city governments for projects of
It’s easier than you’d think, and almost                                                            clearly describes what you do.
                                               private and public organizations for barrier
all of it can be found on the Web.             removal in cultural facilities and programs.      2. Seek out work by artists with
Go to             Call the local office of HUD, your state arts        disabilities.
SERVICES&PRODUCTS.htm, the                     council, or your state social services agency,
National Arts and Disability Center’s                                                            3. Call other cultural organizations
                                               and be prepared for a certain amount of              with strong access programs.
Web site at for an           bureaucratic complexity.
informative resource list of every type                                                          4. Learn how to use the relay system,
of assistive technology.                       Some other possibilities:                            a phone service that enables people
                                                 The NEC Foundation of America                      who are deaf or hard of hearing to
You can also contact your local independent                                                         use a regular telephone.
                                                 gives grants that apply assistive
living center or office for students with
                                                 technology for people with disabilities,
disabilities in your nearby university or                                                        5. Invite employees with disabilities
college to locate assistive listening, audio                                                        within your institution to share their
description, Braille, captioning, and sign       The Mitsubishi Electric America                    experiences.
language interpreters in your community.         Foundation funds projects using
See a nationwide directory at of independent     technology geared toward young
living centers          people.

                                                                                                                   Common questions          |   8
                                    The Foundation Center provides               relationships, you’ll soon see that your arts
                                    resources on private and corporate           access efforts are bringing in a new audience
                                    foundations.               to your venue.
                                    The Grantsmanship Center offers              Where can I get the access symbols?
                                    resources to nonprofit organizations         The universal graphic symbols that
                                    through the Whole Nonprofit Catalog.         represent the varying levels of accessibility
                                                           are free to use. Download them from the
                                                                                 Web site of the Graphic Arts Guild at
                                  How do I find the right audience for 
                                  my accessible services?
                                  In your city, organizations exist that
                                  represent the communities that will
                                  benefit from your services. See some
                                  examples on page 7.
                                  Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re new
                                  to access. Most of these groups are happy      You can also receive the symbols on a
                                  that you’re interested in including them.      computer disk for PC or Mac or as camera-
                                  Reach out to these organizations, and you’ll   ready slicks. Contact the Graphic Artists
                                  find an audience. Invite representatives       Guild at (212) 791-3400. The cost is $12.95
                                  to join your advisory committee. Make          plus $3.00 shipping and handling.
                                  sure any marketing materials you create
                                  get in the hands of the people at these
                                  organizations. Schedule events that coincide
                                  with their programs. If you build strong

9   |   Arts Access   made easy
We are already running several programs          spectrum of budgets—from a $10 million
that are very successful. Do I have to           renovation by Boston’s Wang Center to the          The    Secret Weapon
scrap them completely simply because             modest annual operating budget of Arizona’s
they aren’t “accessible”?                        Third Street Company/Arts for All, Inc.         The Papermill Playhouse maximized the
                                                                                                 impact of its new access service by hiring a
Strive to be inclusive. Reach out to potential   Despite their differences, all four awardees
                                                                                                 manager of outreach and access. Even the
audiences or participants with disabilities,     have two things in common: a deep,              best program is a wasted investment without
and make accommodations for them in              ongoing commitment to arts access, and          the proper audience. Marketing to the
your program. Accommodations range               strong relationships with the disability        proper public is equal in importance to
from installing a ramp at your entrance          community in their locations.                   implementing an effective arts access
to bringing an ASL interpreter to your                                                           program. The manager works with the
workshop. Inclusive arts education programs      Paper Mill Playhouse, Milburn, New Jersey       theatre’s marketing department to create
expose all the participants to learning          Open Captioning Project                         targeted campaigns to reach people who
opportunities on several levels. When people                                                     will make use of their services.
with and without disabilities work together,     As the state theatre of New Jersey, the               The captioning services are target-
                                                 Paper Mill Playhouse is a nationally                  marketed via direct mail twice a year.
especially in a creative environment,
                                                 recognized theatre that stages a broad                Theatre for Everyone is a brochure
everyone benefits.
                                                                                                       outlining all of the Paper Mill’s access
                                                 spectrum of musicals and plays. The Paper
                                                                                                       services. The brochure is distributed
SUCCESSFUL STRATEGIES                            Mill Playhouse leads by providing access
                                                                                                       at the theatre and is sent via direct
IN ARTS ACCESS                                   services to the arts patrons of New Jersey            mail to ticketbuyers.
                                                 with well-developed programs in barrier-free          All theatre and educational marketing
VSA arts/MetLife Foundation Award of
                                                 design; services for people who are Deaf,             materials include the Graphic Arts
Excellence in Arts Access Recipients, 2003
                                                 hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired;         Guild’s access symbols (see page 9).
This year’s awardees demonstrate four            and discounted tickets. MetLife and VSA arts          The Paper Mill uses its Web site,
different creative, responsive approaches to     awarded the Paper Mill Playhouse for its    , to describe all
arts access. The recipients also represent the   Open Captioning program.                              of its access programs in detail.

                                                                                                                Paper Mill Playhouse    |   10
What is the VSA   arts /               Winning Access: Open Captioning               Wang Center for the Performing Arts,
                                       Open Captioning (OC) allows full access       Boston, Massachusetts
          MetLife Foundation           for patrons with profound hearing loss        A Commitment to Accessibility
Award of Excellence in Arts Access?    who only partially benefit from infrared
                                       listening systems or American Sign            The Wang Center, which includes the
 For three years, VSA arts has         Language (ASL). A large digital screen        Wang and Shubert Theatres, is New
 presented arts organizations who      on the left side of the auditorium projects   England’s largest cultural venue, staging
 have established long-range           dialogue as the action occurs onstage.        ballets, operas, Broadway shows, classical
 accessibility goals with a $5,000
                                       OC is offered for two performances of         and popular music, classic films, and
 cash award for specific programs                                                    international dance. The Wang Center
 through the generous support of the   each musical and one performance of each
                                       play. Upon request, the Papermill Playhouse   is a true example of a performing arts
 MetLife Foundation. Previous award                                                  center that has achieved arts access.
 winners include Bethesda Academy      will provide OC for children’s theatre and
                                       other events.                                 With a generous budget and an ambitious
 for Performing Arts, Bethesda, MD;
 Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio;                                                 plan, the center has enabled individuals
 Arvada Center for the Arts and        Through ticket sales, the theatre measures    who have physical or developmental
 Humanities, Arvada, Colorado;         the success of its access programs. The       disabilities or who are Deaf or hard
 Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY;   Papermill Playhouse also continually forges   of hearing, blind or visually impaired
 Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN;     partnerships with local organizations,        to experience the arts at their facilities.
 Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre,     leaders, and patrons to gather feedback       Through adaptations to their physical
 Fargo, ND; Boston Museum of Fine      about the effectiveness of existing           surroundings, staff training, and
 Arts, Boston, MA; and Mark Taper      accommodations and opportunities              adjustments in their ticketing and
 Forum, Los Angeles Theatre Center,
                                       for improvements.                             audience policies, they have expanded
 Los Angeles, CA.
                                                                                     their audience to include the disability
                                                                                     community. They have also put leaders
                                                                                     with disabilities at the center of their
                                                                                     planning, serving as a bridge between

11   |   Arts Access   made easy
the center and the disability community      The $10 million renovation of the Wang
in the Boston area.                          and Shubert Theatres was begun in 1989.
                                             The Wang Center hired a consulting firm        Power in Partners
The First Building Block                     to conduct a full evaluation of the physical     The Wang Center’s educational
The Wang and Shubert Theatres                establishment and to bring their facilities
exemplify all the components of a            into ADA compliance. Early on, the               outreach program partners
physically accessible performing arts        Wang Center established a Diversity              with organizations like Boston’s
venue. From basics like their barrier-free   Access Committee of the Board of Trustees
drop-off and entrance area, free assistive   to spearhead the Center’s transformation.        Perkins School for the Blind and
listening devices, accessible restrooms      In addition, the Center hosts advisory           The Learning Center for Deaf Children
and drinking fountains to features           boards comprised of members of the
available at only the most progressive       community, to suggest access adaptations.        in Framingham to integrate young
venues, including:                           They retain the Cultural Access Consortium       people with disabilities into their
                                             (CAC) as their “access consultant” to
  Wheelchair lifts backstage that                                                             educational workshops.
                                             bridge the Center with the Deaf and blind
  provide access to all backstage areas
                                             communities. (For more about the CAC,
  and the orchestra pit;
                                             visit their Web site at
  A TTY pay phone in the main lobby;         The Second Layer—Access to
  Large-print programs for every             What Wang Offers
  performance; and                           For people who are hard of hearing,
                                             Wang uses three assistive techniques—
  Plenty of armless seats for patrons        ASL interpretation, sound plus assistive
  transferring from wheelchairs, and         listening/FM infrared, and Open Captioning.
  seating in the front for patrons with      The theatre’s advisory board advises the
  visual disabilities.                       theaters on which performances they

                                                                                            Wang Center for the Performing Arts     |   12
                                                perceive will be of interest to the Deaf         is given to all staff and trustees. Training
                                                community. ASL volunteers are available          sessions are based upon the distinct
                                                at every performance to ensure convenience       functions of the staff—be they box office,
To MARKET,                                      for patrons who are Deaf. Patrons with           ushers, educational staff, or trustees.

      to market                                 visual disabilities may opt for audio-
                                                description at selected performances.
                                                The Wang Center even goes one step
                                                                                                 Training is led by their Cultural Access
                                                                                                 Consortium representatives and leaders
                                                                                                 from the blind and Deaf communities
The Wang Center publishes an access             further and loans out their audio                share relevant information specific to the
guide for their patrons.                        description system to other Boston-based         needs of the attendees.
                                                arts organizations.
     It outlines all of the Center’s                                                             Wang maintains the quality of its access
     accessibility services, and is             Seats in the first few rows of the Wang and      programs by continuously soliciting the
     updated regularly.                         Shubert Theatres are usually priced at $70.      opinions of the disability community.
     It is printed in Braille for patrons who
                                                Wang offers these seats at half-price to all     Feedback is gathered through post-show
     are blind or have visual disabilities.     patrons who are Deaf or hard of hearing          discussions, e-mail evaluations, and written
                                                since these are the most suitable seats for      letters from participants, interpreters, and
     Wang obtains mailing lists from            viewing interpreters. Four seats are available   audio describers.
     VSA arts of Massachusetts and an           in the front rows at each performance for
     access consultant to continually update                                                     The Museum of International Folk Art,
                                                attendees with low vision. All tickets for
     their mailing lists and e-mail listservs
                                                volunteer ushers and interpreters are free.      Santa Fe, New Mexico
     with individuals who may be interested
     in accessible performances.                                                                 The Spectrum Program: Creativity
                                                The Cultural Shift                               on a Budget
     Advertisements in key publications         The leaders of Wang’s access plan were wise
     and press releases about accessible        to realize early on that the key to success      With a modest budget, Santa Fe’s Museum
     performances also promote the              included a change in the institution’s policy    of International Folk Art (MOIFA) has
     Center’s work.                             and culture. Access awareness training           created an effective program to bring people

13   |   Arts Access   made easy
with disabilities in to see the exhibits and    audience by providing them with a
experience the creative process. In the
Spectrum program, people with disabilities
                                                multi-sensory experience. The arts-based
                                                program integrates the resources of all       A   broad Spectrum
engage in the arts themselves—a hands-on        three organizations. For instance, students
experience that deepens the meaning of          working with adults with cognitive
                                                                                              examples of the Spectrum
arts access.                                    disabilities at Santa Fe’s Southwestern           experience include:
                                                College are given valuable training via
MOIFA, one of the five institutes of the        this program by their volunteer work with          A tour of an exhibition of textiles
Museum of New Mexico system, collects,                                                             from around the world followed by
                                                the participants. (And MOIFA benefits              a lesson on West African drumming
preserves, and presents material folk culture   by getting free assistance.) The Spectrum
from around the world. The Museum                                                                  and rhythms;
                                                program also sponsors training in working
also promotes the study of folk culture,        with people with special needs for                 A tour of a ceramics exhibition
including music, drama, dance, and the          professionals, museum docents, and                 followed by a hands-on clay
verbal arts. An active commitment to arts       community members.                                 activity; or
access is in keeping with the Museum’s
                                                                                                   A tour of the Hispanic folk art
commitment to promote international             The program combines exhibitions                   Heritage Wing followed by
goodwill and global understanding.              with hands-on arts experiences led by              hands-on tinwork, weaving,
                                                professional educators and artists. Trained        or dancing.
Collaboration for Success                       docents who are retired art therapists or
MOIFA collaborated with VSA arts of             who are specifically trained in working
New Mexico (VSANM) and the National             with adults and youth with disabilities
Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) to         lead the program.
create Spectrum, an arts-based program
for adults and youth with physical and          The expense of a program like Spectrum
mental disabilities. The goal is to integrate   is minimal because it does not involve
this specific audience into the overall         the investment in new technology,

                                                                                                  Museum of International Folk Art   |   14
All for all at                                   like an Infrared listening system, or
                                                 the employment of ASL interpreters.
                                                                                                  group leaders. To further market Spectrum,
                                                                                                  MOIFA also sends a brochure to schools
 Arts for All, Inc.                              The commitment of specially trained
                                                 educators and program leaders makes
                                                                                                  and groups in the area that also take part
                                                                                                  in the Museum’s Folk Art to Go program.
     Daily afterschool classes in music,         the experience accessible, and staff costs
     drama, dance, visual arts, and sign         are kept to a minimum thanks in part to          Arts for All, Inc./Third St. Ensemble
     language that bring together children       the generosity of its participants. The staff    Company, Tucson, Arizona
     with and without disabilities from a        and student aides also work for very little,     Creating Opportunity with the Arts
     variety of socioeconomic levels;            and the guest artists are given a modest         The primary focus of Tucson’s Third St.
                                                 honoraria for their efforts.                     Ensemble Company/Arts for All, Inc. is to
     Trilingual (English, Spanish, and                                                            expose young people with disabilities to the
     ASL) performances at assemblies in          At the start of each year, a group of partners   arts. The company uses the performing arts
     public schools throughout Arizona           from the community meets to discuss the          to encourage personal growth and brings
     and New Mexico;
                                                 content of each Spectrum session. To gather      a diverse group of Tucson’s young people
                                                 feedback, MOIFA asks participants to             together in a creative and productive setting.
     Performances at major community             complete written evaluation forms after
     theatres in the area, featuring people      each session.                                    Initially begun as an afterschool program,
     of all ages and abilities;                                                                   Arts for All, Inc. presents an ambitious
                                                 Getting the Word out                             array of inclusive classes, training workshops,
                                                 Since the Spectrum program itself is a           performances, and even social events.
     Monthly workshops with local artists—
                                                 partnership with VSANM and NAMI,                 Each year, one full-length production is
     weekend intensives focusing on a
                                                 MOIFA is already one step ahead                  performed in Tucson, and sometimes also
     particular interest, such as songwriting,
                                                 in reaching their intended audience.             staged nationally and internationally.
     storytelling, or dance;                     An outreach educator on staff at MOIFA
     continued on page 16                        works with additional organizations in and       Arts for All, Inc., is the rare program that
                                                 around Santa Fe to recruit participants and      is exclusively oriented toward people with

15   |   Arts Access   made easy
disabilities, but their methods can serve         also has an embosser to print its own Braille
as a springboard to brainstorm innovative         materials, and everything is translated into
                                                                                                  Monthly teen dances for an
ideas in mainstream arts venues.                  Spanish by staff.
                                                                                                  integrated community;
At inclusive summer and winter arts camps,        Other Winning Ideas
                                                  Some standouts from the runners-up:             Disability ambassadors—training
counselors receive accessibility training
and reach out to individual students by                                                           for high school students to learn
                                                  Project 3D at the Music Hall in Portsmouth,     about various disabilities. They
incorporating wheelchair dance or creating
                                                  New Hampshire, uses audio description to
adaptive resources for the visual arts.                                                           can then take their knowledge
                                                  bring live dance and theatre to individuals
By working together, children become                                                              into the elementary schools to
                                                  who are blind or have low vision. The project
accepting of disabilities, and come away                                                          raise awareness among young
                                                  includes a workshop day to introduce
from the experience with a deeper                                                                 people, and;
                                                  people in the New Hampshire area to audio
understanding of themselves and the
                                                  description.               Training in inclusion aides—a
value of diversity.
                                                  The ASL interpreters at the Wild Swan           50-hour training program prepares
Telling the Public About Arts for All, Inc.
                                                  Theatre in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are also        aides to work with children and
The entire budget of Arts for All Inc. is
                                                  actors who work with the speaking cast          adults with disabilities and to
dedicated to their accessibility program,
                                                  to heighten the ASL service and integrate       develop strategies that will assist
since access encompasses the entire mission
                                                  it meaningfully into the performance.           them in integrating community
of the Third St. Ensemble Company.
                                                  Wild Swan presents more ASL                     arts activities.
This allows their marketing plan to be
                                                  interpreted performances for young
extensive. News about auditions, programs,
                                                  people than any other theatre in the
and performances are publicized in press
releases, postcards, and flyers sent to public
schools, radio stations, newspapers and arts      The Kemper Museum of Contemporary
and social service agencies. Arts for All, Inc.   Art in Kansas City, Missouri, collaborates

                                                                                                                Arts for All, Inc.   |   16
                                            directly with the University of Kansas       and performances to San Francisco’s
                                            Medical Center’s Institute for Child         community of people who are Deaf or
                                            Development to offer the ArtReach            hard of hearing.

Why include ALL?
                                            Program. ArtReach provides customized
                                            art-making workshops at the Museum           The Keshet Dance Company in
                                            for the Institute’s outpatients, friends,    Albuquerque, New Mexico, strives to
 The creative arts (music, theatre,
                                            and family.                break the stereotype of who can dance
 visual art, sculpture, dance, movement,                                                 and what a dancer looks like with their
                                            Sensory seminars are one of the most         Mixed Ability Program that includes
 writing) provide a place where diversity
                                            innovative ways that the McCarter            people with disabilities. Occupational
 and originality are highly valued.         Theatre Center for the Performing Arts       and physical therapists and trained
 The creative process leads us to better    in Princeton, New Jersey, creates access     volunteers work with the dance
 understand ourselves and one another,      to their performances. Before each audio     instructors to ensure that everyone in
                                            described performance, patrons with          the class has a meaningful experience.
 thereby breaking down personal and
                                            disabilities are given the opportunity
 societal barriers. For this reason,        to walk through the set pieces, feel the
 inclusive classes in the arts offer        costume textures, and handle key props.
 people a unique opportunity to interact.
                                            San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center
                                            for the Arts started a partnership with
                                            D.E.A.F. Media, Inc. six years ago.
                                            Artists who are Deaf are included in the
                                            exhibit schedule of the center, and access
                                            salons are held four times a year to bring
                                            lectures, workshops, film screenings

17   |   Arts Access   made easy
“People-First” Language                        and that their abilities or disabilities are
                                               only part of who they are.
It’s seems so simple. Don’t think of the
disability, think of the person. Think of      Suggestions to Improve
the people first, and disability awareness     Access and Positive Interactions
will come quite naturally. But to help         Avoid euphemisms such as “physically
you along, here are two excerpts from          challenged,” “differently abled,” or
Access and Opportunities: A Guide to           “handi–capable.” Many disability groups
Disability Awareness, a publication written    object to these phrases because they are
and distributed by VSA arts.                   considered condescending and reinforce
                                               the idea that disabilities cannot be spoken
Language shapes the way those around           of in an upfront and direct manner.
us speak and act toward one another and
conveys the respect we have for others.        Think of it this way: you wouldn’t a call a
The use of appropriate language about          friend with cancer “your cancerous friend,”
people with disabilities can be an important   so why would you call a friend who is Deaf
tool in building a community that accepts      “your Deaf friend”?
all people.                                    Do not sensationalize a disability by using
                                               terms such as “afflicted with,” “suffers from,”
Appropriate language is both sensitive and     or “crippled with.” These expressions are
accurate. VSA arts promotes the use of         considered offensive and inaccurate to
“people–first” language—language that puts     people with disabilities.
the focus on the individual, rather than on
a disability. People–first language helps us   When referring to people who use
remember that people are unique individuals    wheelchairs, avoid terms such as “wheelchair

                                                                                                 Speaking with awareness   |   18
                                               bound” or “confined to a wheelchair.”           Basic Rules for Disability Awareness
                                               Wheelchairs do not confine people with          People First! Affirmative Phrases
This is NOT the only                           disabilities — they provide freedom of
                                               movement to assist them in traveling              Person with a disability
 booklet you NEED.                             throughout the community.

The National Endowment for the Arts and        When writing or speaking about people             Person who is blind; person with
the American Association of Museums            with disabilities, emphasize abilities rather     a visual impairment
can help you with arts access. Their books     than limitations, focusing on a person’s
and booklets include:                          accomplishments, creative talents, or skills.     Person who is Deaf; person who
         An Arts Accessibility Checklist       This does not mean avoiding mention
                                               of a person’s disability, but doing so in a       is hard of hearing
         that outlines major access
         accommodations to assist              respectful manner and only when relevant
         organizations in making their         to the situation.                                 Person with a mental illness
         facilities and programs fully
         accessible. Contact your state                                                          Person with mental retardation
         arts council or the NEA office
         directly for a copy, (202) 682-5532
         or                                                                          Person who uses a wheelchair

         Everyone’s Welcome: The ADA &                                                           Person with a physical disability;
         Museums, shows how to make
         collections fully accessible and is                                                     person with a mobility impairment
         $25 for members. Order from the
         American Association of Museums
         Bookstore, (202) 289-9127.
         continued on page 20

19   |     Arts Access   made easy
Ten Commandments of Etiquette                     5. Treat adults as adults. Address people
For Communicating with Persons                    who have disabilities by their first names
with Disabilities                                 only when extending the same familiarity
                                                  to all others. (Never patronize people who
1. When talking with a person with a              use wheelchairs by patting them on the
disability, speak directly to that person         head or shoulder.)
rather than through a companion or sign                                                            The National Endowment for the
language interpreter.                             6. Leaning or hanging on a person’s              Arts Web site is a strong resource
                                                  wheelchair is similar to leaning or hanging      too. Visit their accessibility pages
2. When introduced to a person with a
                                                  on a person and is generally considered          at and click
disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake                                                    on Accessibility.
                                                  annoying. The chair is part of the personal
hands. People with limited hand use or who
                                                  body space of the person who uses it.            Fundamentals of Arts Management,
wear an artificial limb can usually shake
hands. (Shaking hands with the left hand                                                           includes a chapter on arts access
                                                  7. Listen attentively when you’re talking
                                                                                                   that includes an extensive list of
is an acceptable greeting.)                       with a person who has difficulty speaking.       organizations, with their Web sites
                                                  Be patient and wait for the person to finish,    and addresses. It costs about $50
3. When meeting a person with a visual
                                                  rather than correcting or speaking for the       and is available through the Arts
impairment, always identify yourself
                                                  person. If necessary, ask short questions that   Extension Service of the University
and others who may be with you. When
                                                  require short answers, a nod, or a shake of      of Massachusetts-Amherst,
conversing in a group, remember to identify                                              
                                                  the head. Never pretend to understand if
the person to whom you are speaking.
                                                  you are having difficulty doing so. Instead,
4. If you offer assistance, wait until the        repeat what you have understood and allow
offer is accepted. Then listen to or ask          the person to respond. The response will
for instructions.                                 clue in and guide your understanding.

                                                                                                   10 Commandments of Etiquette      |    20
                                   8. When speaking with a person in a              The material in Speaking with Awareness is printed with
                                                                                    permission from: The Office of Disability Employment Policy
                                   wheelchair or a person who uses crutches,        (formerly The President’s Committee on Employment of People
                                   place yourself at eye level in front of the      with Disabilities); Guidelines to Reporting and Writing
                                                                                    About People with Disabilities, produced by the Media
                                   person to facilitate the conversation.           Project, Research and Training Center on Independent Living,
                                                                                    4089 Dole, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045; and
                                   9. To get the attention of a person who          Ten Commandments of Etiquette for Communicating with
                                   is Deaf or hard of hearing, tap the person       People with Disabilities, National Center for Access Unlimited,
                                                                                    155 North Wacker Drive, Suite 315, Chicago, IL 60606
                                   on the shoulder or wave your hand.
                                   Look directly at the person and speak
                                   clearly, slowly, and expressively to determine
                                   if the person can read your lips. Not all
                                   people who are hard of hearing can lip-read.
                                   For those that do not lip-read, be sensitive
                                   to their needs by placing yourself so that
                                   you face the light source and keep hands,
                                   cigarettes, and food away from your mouth
                                   while speaking.
                                   10. Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if
                                   you happen to use accepted, common
                                   expressions such as “See you later.”
                                   or “Did you hear about that?” that
                                   seem to relate to a person’s disability.

21   |   Arts Access   made easy
VSA arts is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1974 by Jean Kennedy Smith
to promote education and lifelong learning opportunities in the arts for people with disabilities.
Nearly five million people participate in VSA arts programs annually through a network of
affiliate organizations across the nation and in more than 60 countries. To learn more about
VSA arts, please visit

MetLife Foundation was established by MetLife to support various educational, health,
civic and cultural organizations across the country. Recognizing the arts’ contribution to
the health, vitality and development of our communities, the Foundation is committed to
increasing access to the arts and promoting diversity and inclusion. For more information
about MetLife Foundation, please visit

                                                                                                VSA arts & Metlife Foundation   |   22
1300 Connecticut Ave, NW Suite 700
Washington, D.C. 20036
(800) 933-8721 (Voice)
(202) 737-0725 (Fax)
(202) 737-0645 (TTY)
Web site:

Alternative formats of this publication are available upon request.

The contents of this book were developed under a grant from
the US Department of Education. However, those contents
do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of
Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the
federal government.

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