Hidden Resource – Arts Access helps bring arts to all.

by Sommer Wisher

The essence of art is complete freedom of  expression and layers of interpretation by both those creating art and those soaking it in.  No one should be excluded from experiencing multiple genres of art and Arts Access has been working hard since 1982 to ensure that does not happen.

Arts Access' "Inclusive Arts Coalition" holds regular "Lunch & Learn" networking events, this one hosted by DPAC.

According to Program Director, Betsy Ludwig, “Arts Access brings together the disability and the arts communities in North Carolina and bridges the distance between them by providing services, awareness and understanding. Our website, staff and programs work to support organizations to more effectively serve all people and for people with disabilities to locate information and increase participation in the cultural life of their communities.” Arts Access concentrates its efforts on providing audio description, consulting and training services, while the organizations website serves as an interactive online resource to connect individuals, artists, educators and organizations throughout the state of North Carolina

Initially, Arts Access was best known for its audio description services  and only in the Triangle area, but recent years have seen an expansion in its programs and its services now extend across the State.  Ludwig, who joined the organization in 2009 and has been instrumental in its recent growth, expressed her excitement about the expanding programs that are in the works.  They are working to bring more awareness and increase training for arts organizations in untouched areas of the state.  For Arts Access, it is vital that arts organizations have a handle on what it means to be accessible to the disabled community. Betsy emphasized that “many organizations have the misperception that strategies to improve access involve primarily expensive physical renovations.  Many barriers to access are programmatic and attitudinal and there are low cost strategies available to improve accessibility.”

In addition, they are making strides to make it easier for people with disabilities to participate in the arts.  “These strategies could include addressing transportation barriers to events, securing free or low cost tickets, instruction in asking for accommodations from venues, and education on what their rights are under the ADA.”  In addition, Arts Access has plans to have more school-aged programming and provide more workshops and support for Artists with Disabilities.

Arts Access seems to have eyes focused where others don’t.  They are increasing staff support and funding in order to accomplish these goals that will really impact the art community and the lives of those living with disabilities.  If you would like to get involved and help Arts Access make a difference in these areas, please contact Betsy Ludwig or visit their website

If you want to learn more about an arts organizations or businesses obligations under the American’s with Disabilities Act, how to market to people with disabilities, possible grants to increase accessibility and other issues related to accessibility, Arts Access having a Workshop on December 1st.  For more information, click here.

Sommer Wisher graduated with a degree in Youth and Family Ministry from Kentucky Christian University in 2005.  During her college career she served churches in Indiana, North Carolina and Kentucky.  Upon graduation, she took her first full-time ministry in her hometown of Kokomo, Indiana.  In 2007, she was asked to join a multi-site church plant here in Raleigh and worked with them as the Family Life Pastor until 2009.  Upon leaving vocational ministry, she sought out a local nonprofit and stumbled upon Urban Ministries of Wake County.  She has now been the Manager of Volunteer Services for 2 years and has loved every second of it.  In her free time, she loves writing, singing and serving in other countries (Zimbabwe, Haiti, Russia, Guatemala) and has an obsession with teeth!

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One Comment

Great article, Sommer!
I am an Arts Access board member, and I update and distribute the ACCESS North Carolina travel guidebook for people with disabilities. I am glad that you found this workshop valuable enough to write an article about it so that more people will know
Arts Access’s mission and
become aware of ways they can help people with disabilities participate in the arts. :)

Sincerely,
Philip Woodward
Access Specialist
NC Division of Vocational Rehabiliation Services (DVRS)

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