Posts Tagged ‘Americans with Disabilities Act’

Arts Access makes arts more accessible, while supporting artists with disabilities.

by Brandon Cordrey

Learning that you may be excluding nearly one in six North Carolinians is a tough realization for an arts organization. Tasks that are seemingly simple for some individuals — such as reading, walking and hearing— can be barriers for individuals with disabilities, preventing them from experiencing the joys of theater, dance and visual arts. Even the timing of an arts event can make it inaccessible to some. Events that are costly or held in the evenings may not be accessible to those who live on fixed incomes or rely solely on public transportation. Having a visual or hearing disability could be a deterrent from attending performances, exhibitions, museums or galleries.  For artists with disabilities, it can be difficult to find support and training, or to show your work.

Luckily an organization in the Triangle has been active at the intersection of arts and disabilities for over two decades. Arts Access was one of the first organizations in the United States to concentrate solely on making the arts accessible to people with disabilities. Since their beginning, Arts Access has been working to bring people with needs and resources to the table to communicate with each other and to provide education. As Program Director, Betsy Ludwig recently said, “Being at the table is not the same as helping to prepare the meal. We urge organizations to involve people with disabilities on your boards and advisory committees.”

Online resources make the arts more accessible.

According to a statewide survey conducted by Arts Access in 2010, lack of information about available events and opportunities was one of the main barriers for art patrons with disabilities to become active in their arts community. To engage this problem, Arts Access has built a website full of events, advice, consultation and training sessions. The information they provide is key for arts administrators to become more aware of accessibility and for people with disabilities to get involved in the arts community. Anyone who feels they have a resource or event that is inclusive or educational is encouraged to share information about them through the Arts Access website, which is one of the organization’s most valuable resources.

Arts Access provides information and training for arts organizations on accessibility.

Arts Access fee based services include training and consultations to art venues and organizations about the often small and inexpensive changes they can make to be more accommodating. Additionally, they provide Audio Description to patrons who are blind or low vision so they can attend a play or performing arts event.

Events to support and highlight artists with disabilities.

Through grants and donations, Arts Access is able to take on other projects for artists with disabilities. For instance, in the past year, Arts Access coordinated a children’s art exhibition at Marbles Kids Museum and partnered with Wake Enterprises to provide artist residencies and education to adults with intellectual disabilities

Their future plans include an exhibition at Mercury Studios in Durham of painter George Mitchell and several other adult artists with disabilities and audio description training for new describers. These events and all of Arts Access’ upcoming events are made possible by the community’s willingness to sit down at the table, communicate, and offer what resources they can. Like every great organization, funding is key.  All donations make a difference by supporting Arts Access’ influential work.

As one famous leader who did not let his disability deter him said “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt

For more information about Arts Access visit their website or visit their FB page.

Brandon Cordrey is a studio artist working mainly in collage with found or reused materials. He also manages the Lee Hansley Gallery on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh. While his main concentration is visual art, he has love for all the arts! Follow Brandon on Twitter: @BMCordrey or email.

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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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