Arts & Access


Randall Forte, executive director, Lehigh Valley Arts Council:

Arts & Access was initially conceived as a yearlong celebration of the 25th
anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act through the lens of the
arts. Spearheaded by the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, in partnership with the
Disability Friendly Community, this program benefitted people with
disabilities and their families by providing greater access to a wider array
of cultural events. The program also strengthened cultural nonprofits by
providing them access to equipment, training and the means to meet their ADA
responsibilities. Over the course of the 2015-2016 year, 30 cultural organizations
teamed up with social service agencies to present sensory-friendly
performances for children with autism; dance classes for Parkinson’s
patients; audio-described, open-captioned and ASL-interpreted theatrical
performances; lectures; exhibitions; poetry readings; film screenings; and
public meetings. As a result, 790 people with disabilities either attended
or performed at these events, accompanied by nearly 750 family members and

While the response was very encouraging, the number of cultural
organizations who offer accommodations still represent only 30% of the
cultural organizations that provide services to the public.  More
significantly, none of them offer accommodations to every segment of the
population with a disability. Moving forward depends on ongoing
disability friendly events as a regular way of doing business, not just as
an experiment. There remains a significant need to build more awareness of
the challenges and barriers to participation and secure the involvement of
more cultural organizations. The more we make the public aware of
accommodations needed to serve the 81,000 persons living with disabilities
in the Lehigh Valley, the more we open the door for greater arts
participation for all people of all abilities The Lehigh Valley Arts Council
is committed to greater inclusion by making Arts & Access Always a permanent

For current program and performance information: