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 2015-2916 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 friends.
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 program.
Contact: Randall Forte, program coordinator, executive director, Lehigh Valley Arts Council: firstname.lastname@example.org