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Arts and Culture Public Officials Breakfast 2015

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Expanding Your Audience

Back in November 2018, we held a 2-day Accessibility workshop to help arts and culture organizations learn how to make their content more accessible to people with disabilities. We brought in Erin Hoppe, VSA Ohio, to speak on the first day, and she gave a very detailed presentation on all the pieces involved in making an organization’s marketing materials more accessible.

She shared that 1 in 5 Americans has a disability and that the most common disabilities are visual loss, hearing loss, intellectual disability, mobility disability, learning disability, speech/language disability, psychological/emotional disability, chronic health issues and autism. She spoke on how organizations can make their website and social media pages more accessible, how they can work to make in-person events more accessible and how important it is to train staff and volunteers on how to best approach accessibility needs during events. She also challenged us to think about things we don’t normally have to such as how the use of color in our materials affects those who are color blind. And how certain fonts are harder for those with dyslexia to read because of the shape of the letters. She really encouraged us all to look at our marketing practices and think through different things that need to be updated and/or changed. Some simple changes we can make include: using a dyslexia-friendly font such as Dyslexie, Open Dyslexic and Comic Sans; using effective color contrast in anything visual that uses color; using pictographs; and using alternative text for images on websites, email and other electronic material. You can learn more at a workshop the Cleveland Arts Education Consortium will be hosting Tuesday, February 19th at Near West Theatre.

Day 2 of the workshop featured a 6-person panel that included:

  • John G., comic artist and creator of Genghis Con
  • Lisa Marn, Consumer Empowerment Specialist, Services for Independent Living and her service animal Tahiti
  • Meghan Drops, Leadership Academy graduate, Services for Independent Living
  • Keri November, American Sign Language instructor
  • Ron Shelton, Publisher and Managing Editor, High Art Fridays

Each person on the panel lives with a disability and spoke on their experiences. I have included a few that really stood out to me.

Panelists John G. and Lisa Marn spoke about the difficulties they face visiting places that aren’t wheelchair accessible. John G. spoke of an experience where he had to be carried down the stairs at a local arts event after he couldn’t find the right person to gain access to the elevator he had taken upstairs. Marn spoke on how doors that don’t open automatically are very difficult to manage in a wheelchair and also how things like placement of garbage can affect the accessibility of a door. Marn also shared about her service dog Tahiti. Service dogs aren’t normal house dogs and should be treated differently. They are doing a job. Cuddling and petting them can be very distracting and cause stress for their owners. Marn also has an assistant and said people often speak to her through her assistant, rather than addressing her. Or worse, treat her like a child.

Keri November an American Sign Language instructor who is deaf spoke on how difficult it can be to find a really good sign-language interpreter. In one experience she was assigned an interpreter who was not certified. They did not know many words and even made up signs on the spot! Each panelist shared a number of bad experiences that would be incomprehensible to many of us, but they also shared some great experiences. November for example recently saw the musical “Hamilton,” at Playhouse Square, and was provided everything she needed to have a stellar experience.

On a final note, one of our partners in presenting this panel, Laura Gold, Advocacy & Disability Rights Coordinator at Services for Independent Living, noted that she does not use sign language. She reads lips and uses Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART). She spoke on how it’s important to remember that deaf people don’t all communicate the same way and oftentimes need different preparations for events, which is true for all people. Just because two people have the same disability does not mean they need the same provisions. Simply put, remember to treat a person like a person and don’t identify them by their disability. We can’t know everything, but we can do our best to provide people with what they need to help them have a great experience above and beyond ADA compliance. 

Resources

Event

Celebrating Inclusion: Beyond the Basics - May 21, 2019, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Holiday Inn, 6001 Rockside Road, Independence, Ohio

Tools

Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) - inspires change and promotes access to opportunities for people with disabilities by information public policy and developing and deploying practices grounded in linking research to real life. 

Ava - an app that captions in real time. This works best when each person in the meeting has the app open on their phone and linked to one another. 

GalaPro - works to make theater and live performances accessible to everyone, in their own language, all over the world.

Partner Orgs.

Services for Independent Living - works to empower persons with disabilities to lead inclusive lives through advocacy, community engagement, and self-directed services. 

VSA Ohio - works to make the arts and arts education more accessible and inclusive for people with any disability and their support networks. At VSA Ohio, creativity transcends disability.

ADA CLE - seeks to CELEBRATE the ongoing legacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We LEAD in ensuring access, increasing awareness, promoting independence and providing opportunity. We ENGAGE our community as advocates for positive change.

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