Good Shepherd hosting event to launch 'Arts and Access,' honor ADA 25th year
Lehigh Valley arts and cultural organizations will be welcoming patrons with intellectual, sensory and physical disabilities as a result of the effort of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council (LVAC) and the Lehigh Valley Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community (Partnership).
An "Arts & Access" reception to launch the yearlong plan to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) through the lens of the arts will be held 4:30 - 6 p.m. July 24, at the Good Shepherd Health & Technology Center, 850 S. Fifth St., Allentown.
The event is open to the public, particularly to anyone with a disability.
"Access to the arts is more than just building a ramp," said Randall Forte, LVAC Executive Director. "To be truly accessible to those with disabilities, performing and visual arts groups need to make important changes in the way they have always done things."
LVAC has developed staff training and promotional programs to help local arts organizations learn how to remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying their offerings. More than 30 arts organizations have already agreed to move toward greater inclusion and make accommodations for people with disabilities.
Workshops will continue this year on implementing open captioning and audio description for people with vision and hearing loss. Open Captioning provides the audience with an electronic text display to the side of the stage, displaying lyrics, dialogue and sound effects in real time. Audio Description is a form of audio-visual translation, using natural pauses to insert narrative that translates the visual image into an audible form. Patrons use headsets to hear the audio description.
The Arts Council and Partnership hope to accomplish the following goals:
To convince cultural organizations to consider the community with disabilities as a viable market;
To train arts presenters in how to adapt their work for an audience with varied disabilities;
To help arts organizations recognize the needs and the abilities of people with disabilities, and
To work together to promote accessible events for people with disabilities and their families.
Most can go to a concert or play with little thought to attendance details. But those who experience hearing or vision loss, or have mobility or developmental challenges that require special accommodation, are often barred from cultural events.
The 2012 U.S. Census estimated that more than 12 percent of the Lehigh Valley's non-institutionalized population lives with some kind of disability. That's a potential arts audience of about 81,000. "Arts groups should realize that in the community with disabilities there is an untapped market for performing and visual arts," said Forte.
Members of the Lehigh Valley Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community, a coalition of organizations that serve the diverse disabled community, asked the LVAC to involve arts groups in addressing this issue.
Arts and cultural organizations participating including ArtsQuest, Allentown Art Museum, Lehigh University Art Galleries, Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Satori, and Williams Center for the Arts.
Arts & Access is already responsible for important changes in the way the arts are presented. For example, this fall the Lehigh University Art Galleries will debut a tactile description program in their teaching gallery, which uses technology to create a three-dimensional relief of a portion of the image for the person to explore through touch.
Many local service providers, such as Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living and the Center for Vision Loss, are offering customer service training free-of-charge. For instance, the staff at Center for Vison Loss will work with ushers and box office personnel on how to interact with a person with vision loss. In addition to providing them audio-description, theaters may offer a pre-show sensory tour, where patrons arrive early, meet cast members and handle props and costume accessories.
The LVAC can connect presenters with affordable professionals who do American Sign Language interpreting, audio describing and open captioning for live events and exhibitions. The council also offers audio-describer training and equipment for organizations who wish to train their in-house personnel. In addition, participants may apply to the council for a Greater Inclusion Grant, a matching grant for up to $300, to help fund a new initiative that meets the approved criteria.
The Americans for Disabilities Act, passed on July 26, 1990, prohibits discrimination against the disabled. It set in motion activity designed to prevent discrimination against those who have difficulty navigating modern life, particularly in employment, transportation, and public buildings. But the act did not specifically address the facilities used by the arts such as theaters, galleries, and auditoriums.
L.V. Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community is a diverse network of more than 75 people and agencies in the Lehigh Valley united in the goal to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Their vision is to be a catalyst for change in making the Valley a disability-friendly community which is inclusive, accessible, and welcoming.
The Lehigh Valley Arts Council acts as both advocate and catalyst to create new gateways, and bring people together to find solutions that advance greater arts participation. It promotes the arts, supports the development of artists, assists arts organizations, facilitates communication among its constituencies, and conducts research to measure the economic impact of the region's cultural industry.
VSA ARTS in Pennsylvania shares its knowledge of inclusive arts education across Pennsylvania and works with artists with disabilities to develop professional careers.
Schedule for July 24 Launch Party
4:30 p.m.: Guests greeted by The Miracle Movers cheerleaders from The Miracle
League of the Lehigh Valley; Tours of "Beyond Limits," the Heath & Technology facility
5:15 p.m.: Welcome by John Kristel, President and CEO, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network; Remarks by Nelvin Vos, founding convener of the Partnership; Remarks by Randall Forte, Executive Director, LVAC
5:30 p.m.: Refreshments; music by The Mississippi Mudders Dixieland Quintet
Free, wheelchair accessible parking is available in the Good Shepherd parking deck across from the Health & Technology Center along South Fifth Street. It is connected to the center via a bridge on Level Three.