ADA 25th, 'Arts & Access,' celebrated
"Papa Raker would be so proud," said Congressman Charles Dent (R-15th).
The "Arts & Access" reception was held at the Good Shepherd Health & Technology Center, Allentown, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The theme for the July 24 event, attended by about 200, was "to celebrate ADA through the lens of the arts." The emphasis was on what some 30 Lehigh Valley arts organizations are doing to make arts events more accessible to persons with disabilities.
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. The result is "Arts & Access."
Dent, in presenting a proclamation to John Kristel, President and CEO, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, thanked Randall Forte, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Arts Council; LVAC members, and "those who are trying to connect the arts with persons with disabilities."
"Papa Raker" was Dr. Conrad W. Raker, founder of Good Shepherd Home, forerunner of Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital.
A representative for State Sen. Pat Browne (R - 16h) said, "He's [Browne] asked the citizens of the 16th District to recommit to full ADA accessibility."
Proclamations were also presented by representatives of State Reps. Peter Schweyer (D - 22), Mike Schlossberg (D -132) and Daniel T. McNeill (D - 133).
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, declaring ADA Day in the City of Allentown, noted that the ADA Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.
"It was such landmark legislation that changed the way cities deal with persons with disabilities," Pawlowski said.
Allentown has 1,200 accessible ramps at sidewalk-street intersections, and 500 intersections with signalization for persons with sight disabilities.
"We're celebrating programs and commitment," said Kristel, "through the lens of the arts, heightening awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities. Kristel called the ADA Act the "civil rights of people with disabilities.
"We are celebrating equality," Kristel added, for "a barrier-free society."
Kristel urged those attending and Lehigh Valley residents to sign the "ADA Pledge." The goal in the Lehigh Valley is to obtain 2,500 signatures to "protect the civil rights of people with disabilities."
Dr. Nelvin Vos, founding convener of the Lehigh Valley Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community, called the "Arts & Access" program "a catalyst for change to improve the lives of people in the Lehigh Valley."
Vos said that the Partnership has recognized the work of Air Products, Muhlenberg College, and Civic Theatre of Allentown's 19th Street Theatre.
Forte said the work of the Partnership and LVAC begins with two words: "thank you," and listed organizations and companies that are supporting "Arts & Access."
There are 40 "Arts & Access" events to be presented through June 2016.
"Yes, the arts can be a catalyst for change," said Forte.
"Today, we celebrate a more inclusive community as an opportunity to listen and learn from each other," Forte said.
"There are more barriers to remove," said Forte.
The Miracle Movers cheerleaders from The Miracle League of the Lehigh Valley led a cheer. The Mississippi Mudders Dixieland Quintet provided music. Tours of "Beyond Limits," the Heath & Technology facility, were given. Refreshments were served.
The Lehigh Valley Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community is a network of more than 75 people and agencies in the Lehigh Valley united in the goal to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
LVAC and the Partnership launched the "Arts & Access" program.
Arts and cultural organizations participating include ArtsQuest, Allentown Art Museum, Lehigh University Art Galleries, Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Satori, and Williams Center for the Arts.