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EXPANDING ACCESS TO THE ARTS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES In partnership with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities

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In partnership with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities

A GUIDE FOR EXPANDING ACCESS TO THE ARTS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES CONTENTS Foreword Strategies for Expanding Access Know Your Audience Programming for Inclusion Marketing Strategies Unexpected Benefits of Accessibility

Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

FOREWORD In spring of 2014 the Tennessee Arts Commission in partnership with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities hosted a series of conversations across the state with representatives from the arts and disability communities. Conversation goals included: Identifying barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from attending art performances, events and activities Creating sustainable strategies for eliminating these barriers Identifying best practices to ensure that Tennessee arts events are more welcoming to patrons with disabilities Community conversations took place in Chattanooga, Memphis and Nashville, as a way to see what might come from “crossing the streams”– by sharing both challenging and successful experiences. The hope was that if the conversations were productive, more might occur in the future, bringing together arts and disability community members, or other underserved communities in additional cities, towns and rural areas. This document is a summary of the highlights of those first conversations. It is meant to be a resource for arts organizations to increase their inclusive practices, build more diverse audiences, and raise awareness about the concept of “arts for all”. The information contained in this brochure is by no means the whole story. The biggest success will come as arts groups move beyond this document to reach out to disability groups in their region for conversations of their own. The resource guide offered here aims to support that kind of communication. A blind patron at the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis recalled a tour led by a docent who vividly explained the surroundings and described the paintings. The patron was so impressed that she informed all of her friends and encouraged them to visit and enjoy the same tour.


STRATEGIES FOR EXPANDING ACCESS The arts and inclusion conversations across the state covered many topics. Even so, a consensus on three keys to effective inclusion of patrons with disabilities emerged. Effective, courteous and open communication between patrons with disabilities and arts organizations is essential. Arts programming specifically aimed at being more inclusive expands and diversifies our audience. The key to effective programming is to consider what components might enhance an arts experience for audience members with particular needs and characteristics. Extending a welcoming invitation through marketing is vital to letting diverse audience members know you want them there.

Getting Started – People First For those with little or no experience with persons with disabilities, there may be hesitation or a fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. Here are some tips to overcoming that barrier. Respect is the watchword for treating any individual, with or without a disability. Tennesseans with disabilities lead independent, self-affirming lives and define themselves according to their personhood—their ideas, beliefs, hopes and dreams—above and beyond their disability. An excellent starting point when meeting, seeing or thinking about a person with a disability is to presume competence. Another step in the right direction is making every effort to use respectful and inclusive language.

Inclusive Language Consider the following examples of more respectful language: • People with disabilities, not “the disabled”, and never “the handicapped” • People with intellectual disabilities, not “slow” or “retarded” • People of short stature, not “midget” or “dwarf” • People with a mental health diagnosis, not the “mentally ill”

Train volunteers, staff, docents, and anyone who will be interacting with your customers. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville partners with the Tennessee Disability Coalition and Center for Independent Living for guidance and development of its training program.

• Persons without disabilities, not “normal” people • People who use wheelchairs, not those who are “wheelchair bound” • Arts administrators, not “those arts people!” Unfortunately, preferred language often changes over time. For additional information or help with inclusive language, talk with regional disability organization representatives or a statewide partner like the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities or the Tennessee Disability Coalition. 2

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE A little knowledge about the nature of the challenges that come with different disabilities can be the difference between a warm welcome or a regretful, “I’ll never go there again!” experience. Information in this section is especially important for docents, ushers and volunteers who greet and direct the public. This list is by no means complete. To ensure positive arts experiences for persons with disabilities not listed here, please reach out to a local contact with whom you can work directly.

Blindness or Low Vision When meeting a person who is blind or has low vision, identify yourself, introduce others who may be present, and provide some orientation to the facility. This includes describing the stage, artwork, costuming - anything that requires visual recognition. Do not leave the person without excusing yourself verbally. Exits and entrances on stage should be described, including all non-verbal communication. When asked to guide someone, never push or pull the person. Offer your arm and allow him or her to reach for you, and then walk slightly ahead. Describe key elements in the physical environment as you guide the person. For example, point out doors, stairs, and curbs as you approach. When guiding a person into a room, describe the layout, the location of furniture, and note any nearby people. Do not pet or distract a guide dog. The dog is responsible for its owner’s safety and is always working. It is not a pet.

Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Let the person take the lead in establishing the communication mode, such as lip-reading, sign language, or writing notes. Captioning of all activities, including non-visual cues, video, and all verbal communication is ideal. Talk directly to the person even when a sign language interpreter is present. When using interpreters at a performance, make sure they are positioned so the patron can focus on the performance. If the person lip-reads, face him or her directly, speak clearly and at moderate pace.

The Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville offers a wide variety of services for people with limited mobility, including early entrance into the theaters; use of a TPAC wheelchair; meeting patrons on the curb to provide assistance on request; and designated seating next to companions in all of its theaters (removing seats as needed). The arts center publicizes a phone number to call for individualized attention to accommodate the diverse needs of patrons with special requests.


PROGRAMMING FOR INCLUSION Ludwig von Beethoven, whose hearing loss began in his late twenties, said “Music should strike fire from the heart of man.” For artists and arts organizations, the challenge is to share the power of the arts with all. Creative, strategic, thoughtful arts programming can make powerful arts experiences accessible to a variety of audiences. The community conversations yielded some ideas that are summarized here. The real key to inclusive programming, as for any audience, is to explore and consider what audience members with particular characteristics would appreciate.

Clarify Expectations Inclusion may mean participating in at least some part of the program, not necessarily the entire event. It needs to be okay for a patron to leave before the official “end” of an activity. Success can be measured in different ways. Consider the comprehension level or language level of program materials (e.g., program guides, guided tours, concert programs) for optimal inclusion of people with varying intellectual abilities.

Barrier free environment Train staff beforehand. Disability etiquette training increases the level of comfort, ease and the ability to interact in an inclusive way. Parents of children with disabilities often worry about the lack of support in making an arts experience enjoyable for their children. Prepare for your audience. Have people in your local disability network evaluate your programs and space for potential issues. Consider “easibility” – the ease with which someone with different characteristics can navigate your space and programming. Know who to contact for accommodations (i.e., interpreters, Braille, audio description). Subscribe to listservs, social media or newsletters of your local disability networks or explore Tennessee Disability Pathfinder for additional disability resources. Use a Programming and Space Checklist: (Section 504 Self-Evaluation Workbook) - This Program Evaluation Workbook is designed to assist staff of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant recipients in evaluating the current state of accessibility of their programs and activities for visitors and employees with disabilities. Consider what might be an “unwelcome surprise” for some audiences. For example, if your production, performance or exhibit includes moments of extreme sound, lighting or other sensory experiences, it is helpful to announce those before the program begins. Consider open seating so audience members can move around.


MARKETING STRATEGIES or, “If you build it, they will come” Do not go it alone. Reach out and partner with other organizations so your programming and accommodations will achieve mutual goals. Advertise your inclusive programming through your regional disability network. Advertise your accessibility offerings. Use Accessibility Symbols in all advertisements and websites. In partnership with disability organizations, design targeted events that highlight accessibility. Advertise events as “sensory friendly” or “modified performance” so that people without disabilities may also attend and participate alongside those with disabilities.

The Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville has an accessibility brochure which it makes available to extend a welcome to all and to describe available accommodations.

UNEXPECTED BENEFITS OF ACCESSIBILITY You may be surprised by those who appreciate accommodations meant for others. For example, when offered the choice, many people will use a ramp or elevator instead of the stairs. The aging population is the fastest growing demographic in the country. Although many do not self-identify as people with disabilities, they can benefit from fully accessible venues. Open captioning and audio description can benefit many different people including the deaf, hard of hearing, aging persons and people with visual learning styles. Every arts agency, whether operated with paid staff or volunteers, should have someone who is responsible for ensuring that its programs and services are accessible. This document can be a first line of engagement in that process. Seek peers, local or regional resources, the Tennessee Arts Commission and its statewide partners, and national resources including the National Endowment for the Arts Office of Accessibility and National VSA.

He who chooses the beginning of the road chooses the place it leads to. - Harry Emerson Fosdick


No person on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, religion, or sex shall be excluded from participation in, or be denied benefits of, or otherwise be subject to discrimination of services, programs, and employment provided by the Tennessee Arts Commission and its contracting agencies. For ADA inquiries, please contact William Coleman at 615-532-9797 or Tennessee Relay Center 1-800-848-0298 (TTY) or 1-800-848-0299 (voice) Published in 2014 by Tennessee Arts Commission.

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Tennessee Arts Commission Arts and Inclusion Guide  

A GUIDE FOR EXPANDING ACCESS TO THE ARTS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES In partnership with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabiliti...

Tennessee Arts Commission Arts and Inclusion Guide  

A GUIDE FOR EXPANDING ACCESS TO THE ARTS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES In partnership with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabiliti...

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