Can people who are blind appreciate art?

This afternoon I’m sitting on a panel for a workshop here in Chicago about services and programming that theaters, museums and other cultural institutions can provide to make themselves accessible for visitors who are blind or have low vision. The panel is sponsored by the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC), and the topics they’ll be covering include:

  • audio description for theater performances, and verbal description for museums/other cultural spaces
  • touch tours and tactile experiences
  • creating written materials in braille and large print formats
  • accommodating service animals
  • outreach to the blind and low vision community

The other panelists are a pretty accomplished bunch, including a woman who worked on accessibility for visitors with disabilities at the Metropolitan Museum and Lincoln Center before moving to Chicago to found the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium, the guy who directs Audience Experience at Chicago’s award-winning Steppenwolf Theatre, and a specialist in ancient and Asian art collections who directs the Art Institute of Chicago’s educational programs for older adults and people with disabilities.

I am one of many, many people in Chicago who takes advantage of special services and programming for people who are blind or have visual impairments. I gotta believe that the reason I was singled out to sit up there with these very accomplished and educated panelists is because of my connection with the National Endowment for the Arts. Beth and Whitney in Vermont -- photo by Susie CroninIn 2013, I was awarded a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and about this time last year, I was the only blind person there among 50 other poets, visual artists and writers at the Vermont Studio Center.

The National Endowment for the Arts’ Office for Accessibility does a lot to help make the arts accessible, and I especially like their Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities program. The program partners the U.S. Department of Education, Health & Human Services, and the Social Security Administration with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to sponsor artists and arts administrators with disabilities. You can contact the Kennedy Center for more information on that program, and if you live in Chicago, come on out to the workshop to find out more about what’s going on here to help people with disabilities appreciate the arts. The CCAC workshop is today (Friday, April 25) from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Access Living, 115 W. Chicago Ave in Chicago. The event is free, but you need to register in advance to participate. See (okay, hear) you there!


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  1. Angela Says:

    I was born premature almost 30 years ago in 1984 and I am also a twin, who sadly, would have also turned the same age that I am currently, which is 29. His name was Christopher, named after my paternal (father’s father) and I miss him every day and I always will until the day I see him , to quote an old song from 1995 from one of my favorite pop music recording artists, Mariah carey, “One SWEET Day”. In Heaven,where I know he and my beloved, late grandmother and my dogs are shining and smiling down on me.

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