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Art and Accessibility

Thoughts on Accessibility, Reelabilities, & More

A bright-eyed crew of OAC staff gathered on a Monday morning to partake in Building Access by Design: A Cultural Accessibility Institute. The one-day conference was the first of its kind, a program of VSA Ohio's Reelabilities Film Festival and hosted by the Ohio History Center. From featured speakers and poignant films, to breakout sessions that left an impression on us all--the day was full of insightful conversations. In keeping with the theme that all voices matter, we asked our team to share their thoughts on the day.

First impressions?

The conference attracted an interesting mix of people from the arts, history, culture, and other sectors. -Christy Farnbauch, Director of Innovation & Engagement 

I thought the day was very worthwhile particularly for people who would be programming for people with disabilities of all kinds, as well as people who are personally touched by disability, which really is everyone. Disabilities are not always visible or acknowledged, but every person can benefit from the types of programming and exposure that is geared directly to a person with a disability. -Carla Oesterle, Fiscal Operations Associate

Which breakout session did you attend? What were your takeaways?

I attended the Universal Design for Learning Breakout Session presented by a team of folks from the Ohio History Connection. The presenters highlighted ways the History Center is working to adapt exhibits for people of all abilities. I learned about software that helps them create pictures for conveying information for children at all learning levels called Boardmaker. Jodie Engle (one of the workshop presenters) shared resources from CAST focused on helping people understand Universal Design for Learning. -Christy 


Accessing the Physical Space
I attended the breakout with Derek Mortland, which was interesting.  My takeaway from that session was to think about spaces in terms of ease of use for everyone and to consider things like - something at head level that projects from the wall more than four inches because that could be a major hazard for a person that is sight-impaired - along with people who just don't always look where they are going!  It isn't always the big things that cause the big problems for folks. -Carla

I attended Derek's session regarding the technical aspects of ADA compatibility with facilities and public spaces. He actually had us go around the building with levels, tape measures, and a tip sheet to record the buildings compliance to ADA regulations. Nothing gives perspective more than getting one's hands dirty while taking things for a spin, so to say. -Jim Szekacs, Investment Coordinator

I was struck by the three components of universal design for learning: 1) affective networks - why?; 2) recognition networks - what?; and 3) strategic networks - how? It mirrors some brain research I've been reading.  Simon Sinek's work is closely aligned to these principles-Christy 

What about the films?

The film Among the Giants left a lasting impression on me. It was genuinely inspiring to learn about such an impactful organization (Adaptive Design Association) that is creating customized solutions to the unique challenges of people with disabilities. -Brianna Dance, Investment Coordinator

Life with Asperger's was my favorite film because it gave me another glimpse into my son's point of view of the world. - Kim Turner, Constituent Investment/Grants Associate and ADA Coordinator 
The last film, The Conference, was my favorite. It addressed a non-ADA issue (conferences) directly with humor, but addressed ADA concerns indirectly. -Jim
The film that left the biggest impression on me was The Commute. Watching the man in the wheelchair struggle every step of the way in his mission to buy and wrap a gift and deliver it to his daughter. He worked really hard and got it done, but it was too late and the thing that affected me most about the story is that he was alone trying to do this thing himself while confined to a chair. The film really brought home how difficult a process becomes and how most people take for granted the ability to walk. -Carla

Lasting thoughts?

I'm continually reminded that the OAC and VSA are on the forefront of this work. -Christy 

This conference was able to illustrate the fact that the arts bring out the beauty and the struggle and make life accessible to some people that might not have other open doorways. -Carla


P.S. If you attended, don't forget to answer the quick survey!

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


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