Arts Accessibility

Arts Inclusion Resources

The North Carolina Arts Council works to ensure that meaningful arts experiences are available to all of the state’s citizens, including people with disabilities, patients and caregivers in healthcare settings, and older adults. The Arts Council assures that all of our offerings are accessible. All of our grantees sign a contract certifying that they will comply with Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The resources listed below can assist our grantees and others not only in complying with these laws, but in raising awareness of these special constituencies and improving overall customer service to include everyone.

Arts and People with Disabilities

National Resources

Design for Accessibility: A Cultural Administrator’s Handbook
The North Carolina Arts Council provides copies of Design for Accessibility: A Cultural Administrator’s Handbook free of charge for arts organizations. Published by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, this book addresses all aspects of both architectural and programming accessibility for people with disabilities. It’s designed not only to help arts organizations comply with Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, but also to assist in ensuring that access is an integral part of an organization’s mission, planning, programming, outreach, meetings, budgets, and staffing.

You may download a copy of the handbook as a PDF file or view it chapter by chapter. Hard copies of the handbook can be ordered through the NASAA website.

Accessibility Planning and Resource Guide for Cultural Administrators
The Accessibility Planning and Resource Guide for Cultural Administrators is an online companion to the printed text Design for Accessibility: A Cultural Administrator’s Handbook. The guide provides recommendations to cultural administrators on how to achieve accessible and inclusive programming for everyone including individuals with disabilities and older adults.

Arts and Humanities Accessibility Checklist
The Arts and Humanities Accessibility Checklist is designed to assist arts and humanities organizations in performing on-site evaluations of their organizations’ policies, programs, services, and facilities. This process will help arts groups to plan, budget, and complete necessary access improvements to meet or exceed legal accessibility standards.

National Endowment for the Arts Office for Accessibility
The National Endowment for the Arts’ Office for Accessibility is the advocacy-technical assistance arm of the Arts Endowment, whose mission is to make the arts accessible for people with disabilities, older adults, veterans, and people living in institutions. The Office for Accessibility provides a variety of services to accomplish its goals, including:

  • Publications
  • Checklists
  • Resource lists
  • Technical assistance
  • Workshops and seminars
  • Projects and partnerships
  • Advocacy
  • Web links to other accessibility organizations

National Arts and Disability Center
The National Arts and Disability Center is a project of the Tarjan Center at the University of California at Los Angeles. Its mission is to promote the full inclusion of audiences and artists with disabilities in all facets of the arts, and it is a leading consultant in the arts and disability community. NADC’s information is aimed at artists with disabilities, arts administrators, arts organizations, disability organizations and agencies, universities, arts educators, and students. The NADC web site offers free resource directories and annotated bibliographies on a wide range of subjects, including

  • Careers in the arts
  • Funding resources
  • Assistive products and services
  • Marketing and publicity
  • Designing an accessible web site

Accessible Information Exchange: Meeting on a Level Playing Field
This U.S. Department of Justice publication focuses on planning and conducting meetings and events that are accessible to people with disabilities.

Maintaining Accessibility in Museums
This is another U.S. Department of Justice publication addressing the essentials of museum accessibility.

ADA Home Page
This is the official source of information and technical assistance about the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Association of Science-Technology Centers, Accessible Practices
While oriented toward science and technology centers and museums, this Web site is particularly notable for containing references on how to find advisors knowledgeable about disabilities and how to write an accessibility plan.

Making Theatre Accessible: A Guide to Audio Description in the Performing Arts
The guide’s contents include a brief history of audio description; rationales for audio-describing theatre from the perspectives of a member of the blindness community, an audio describer, a theatre producer, and a regional theatre education and outreach director; outreach initiatives for audio description education; a step-by-step audio description program plan; appendices, including information resources, signage, and a sample describer’s contract; and a glossary of terms.

Audio Description International
ADI is specifically oriented towards the subject of audio description and its Web site includes information on technology, service providers, trends, and more.

Disability Access Symbols
This site is an excellent resource for obtaining free standardized graphic symbols for publicity and advertising, both on the Web and in print.

Sign Language “Shadow Interpreting” Onstage
The TerpTheatre Web site explains the idea of using sign language interpreters onstage with actors.

VSA arts
With a mission of creating a society where all people with disabilities learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts, VSA arts both showcases accomplishments of disabled artists and offers education programs to increase disability awareness.

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Regional Resources

Southeast ADA Center
The Southeast ADA Center, located within the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, serves as the regional center for an accessibility network of state and local partners from eight Southeast states, including North Carolina. The Southeast ADA Center offers five core services to promote awareness about the Americans with Disabilities Act, accessible information technology, and the rights and abilities of people with disabilities:

  • Technical assistance
  • Training
  • Dissemination of information materials
  • Referrals
  • Public awareness activities

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North Carolina Resources

Alliance of Disability Advocates
While oriented primarily toward services for individuals, this Raleigh-based organization is the state’s expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Arts Access, Inc
A Raleigh-based organization whose mission is “making the arts accessible to people with disabilities.” Services include audio description, information, referrals, and an extensive Web site.

Center for Universal Design
Based at NC State University in Raleigh, the Center’s mission is to “improve environments and products through design innovation, research, education and design assistance.” See in particular its Principles of Universal Design.

Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, part of the N.C. Department of Health and Hard of Hearing, offers a website that contains an online directory of licensed sign language interpreters available throughout the state, guidance on how to select an interpreter with the appropriate qualifications, general guidelines for coordinating interpreter services, and a list of agency resources by region.

Guidelines for Audio Describing Meetings and Presentations
This PDF document by Elizabeth Kahn offers guidelines for both presenters and organizations on how to handle the needs of visually-impaired members of your meeting audience.

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Professional Services

Audio Description Associates
This firm offers a full range of audio description services, including helping arts organizations build AD programs. Examples are provided on the Web site.

Bridge Multimedia
Based in New York City, Bridge Multimedia is “dedicated to supporting all facets of universally accessible media.”

DASI: Descriptive Audio for the Sight Impaired of Western North Carolina
DASI provides Audio Description services in theaters throughout Western North Carolina free of charge. 

Media Access Group at WGBH
Arguably no one knows more about captioning and video description than the staff at the Media Access Group—the people who invented captioning and do the vast majority of professional audio description in the USA.

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Model Programs

North Carolina Blumenthal Center for the Performing Arts
This Charlotte arts center’s accessibility page features links to PDFs describing the accessibility services available for each of six Blumenthal theaters.

Durham Performing Arts Center
This state-of-the-art facility, which opened in 2008, incorporated services to people with disabilities from its inception.

The Kentucky Center
The Kentucky Center in Louisville has a national reputation for the broad range of accessibility services it provides for its patrons.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The Kennedy Center is a leading example of supporting access for people with disabilities, with a full-time staff member devoted to accessibility. Its accessibility page also includes Resources for Arts Administrators.

Paper Mill Playhouse
You can request Paper Mill’s award-winning access brochure, Theatre For Everyone, free at (973) 379-3636, ext. 2666 or email

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
This museum accessibility page includes a downloadable Accessibility Guide. Information about how to arrange a touch-tour for people who are blind or have low vision is also included.

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Arts in Healthcare Resources

Society for the Arts in Healthcare
The Society for the Arts in Healthcare is dedicated to advancing the arts as integral to healthcare by:

  • Demonstrating the valuable roles the arts can play in enhancing the healing process
  • Advocating for the integration of the arts into the environment and delivery of care within healthcare facilities
  • Assisting in the professional development and management of arts programming for healthcare populations
  • Providing resources and education to healthcare and arts professionals
  • Encouraging and supporting research and investigation into the beneficial effects of the arts in healthcare

Arts & Health at Duke
Formerly known as HAND, this is one of the oldest and most comprehensive arts-in-healthcare programs in the country, with extensive offerings in the performing arts, visual arts, and literary arts.

DooR to DooR
The DooR to DooR program schedules nearly 200 professional performing and visual artists annually to share their art in private rooms and public spaces at the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

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Arts and Aging Resources

National Center for Creative Aging
The National Center for Creative Aging is dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and the quality of life of older people.

Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit
This online resource is designed for leaders and program staff in public, nonprofit, and for-profit arts and humanities organizations and institutions and in healthcare and aging services organizations, corporations, and institutions. It is intended to increase the expertise of those who direct existing community arts and aging programs and to give others in the community the tools to take the first step—and keep going.

Center for Creative Aging-North Carolina
Located in Greensboro, the Center for Creative Aging-North Carolina is an emerging non-profit organization dedicated to imaginative self-expression of all forms in the second half of life.

North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement
The North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement is an award-winning learning community dedicated to promoting lifelong learning, leadership, community service, and research. A department of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, its goal is to enable its members to “thrive” in life’s second half. The Center embraces an unusually comprehensive array of programs in the arts and humanities.

North Carolina Senior Games
In addition to of the traditional athletic competition, NCSG conducts SilverArts, “a celebration of the creative expression of seniors in North Carolina.” SilverArts, the only program of its kind in the country, unites the athlete and artist in a program that recognizes the similarities of both endeavors: discipline, dedication, and pride in one’s accomplishments. SilverArts provides a stage for the creative talents of visual, heritage, literary, and performing artists.

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