Arts & Culture Accessibility Cooperative: Wednesday, December 6th 2017 at Paraquad,

Arts & Culture Accessibility Cooperative: Wednesday, December 6th 2017 at Paraquad,


NOVEMBER CHAMPION—
I’m November Champion. I am very, very
excited that all of you are here today. I’m excited about the work that we’re
going to be doing and the potential this has for our St. Louis community. I work for a large financial services institution in St. Louis (that I didn’t get permission to say their name) but come get a business card you can figure it out. I have a lot of passion in this base. My job is all about digital
accessibility and inclusiveness there. I also volunteer for MindsEye as
an audio describer. So I’m really interested in the work that we’ll get forward today. We have three really great speakers to talk to you. Thank you Paraquad for hosting; this new space is gorgeous. It’s very nice and very great to have that. And advance the slide, hopefully I’ll remember to do this. Alright! And if you are tweeting or on
Facebook our hashtags today are hashtag ACAC which stands for Arts & Culture Accessibility Cooperative, which is a mouthful! And accessSTL. So the Arts & Culture Accessibility Cooperative seeks to create a resource for the community
that will allow us to continually move forward through discussions and
committed work to create a more inclusive arts and culture scene for our region. We believe that St. Louis’s arts and culture community is for everyone and that everyone deserves access to St. Louis’s vibrant cultural landscape. Our mission is to empower our community to become more accessible to people with
disabilities as visitors, patrons, artists, employees, and volunteers. The ACAC is a volunteer based group that brings together cultural practitioners, people with disabilities, and disability advocates to share experiences and learn
from each other to create a more inclusive community. We are dedicated to increasing arts
accessibility in the St. Louis area and to facilitate a dynamic cooperative that strives to advance accessibility and inclusion across the greater St. Louis area. How can we create an inclusive environment for people with disabilities within our communities arts
and cultural spaces? So first up we have Christie Herzing who’s the Community Access Coordinator at Paraquad where she manages the Accessible STL program. She has 13 years of experience working with businesses (like mine) government entities and nonprofit organizations to promote the equal inclusion of persons
with disabilities. Previously she worked in the workforce development system as a change agent with the goal of creating equal employment opportunities for
people with disabilities. She recently obtained her MA in Human Resources Development from Webster University. Congratulations and has a Bachelor of
Arts in Communication from McKendree University Let’s get started. CHRISTIE HERZING—
Well, good morning everybody. I am excited that everyone is here and thank you for bearing with us this morning with the wonderful door situation. We’ve had quite a morning. We’re excited that you’re here. I manage our accessible STL program and
through that program we provide a variety of services to different
organizations. And in particular I see a lot of familiar faces in this room –one sitting right next to me. On both sides actually! I sat down and said I think
we’re in trouble. They sat me between the two of you! So we work with several different organizations. We’ve worked quite a bit within the cultural institutions. We’ve worked with the Muny; we’ve worked with the History Museum, the
Art Museum. And a lot of what we’re doing is trying to figure out how do organizations become as inclusive as possible. So some of that may be looking
at facilities or buildings to see what we need to do to make sure everybody can get in the door and
everybody can access the facilities but then the next piece is programming. So you know that’s important the programming is as important to be
accessible as it is for people to be able to get in the door. So we’re providing training and education for staff and for volunteers to make sure that everybody is as comfortable as possible and that programs are becoming
more and more accessible. and I love that we’re seeing more and more audio description in different places and we’re seeing sign language tours at
the Museum. So we’re definitely seeing a huge increase in access for people with disabilities. I think this is a really exciting time to be starting this discussion and a group like this. So again thank you all for being here. We’re very excited that you’re here. NOVEMBER CHAMPION —
Okay. Sean Smith who’s the Director of Operations for the Muny, America’s oldest and largest outdoor
musical theatre. He began his career as a member of the usher staff in 1986 (probably when he was like an infant) eventually joining the full-time
management team in 1997. During his tenure with the theater he’s been involved in all facets of the operation, striving to ensure that the Muny
continues its long-standing tradition of producing exceptional musical
theater accessible to all. SEAN SMITH —
Thank you very much. And I’d like to also thank Rachel for inviting me (or MindsEye for inviting me to talk) and also Paraquad for hosting this. This is a really great facility. And with Steven and Christy up here it’s kind of a high school reunion. (Audience Laughter) As many of you have hopefully heard the Muny will be celebrating a
little birthday this coming summer. This season will be our 100th anniversary
in Forest Park. You know as part of those activities you know it’s
all that goes with it: there’s galas; there’s community birthday events; there’s also long-range planning. And we’ve been working for the last two or three years with some theatrical consultants. We brought them in to come in and talk to us about how we get to the the next step. And about two years ago they had their their first visit, and we gave them the
full tour – the backstage tour. We let him see a couple shows; we showed them how we produce and where we rehearse and at the end of their visit they were getting ready to walk out the door and I said, “So what do you think?” They said, “Well, you shouldn’t
exist.” And we wouldn’t build this today; there’s no one that would build this. And they said, “However, you’ve made some connection with your audience. You have people that keep coming back. They’re not only buying tickets, but
their subscribers. Their families are coming back, and you’ve instilled that tradition.” I start out by saying that because really when it comes to our audience
that’s what our mission is all about. We want to make sure that theater is
there for anyone who wants to enjoy it. And so you know when we’re talking about
accessibility, it has a very specific context in today’s meeting, but we’re also looking at things that’s kind of intertwined: affordability, what shows
were performing on stage. So all those things kind of go into the mix and getting our audience out there. We’re very proud of the fact that that after
99 years, over 55 million have come out and see a show which is a pretty amazing
feat, keeping in mind that were only open 7 weeks a year. Of that, 10 million have come
for free through through free seats and community access programs. That’s something you know that shows that you our philosophy. If you want to see a show, we’re gonna find a way to make that work. We think that’s very important and always has been from day one. Over the last say 25 years or so, a lot
of our efforts with accessibility have been focused on facility improvements and the patron experience. As you can imagine, you know a hundred-year-old facility; we’ve been in the same location. It wasn’t really built or designed with
ADA in mind, so we’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. There are a couple things that that I wanted to kind of talk. Some some lessons that we’ve
learned. You know in full disclosure, I did start many years ago, as have you
have probably done the math, I was not an infant.
(Audience Laughter) I actually started my
career as an usher, and I assisted patrons in wheelchairs
up and down the hills. And then I was also involved in distributing tickets for community access. So I had sort of a… as we were going into some of these improvement projects over the years I sort of had first-hand experience and knowledge and kind of had a to-do list of things that I thought would would help us. So you know the first thing is is how do you start that process? You’ve got to come up
with a plan, and we started with our patrons. You know that was that’s what it
was about. We started asking them questions. We do surveys every year. Now I will forewarn you, for those of you getting into it, if you ask people’s opinion
they’re gonna give it to you. (Audience Laughter) and it may not always be what you want to hear. You know they will they will tell you things and the things that that
frustrate you, will really frustrate you. But we continue to do that, and we want them to know that their opinion matters. And so when we do that, we actually engage them. They become more patient as we make
those changes. They’re part of that process. And at the end once you do make
that change, they’re very appreciative of it. They become your advocate -and you
know, and you can’t buy that kind of PR. Especially today with social media. All it takes is one comment out there, a positive thing you do and that’s that’s
that’s great. We also work with we’ve worked with
consultants advocacy groups, Paraquad and MindsEye are two of them we’ve worked with over the years. I will tell you there’s a lot of good groups out there that you can work with that are committed to making you operate better. It’s not simply just you know, there always seems to be a fear, at
least there were when we started at, oh no, the finger pointing, and there’s going to be a lot of bad press because you’re not doing it right. And I think, once you’ve committed to moving in that direction, I think people start to recognize that and kind of propel you forward. If you’re like our organization, we are very small. The last couple of years our full-time
staff has grown to 25, back when we started these projects, we were only at 15. When you’re doing that, for those of you with maybe a small organization, you find yourself wearing many hats. There’s not going to be a situation
necessarily where you’re going to bring in someone who’s just solely going to be doing accessibility. What I’ve also found is helpful is reaching out to some of the other institutions to sort of share experiences. Forums like this where, you can open up and ask the questions that you’re uncomfortable asking – I think those are all important. And then also in recent years we’ve learned that when it comes to accessibility, it’s not simply just a checkbox. You can’t check it off a list and then go on to the next thing. You have that your plan has to constantly evolve. and I’ll talk about some examples of that. and then finally, I would say as you’re getting all these ideas, you’re coming to a forum like this, or you know making notes. You need to start keeping a list. That’s been important for us. So anytime something’s come up… it may not be something that we can get to right away because of a budget constraint, a timing constraint… you know we’re always going to have a season starting in June, so I’ve got about a nine month window I may not be able to get something accomplished. But if you have the list and when the opportunity’s there you can you can refer back to that. I’m fortunate since I’m doing facilities that kind of ties in with some of our
improvements. So if you’re if you’re approaching this more from a human resources standpoint maybe you need to sit down with your facility or operations people to kind of get that in the mix. There’s two projects or
two components that we’ve done over the years. I want to talk about, and then I’ll
talk a little about kind of the future. Back in 2001, we decided that we were
going to reseat the theater. At that time, our theater was 12,000 seats. We had a wheelchair accessible seating area that was basically a pad we pulled out a
couple of rows and created a pad. We were… that was advanced then, right? But we could on any given night, seat maybe 10 to 12 standard sized wheelchairs in those spaces. On most nights if you had a guest with you, you could sit with him. On some nights, particular
Mondays and Fridays, you might only be able to sit nearby. Not exactly the most ideal situation. So as I was coming up through the ranks, eventually I was house manager, and I would be up there on Monday and Friday nights trying to sort out who was really in seat 2 and who is in seat 10. And that was always going on it; it always happened inevitably right as the down beat as the show started. So that’s always been on my list to fix. So when we reseated, we internally met and we decided we were gonna do it right We lost about a thousand seats. We put accessible seating throughout the theater at all price ranges, including the free seats. And we were convinced that that we had done the right thing, but we didn’t think anyone was going to use the seats. So it felt good, but it was like we’re just putting empty seats out there. What we found, we couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Those seats are actually filled now every night. Season ticket holders that are bringing their friends and families with them. Again going back to that, you know advocates for your institution; they can’t say enough nice things about us. So we were way wrong then, and I would say you know it’s actually been a positive impact on our business. A similar example in recent years, we have done a lot in terms of
audio description. Now if we’ve had audio description for quite a while. When it started, it wasn’t something that we did. We actually had someone come to us, an individual who had what he called a crazy idea.
(panel laughs) I didn’t quite get it at the time, but he says hey it’s not going to cost you dime. I’m gonna come out; I’m gonna bring the equipment; I’ve got the volunteers. And we said, “Okay, let’s try it.” And about two or three years later it came time to replace the equipment, and by that time I had talked
to a lot of the people using those services and recognized the importance of it. We bought the equipment then, and then we started bringing in the volunteers. So you know, again I’m going to talk about evolving. That was a similar situation to the
wheelchair accessible seating in that you can only pick that up
in certain parts of the theater. So in the last two to three years my great sound crew found a way to broadcast that signal across the theater. So similarly, we expect to see the numbers on the use of that system grow. So that that plan has to keep evolving. We’re getting feedback from the the people using the system. We’re talking with other institutions and seeing kind of how they address those things. I mentioned those examples of how we focus on our patrons, like I said they’re always our first priority; they’re the reason we’re there. But this is kind of
where it gets interesting – so what’s next? As I mentioned, we’ve been talking with a
lot of theatrical consultants, and I can’t give you all the details, but with our hundredth, we are looking at some long-term capital improvements. And we’re focusing on an area that we never really talked about, which is backstage. We were built over the period of a hundred years, and I mentioned those things on my list. Well, there are a lot of things related to backstage that are gonna have to happen. So here’s a couple of things off the list: our orchestra pit which has been there for a long time was last reconfigured in 1968; we have our main dressing room building and our administration building were built in 48 and 49; and then the stage equipment control rooms – those are the towers that are on either side of the stage – and the light bridge which houses all those lights, those were installed back in 1939. So when you’re looking at those kind of things, it’s not exactly, it’s not functional for us in terms of how we want to build shows, but they’re also not accessible. Now certainly we make reasonable accommodations to the best of our ability. There’s ways for us to to get people into control rooms if that were to come up. But when you talk to our musicians, they talk about climbing into the orchestra pit. Climbing and accessibility (audience laughter) don’t exactly play well with each other. Needless to say we have some work to do. So in the future
and what you’re going to hear about in the spring, we’re looking at a long term overhaul of what’s going on backstage. Certainly it’s to allow us to produce better, but accessibility has been woven into that and will kind of be our charge going forward. The last story I want to share with you is related to that that design work. So we’ve been in this design work for two years, and typically when those meetings
happen as I’m running those projects, I’m usually the one raising my hand and saying, “Well, that’s not going to work. We need to change something about that.” So we’re sitting in a meeting with
the theatrical engineers and consultant. We’re talking about the orchestra pit, and they had that came up with a solution as we were looking at some automation things. And they came up with a solution, which was great, but it was gonna restrict access. And this is my cue right? This is where I’m gonna raise my hand and say, “Wait, wait wait.” And my production manager says, “That won’t work.” And I looked at her, and she goes,
“That’s not accessible.” I realized at that moment the importance of what I would call internal advocacy. So while you’re here is an individual representing your organization… I guess over the years I’ve been talking,
and it’s rubbed off.
(audience laughter) I’m not saying we’re perfect and that our whole organization thinks like that, but it was interesting that someone else in the organization was thinking in those terms. It’s kind of starting to become more of a
company-wide thing, and I think that’s a great goal for everyone. You know accessibility is not necessarily the ala carte solution as when we started this process. I want to wrap up and say, obviously a
hundred years is a big deal. We’re an 11,000 seat outdoor amphitheater
that produces musicals; We’re the last of our kind, so we’ve faced a lot of challenges over the years, and I’m sure there will be many more. I’m very thankful for groups like this: a collective of patrons, partners, and staff who’ve kind of come together
to make sure that we truly are moving in an accessible direction. I hope you come and visit this summer. Thank you. (Audience Applauds) November —
Thank you Sean. So next up is Dr. Steven Kissel. Dr. Steven Kissel is a totally blind
resident of Collinsville, Illinois. In May 2017, he completed his PhD
(what is with the education up on this panel?) in American History at St. Louis University where he
served three years as an adjunct history instructor. Since March 2009, he has worked at the St. Louis Lighthouse for the Blind as an accessibility consultant for local museums and cultural venues, helping to increase their accessibility
for blind or visually impaired visitors. Notable collaborations include the
Fabulous Fox Theater, Laumeier sculpture park and the James Donald planetarium
McDonald. Did I say that right? I thought yes. I just think of it as a planetarium
and then the science museum, even though they’re connected. Alright. And the
Gateway Arch. Very excited about seeing the new arch exhibit too. So, thank. Dr. Kissel -You thank
you and thank you Paraquad again for having us today and for MindsEye for
all the work and putting together this panel and just it just for Christie’s
benefit, since this was not in my bio, I want her to know that McKendree is very
well represented on today’s panel. I actually earned my Bachelor of Arts in history degree
from there back in 2009. But enough about that, back toward the point. Back in the spring of
2009 right when I was getting ready to graduate from the McKendree, John Thompson
and Angie York from the Lighthouse came to me with a proposition for a new
position they were creating called the blind community enrichment associate and
at that time that this was still very much an idea and evolving idea because
what it began as was basically an evaluation sort of job. Where I would go
out and I would visit major museums, theaters, fine arts venues, tourist
attractions in the St. Louis area, and evaluate how accessible they were.
For visitors who were blind or visually impaired and where applicable try to
offer some awesome helpful advice and how that could be improved. Like I said,
pretty much starting out as a just kind of an evaluation awareness sort of thing,
and within less than a year I think it was evident that this program was going
to grow to be something much more than that because we started to receive
contacts back from the venues I had visited asking for assistance in
actually helping to develop and implement some of the issues and
recommendations that I had raised when I initially visited and it’s a program
that is still going strong today, it’s a program that has led to partnerships and
collaborations with probably close to a dozen different venues in the st. Louis
area. At one of whom is sitting directly to my
left and its really allowed me to work with some really incredible people.
People who want… people who really want to make their facility and their
attractions as open and inclusive as possible for visitors and I guess my
goal in this position, for the most part, it has generally been twofold. Number one
is to help stimulate awareness and interest out there at these cultural
venues. About issues of universal design and about issues of disability accessibility
and then the second goal has always been to encourage local residents who are
blind or who have low vision to get out and explore these really rich, these
really wonderful cultural venues that our city has to offer. And that, that has led to some incredibly innovative approaches to making these
kinds of facilities accessible. Innovations that… innovations beyond what
I could have imagined, making fields accessible that might otherwise be
thought of as very visual. And I’ll give you a few examples.
You know 2010 we kind of had our first couple of major milestone projects, one
of which with Laumeier Sculpture Park and the other was with the Missouri
Botanical Gardens. Both of whom, I might add, already had accommodations in place,
but I basically did was help to tweak them to see if we could
build a better mousetrap here. Laumeier Sculpture Park had already started a
system of developing miniature bronze maquettes
for their featured sculptures, which were basically tactile miniatures of
some of their featured sculptures. Both of which came with a Braille and a large
print nameplate that kind of identified and explained the piece of art, so that
somebody who’s blind and who has low vision, could examine exactly what that
piece of art looks like without running the risk of you know wearing out or
damaging the existing work of art and in many cases these sculptures are
absolutely huge and so this actually allows you to get the full, the full
picture literally at your fingertips. And yet we did some tweaks with them on you
know the proper display and whatnot, and trying to find the right kind of
pedestal so that it wasn’t physically awkward to try to access the nameplate
things like that, but the idea was already there we kind of helped them to
kind of take it and and really run, run with it. Same way with the
Botanical Gardens, they already had a sensory garden in existence, still out
there today very, very cool, very good chance to go
out and check it out, but all the plants in there have a… are geared, it’s geared
to a multi-sensory experience because they’re in there for their unique
texture, their unique fragrance, or what have you, and I guess and to make sure
that people who are blind or low vision can understand what it is they’re
looking at they had Braille and large print name plates.
You know whatever manufacturer they were using initially wasn’t that skilled at
producing Braille, it really wasn’t legible so we can help them to find a
better vendor, but just… just simple tweaks like that for two programs and
we’re already alive and very promising. A couple years down the road 2013
we started to get a bit more ambitious succeeding and starting and helping
venues to start programs and accommodations that previously didn’t
exist. In 2013, we had very two notable milestones. One at the Fabulous
Fox Theatre one at the planetarium. Fox Theater up until this point really had
no descriptive audio service. That the the facilities manager there at the time
was very… very, very open to pursuing this idea and so using the Muny and the
S. T. Rep( St. Louis Repatory Theatre) as, as models we managed to help them to develop their own in-house
descriptive audio system. Helping to finally find some good equipment,
purchase the equipment, find the volunteers, train the volunteers, and what
started as kind of a very… took us awhile to get it going but once word got out, and
once interest started building, you know just, just like with the Muny we start
out with maybe you get one or two requests per descriptive audio night and
you know now we’ve got it to the point where you know last Thursday we had an
entire group of you know 40-plus people from the Missouri School for the Blind
coming in to experience a described performance of the King and I.
It’s just really impressive how that has grown. In descriptive audio I’ve
said something that I’ve seen, it’s something that I’ve seen become a lot
more popular and just in the past 10 years it’s become a lot more commonplace and
such because of people becoming more aware of it or what you start to see
that more commonplace that’s on commercially released DVDs, whether that’s in
the movie theaters, whether it’s at places like the Muny, or the Fox and it’s
just really, really enriching for somebody that has little to no sight.
For me, growing up as somebody that loved movies, loved musicals, I feel like
I could enjoy those again because you get the added visuals, you
could follow it better, you could appreciate the production and the design.
So much more richly with that added description. Theater? That’s
a pretty basic fix as far as accessibility goes. Okay yeah, descriptive
audio, okay excellent let’s tweak the backstage tour. Okay great!
Not all the venues I’ve worked with have been that straightforward. Planetarium
what was definitely a bit of a challenge. How do you make something that
is as visual as astronomy? How do you make that accessible, and this is where
some real creativity has needed to come into play and fortunately, fortunately
for us about the time we got in touch with the planetarium one of their
interns, who is now the facilities director, had actually drafted a proposal
for adapting one of their star shows for people who are blind or low vision. And
we thought, Great! This would be an excellent sandbox project to kind of
play with and see what we can actually do to make this very visual field
accessible and they pulled out every tool in the toolbox. Everything from
making plush… oh I’ll call them stuffed animals for lack of a better word. You
have plush stuffed animals of stars at different stages of their their lives,
that they could heat up to different temperatures to kind of explained that
the size difference, the temperature difference.
You know iPads that could, that could enlarge the picture being depicted on
the dome ceiling for people who had low vision. Tactile starcharts. I mean they
pulled it descriptive language and they pulled out every tool in the toolbox and
really pulled together a really incredible program. One that’s actually
gaining national attention now, and I guess if we continue to… the program
continues to go, and we’re most recently started collaborating with places like
the Gateway Arch, St. Louis Zoo on new projects there, and I can go on and on
about the different places I’ve worked with. I could go on even longer about
places with whom I have not been in direct collaboration that have made
advancements on their own initiative. Places like the Missouri History Museum
with their access tours, AMC movie theaters, which now most of
them seem to have descriptive audio, but I think the general takeaway from all
this is that I think people are becoming much more aware across the board of the
need to address issues of universal design, issues of disability
accessibility. I mean back in you know the 60s when some of these venues were
originally built and Sean kind of attested to this, yeah accessibility
really wasn’t on anybody’s radar screens at that time. It just
wasn’t something they was widely discussed and you know and even today
places that are still struggling with that, that’s not necessarily a fault
of their own sometimes, that’s just a simple as “you don’t know what you don’t
know” which is why I think to stimulate that awareness is so important, having these
conversations that we’re having today is so important because it increases that,
it increases that awareness and it starts to pull together… can everybody
pull on their ideas together, pull on their heads together to try to create as
positive of an experience as possible for all, for all visitors. And I think
we’re in an age now for that accessibility, those doors of opportunity
are opening exponentially. It’s been very incredible to be a part of.
It’s been very rewarding, and this is by no means been… this is by no means been
a one-man show I mean the the facilities that I have worked with, like I said it
have have the key to the success of this is the openness of these facilities to
exploring this whether they had an existing accommodation, whether they had
no accommodations at all and going “what can we do to make this a better more
positive engaging experience?” I’ve had the pleasure working with some really
incredible people and it’s a program that I hope will continue and I
think the fact that all, that all of you are here today is a testament to that.
You’re here because you want to continue that initiative, you want the visitor
experience to be as inclusive as engaging as possible at your facility
and one thing I would just strongly encourage you to remember is blindness
isn’t necessarily a barrier to exploring your field
it just might require a bit of creativity. I’ve got business cards here,
as do anything most of us on the panel, if you want to get those from us today
I’m still here if you have any questions and best of luck to you guys thanks for
having me today. (clapping) November- So now we have some time for audience questions, I know I have a
lot but I’ll be not selfish to let you ask first.
yes people in theaters I’m just wondering about you know deaf blind you
can you have services for that however how is that getting accommodated okay
I’m so I’m gonna repeat the question to for everybody so we can hear it and it’s
recorded on the video so the question comes from someone who is deaf blind or
is is deaf and he’s asking about are there any accommodations made it any of
the venues that you know of in the area that accommodate for deaf blindness wow
that is a really good question and that betted that is a really good question while you think about it all kind of
shares is I don’t know it acceptable it that is an incredibly good question and
one that I think should be asked more often but I do not I’ll handle the
answer to that I know that there I know that there are places like they fee like
for example one place I know that’s being taken in to consider
is the ongoing renovations down at the the Gateway Arch past you know to three
plus years they’ve actually pulled together a group that they call their
Universal Design Group which is quite a large group and it pulls together people
that can vouch for different kinds of disabilities be that blindness deafness
people who who have some form of autism people who use wheelchairs as widest
spectrum as we can and we have met with everybody from the exhibit designers to
the landscapers to the architects and basically going over their plans with a
fine-tooth comb to try to make sure that the plans that are being put into
production are going to be as accessible as possible for people with different
kinds of disabilities and I think that is one advantage to having that that
sort of group that that that sort of group at your disposal for consultation
is because for example I may know about ways you could make a facility more
accessible with somebody who is blind or has low vision I might not be as learned
on how do you adapt for somebody who is deaf or hard of hearing for somebody who
has a certain kind of autism and we kind of you know we kind of lean on each
other we learn from each other we build on each other
to try to make sure that what kind of disability isn’t getting overshadowed by
another and and and hopefully the solutions that we have come up with when
that museum opens next year hopefully we will have achieved that I don’t that
answers your question directly but that’s the one example that’s the best
example I can offer at this time yeah and I would add so typically what I
know of this space is that somebody might experience finger signing I know
of several theaters especially in New York that when they have audio
describers because I do that I ought to describe four different theater events
the audio description heads that can be worn by the interpreter who can then do
the signing into the hand I don’t know why that isn’t something that we could
do today if we had a patron that reached out that needed that I’m sure that we
could accommodate that okay next question the beginning of thinking about
accessibility through our organization especially since so many of the
institutions in the park have done such a great job with that
so my question may be one that you can answer Shawn it’s about the level of
training that the meaning staff receives is there are n maybe Christi you would
have an answer to this as well just about something that you know that well
the different maybe the different degrees degrees of training that staff
would receive or you know if there’s something that everybody in the
organization might want to be afraid over there are people within a group
that might receive more specific instruction awareness training designs
well Christi is actually my trainer we we have depending on the group we’re
talking about you know it might in depending on on the level of training
for example our crew that it doesn’t built your assistance we actually sort
of internal trained with them because we’ve got you know those kids come back
every year so so they kind of pass on what they learned
their training is very specific though to our site so you know that it’s not
necessarily something that they would go do elsewhere but I know the Fox Theater
has approached several of them and then we’ll bring those guys in to work down
there for them because you know they of that experience when it comes to like
interaction with the public in general in that case I can speak to it a little
but I’m certainly not an expert in that and that’s where I’m going to turn to
someone like you know like Christian paraglide we’ve had her come down
several times to talk to the usher staff as a whole just about you know as
they’re interacting with patrons what are what are the right things to do what
are the right things to say what do you want to avoid and I think in terms of
your setup with with the volunteers you have that might be a good first step for
you but it’s really kind of on a needs basis I you know as we go through we I’d
you know if we identify here’s an area where we can improve a little you know
one year we might do training for the ushers the next year we’re going to
focus on a little something different because I’ve got some of those kids
coming back and I’m not sure what kind of turnover you have that you have to
factor that nd so about every two or three years we’ll have them come back
and talk to the crew as a whole but it’s it’s it’s is is his time has marched on
it there’s a lot more of us reaching out to other groups and then and then also
talking with you knows we’re walking around like what Nicole does at the
History Museum you know I was over there today and I saw some some things on the
side that you know I’m making notes about so I did so you learned from other
other you know I mean you’re asking the right questions and seen what other
places didn’t or so so I would say my answer to that question is similar to
Shawn so we’ve worked with certainly with the Muni we’ve done a lot of
disability awareness training certainly for their uh sure’s and what we do with
them is they have a certain night that the ushers come in for their annual
training and so we build in like maybe fifteen twenty minutes into what they’re
already doing so it’s already existing so that’s what we do with them but we’ve
also worked is the Art Museum the History Museum and
the Science Center all four of the cultural institutions we’ve done some
level of disability awareness training for but ultimately it is the beauty of
the program that I run is that we customize everything so for example at
the History Museum Sara who is in charge of the education so she has a lot of
teachers we I worked with her and I developed a training for them on how to
make their programs for I believe it’s like K through third grade how can they
make those programs more accessible their education programs more accessible
for kids who have disabilities so what we did with that is we walked through
the gallery space and walk through their program of what do they do and how can
they make those pieces more accessible so that was something that you know they
needed that was a little bit more advanced training for a very specific
group but we’ve also done so we did some disability awareness training at the Art
Museum and our interpreter today usually I don’t point her out but she was a part
of the training um so one of the sort of specialized trainings that we did at the
Art Museum when they were getting ready to start their sign language tours we
she and I did training with the volunteers the docents who would be in
charge of those tours and so we did the basic disability awareness but we also
added quite a bit of few pieces on interacting with people who are deaf as
well as interacting with a sign language interpreter because many of them had not
had that experience before so we wanted them to have the experience of seeing
you know when someone is presenting and someone is signing what does that look
like and it was kind of interesting because when we did the training though
I’m used to talking to people who are deaf using a sign language interpreter
and yet when I was presenting a was standing next to me and she was
signing and it caught me off guard for a minute and I went wait a minute what’s
going on beside me like in my head I didn’t didn’t verbalize it but in my
head I was like what’s going on so after we got out of the training I was you
know telling Kate what had happened and she’s like you need to add that into the
next two trainings she’s like because that’s what they’re going to experience
so we added those pieces in and you know we’ve heard back from them you know
thank you for giving me that heads-up I knew what to expect then and it made it
easier so you know we’re doing a lot of different things so I would definitely
welcome a conversation of like how we might be able to help with your you know
starting out process of what looks what makes the most sense for all staff I
would say our volunteers I would definitely agree with Sean that the
disability awareness piece is the place to start but then the other piece is
addressing you know if there are issues of concern if there are things that have
happened you know or anything like that you know we can build those into the
disability awareness trainings because what we’ve done is with all of the
institutions and Nicole may be able to speak to this I know Sean can but what
we’ve done is we then customized that disability awareness training to what
your staff do and what they what scenarios they may experience when
working with someone with a disability to try to make it as relevant to your
staff as possible and I think that’s tends to be very important because
that’s where we get the most benefit out of any kind of training yes are you good are you meeting
regularly work complete how about how is that how is the important part that
comes and then my second question is I know Christian experience with this but
just across disability history people with disabilities have impacted the arts
right as artists so how much of that is built into its building your to of
disbelief awareness trainings and theatre for the movie there are a lot of
singers and I’m one of the yet folks with disabilities living in Philly I
wonder how much that is brought into the cultural aspect of disability history
and your institution is war between two perfect ivory Kistler um how much you
talk about that when you go into an organization especially as a historian
I’m just curious okay so there’s a bunch of questions
there you’re clearly a liar it’s okay so let’s
start with the first question because I think I can answer the first question so
I’m gonna actually advance a few slides ahead so this is the inaugural meeting
of the ACAC so consider yourself part of the ground-floor and if you’re
interested in being involved in this work among just attending please email
rachel her email address is up there rachel Melton at mind’s eye radio org so
this is this is just the beginning we’re really excited about it I hope that if
you want to be involved so the next couple of questions were about artist
involvement which is great that’s a really great question
okay I’ll jump in a little then you want to finish sure okay excellent question
you know is I talked about you know and I admitted openly because safe space is
our backstage isn’t really the best environment so I think number one we
have to have the space available for that now we can certainly make
reasonable accommodations in terms of the the great singers there are a lot of
great singers out there and there’s the simple answer which is going to seem a
little flippant I’m gonna say you have to audition but the bigger question is
is when you’re looking at it all of the employees that work for the Muni so
we’re 25 people year-round in the peak of our summer there’s 800 employees those employees while they’re directly
hired by the Muni they come through a variety of the audition process actually
brings in the cast of course but like our stage hands our painters they all
come in through trade unions so when we’re talking about how to how do we
make that culture more accessible how are you in that mindset I can’t
necessarily go out and just hire stagehands directly but what we can do
and what we have do is we’ve started having the conversations as we’re
sitting down with these bargaining agreement
saying hey here’s some things that are really important to us we would like to
see that just diversity in general started to work its way into the mix
there when it comes to casting specifically my casting director is very
interesting first she’s great fantastic but when she’s casting and we think
we’ve had a lot of long conversations about this when she’s casting our
rehearsal period is only 10 days which is is not the normal two to three months
that most Broadway shows so a lot of times when they’re going out and looking
for people to fill these roles even if it’s something as simple as a singer
they’re looking for people that might have experience so so and I’m not trying
to plug this shows the summer but something like Jersey Boys something
like Jersey Boys where weekend thank you where we’ve we’ve never done that show
before and we’re gonna be the first regional theater to produce that show so
we’re gonna go out we’re still gonna do auditions but we’re gonna have specific
people in mind to do that because of that short window so some of that
factors into those decisions as well so I think to kind of get back to you to
your question I think we have to keep talking internally to make sure that
we’re making those decisions that that’s part of the process you know several
years ago we had a wonderful lady a jazz singer named Wesley Whitfield she came
out and played Bloody Mary and my props Department crafted a special wheelchair
so it was part of the scene and she’s amazing voice so if there’s if there’s
opportunities like that that we can that it make sense we’re certainly gonna take
advantage of that so but but again it’s it’s it’s it’s not just simple as saying
yes you’re a good singer there’s a processor we have to go through it but
it’s making sure everyone in that process is aware so okay so I think the
do you have something to add to that Steven about artists Sean articulated
that I think extremely are alive not that I can
to that so then the last part of the question I think is Kristie and Shawn
and maybe even steven how are you advocate like advocating for people with
disabilities being included as artists in the training yeah yeah that’s good
okay I’d forgotten that piece but so how are we recognized artists with
disabilities as a part of this work so I think that you know we’ve we’ve done
some of that we we weave it in slightly I mean a lot of our focus right now at
least in the immediate is just sort of getting the volunteers and the docents
sort of at that piece of disability awareness what do you need to do what do
you have to do to feel most comfortable so we haven’t done a ton of that weaving
in now I will say when we did the training at the History Museum there
were the customized training that we did we did add in some pieces on that
disability history piece because it was such a customizable piece that we were
able to do that but in the initial stages of sort of doing that disability
awareness we haven’t necessarily woven those pieces in just because we’re not
at that customizable point but I do think that it is very much something
that needs to be having the discussion that it’s not just our focus for the
most part has been in on the people who are coming in right it’s not always been
on you know like Shawn now is focusing on the behind-the-scenes the backstage
to make sure that you know if they’re accessible for artists and for singers
but I think that that’s sort of our next step with some of our cultural
institutions is sort of having that discussion that is more than just the
patrons or visitors whatever your language is everybody’s a little bit
different you know more than just the people coming in the door
it is people who have disabilities that are very much a part of that culture and
I do think that it needs to be added in but it has not been sort of woven in
nearly as much at this point because we’re still very much at the beginning
stages and and I guess just to follow that up when you think about the Muni
what it does behind the scenes there are many people who are st. louis’s from day
one and still don’t realize that we produce things they think these shows
coming off the trucks so when you talk about singling someone out of a
backstage our employees back there aren’t wired that way now if there’s an
opportunity to highlight especially I think for our part I don’t know that we
would do that it would be something maybe we would partner with with with
another group to say here’s a spotlight on someone who’s involved so I think
there has to be some sort of collaboration because just us alone our
focus is always here’s here’s the production we don’t a lot of times we
don’t like to focus on what’s going behind the scenes because we don’t want
you to see it it’s a little more chaotic and we like to admit so so I think
certainly that’s not something that we have done to this point but but I think
if it’s it’s a great con you know a great comment and you know we would work
I think work with someone in you know when those when that time came out and I
guess to echo what Chrissy has said to build on what what Shonda said a lot of
the collaborations and you trainee programs of which I have been a part
again as Chrissy said we’ve been primarily focusing on the visitor
experience what can we do to get from point A to point B to make sure that
that this venue is giving the visitor the most out of their experience make
sure they can come and have an inclusive engaging comfortable
experience of focusing more on the accommodations of the visitor as opposed
to but I’d say in some ways we are indirectly highlighting maybe not so
much people have done it in the past but certainly the potential for people who
have who could do it in the future I think that’s the beauty of Universal
Design woven into an attraction and exhibit what have you because even for
somebody who is somebody who may or may not have a disability if they’re going
through this and they see a specific part of the display maybe that’s a
tactile model or tectal relief with a large print or Braille label maybe it is
an actor on the stage who is in a wheelchair but whether it’s the signers
you for the Deaf at the production’s I think just having those accommodations
you woven into the display of such a way that B people become more aware of it
even the combinations they talked about it the you know the planetarium the
possibility that yes it is possible for somebody who is blind somebody who is it
was deaf somebody who has autism who uses a wheelchair it is possible for
that person to to even consider the possibility of a career in this field so
I think it directly we are promoting the possibility of that increasing in the
future and as Christy and Shana both said I think that that opens that opens
doors for for even further discussion of what could be done behind the scenes next question I mean if you don’t have
questions you get stuck listening to my questions its trade off you dr. Gary got
me straight out here we do have a number of sensible options we have no church
that was renovated and they did what we call the fortunate / unfortunate upgrade
important part of the upgrade is that they did have an accessible lift to get
folks into the building and as you all know so things are really tough
sometimes to get into it’s very old but it works we have use mind I you join me
live we’ve done that by group to come and every Friday we have accessible for
the hard-of-hearing group from SI t we’ve there graduate class comes to
practice for the folks who are having too much fun we would like to have more
folks attend those events happen and how we reach out to folks to let them know
that we have these opportunities available to them in other places we can
email Rufus or some some form of marketing that we can do to tell the
public seventy happens opportunities for them yeah that actually was my question
so you stole it we all have good makeup that was yeah both Steven and your name yeah I was like it starts with us and
I’ve only had one cup of coffee like you mentioned in yours that you weren’t
actually expecting to fill the wheelchair space that you had built and
people came like how do we get people to consume the accessible services once we
create okay I’ll jump in we have a little bit
of an advantage we’re a large theater right 11,000 seats so one of the the
things we have in our favor is our our community access program where we donate
tickets to various organizations so some of your key targets are in that group
and that helps us to get that word out I know that you know I’ve done some
promotions with Minds irate by Jason Frazier’s had me on the radio so so made
that connection I’ve come over and talked with Christian into people so I
think you have to there’s definitely a word-of-mouth concept that builds you
know getting social media it’s been big for us advertising so so when we you
know as we explore these these new things Lou you know we’ve been pushing
that a lot that seems to be a great way to communicate in it it doesn’t happen
all at once so you know I know 33 years I’ve seen the extremes you know when you
when we started and I was a scrawny little kid pushing chairs up and down
the hill you know there were two of us that did that and we assisted maybe 10
to 12 people in a night and you know once we finally expanded by the time you
know now we’re I’ve got six kids that do this in and probably ten kids on the way
out with 50 to 60 people were assisting at night so but but you look at that and
that that looks like a huge success but that’s over 30 years – and I think you
have to is you’re making those changes I think you’re doing the right things by
looking at those and we’ve we’ve had the fortunate unfortunate renovations as
well but but I think you’re putting those pieces in place and you just have
to kind of slowly grow that and in keep people coming back and you know
because we’re now it’s it’s repeat customers and I think that’s key is is
is it can’t happen all at one time no matter how you could have all the money
world overhaul you’re gonna have to build up just like you would for a show
you’re gonna have to build up that audience in and I think that’s key so
and similar to that as far as add again do people to come to this I think
networking is is huge you’re you’re sitting in one such
Network right now using paraquad and the different organizations represented here
are just from the blind community alone that the organization that I work for
the st. Louis Lighthouse for the Blind I mean we are in touch with our mailing
list not only includes those that we serve also includes the Missouri Council
for the blind which is a auxilary of the American Council of the blind and
includes mind’s eye radio which reaches roughly 13,000 listeners and which we
try to get the word out as thoroughly as we can and you know places like paraquad
places like deaf Inc and other other local institutions are to be able to do
exactly that help you get that out by word-of-mouth help people to become more
aware of your service and it kinda likes Sean I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum
as well I think one that kind of sticks in my mind on that is actually the the
Fox Theater that that first season or two that we started doing the
descriptive audio it was those those were a couple of rough seasons we were
we were working with among other things and she’s over there laughing oh my god
they’re thankfully where we were we were working with trying to hammer
out logistics of you know trying to find equipment that was reliable trying to
figure out where can we put the describer so that you actually get good
reception but so that they’re not disturbing other patrons in the theater
and just trying to work out little kinks like that and for that reason you know I
think that like I said the first couple the first season or two was was a little
rough once I think the important thing to do I think the important thing there
is the venue they kept at it they kept advertising it we kept reaching out to
people who had come to try to get feedback on how can we improve this
because you will find sometimes that your patrons are going to be your best
resource in terms of how are we doing what could we be doing better I mean
they’re the people who use the services they’re they’re just they continue to be
an invaluable font of knowledge for any venue I’ve worked with over the years
until that was impossible that was about that that was that was invaluable to
getting the word out keeping the interest alive and sometimes it just
takes a little patience now like I said those first couple seasons were rough
but once we got through the kinks it wants you know people started to get
in there and experience it at its best it really started to take off like I
said we went from you have you know maybe two or three people come to each
described performance and sometimes having to cancel because nobody signed
up to oh my gosh we actually have to have to describe performances for this
show because Missouri School for the Blind or or this other group wants to
come and bring 40 people to it TUC said it takes it patience is a
virtue patience and persistence a good networking I won’t follow up I was gonna
say when we when we do our advertising as well I mean anything you do for
accessibility is it’s a great PR piece as well I mean be very blunt so Lully so
so when we do some of our marketing materials and that our email blasts
there’s usually a blurb that’s it’s not just targeting people needing those
services at start targeting everybody because inevitably someone on that list
knows someone who might benefit from that so I think that that benefits you
from from a PR standpoint but it also helps you get the word out too well the
other thing to sort of follow up on what you were just saying is we always
recommend you know that in any of your marketing materials you say if you need
any accommodations or you know whatever that language happens to be if it is
number one it’s in your marketing materials it’s sending a message that
people with disabilities are welcome in your facility absolutely number one
number two is the website okay so if you have a website I highly highly recommend
looking at that to make sure or having someone look at it to make sure that it
is accessible because particularly for people who are blind or visually
impaired the website is the first place we’re going to go we’re gonna look at if
you have a restaurant please make sure your menu is on the website because it’s
great for us to know what by the way I have a visual impairment I didn’t say
that before so it’s great for us to know you know what is what you have available
before we go and then we don’t have to hold up the line for twenty minutes
getting all of the options so those kinds of things looking at you know all
of that stuff with the website making sure that that’s accessible because the
website today is almost more important because it’s
the first place people go it is while making sure you can get into
a facility as important as well the website is just as important if not more
because it’s your first piece of messaging so if I’m using whether it is
zoomtext which is a magnification software or maybe someone’s using jaws
which is a screen reading software and i go to a website and i can’t use it or
let’s say I’m looking for the accessibility information of your
facility and maybe you have it on your website but it’s not in the space where
I’m used to seeing it which is usually under the visit tab just it just usually
is but sometimes sometimes it’s put put in different places and I have to hunt
for it but if it is there and I can find out that information quickly and
efficiently and I can use my software that I’m using what that tells me is
that you’ve given some thought to that and what it tells me messaging wise is
that once again you’ve given some thought to accessibility so I think that
that is that messaging piece is super super super important the other thing I
would say is that we at paraquad if you send us any information that you have
that you want to get out to individuals with disabilities we always post that
stuff like on our Facebook pages and things like that and it might reach a
little bit more of the audience that you’re looking for as well I know we’ve
done some of that with the access tours at the History Museum and a few other
places so that’s another option and I will say that that website peace
because that’s what I do for a living – although paraquad has a great service
and will help you with making your website accessible is that even though I
don’t have a visual impairment and I may not be going to the theater that day
with someone that has a visual impairment I check that because that
tells me how much you care it’s a really big public statement about how much you
care about this space and about that you use so it has to be compatible so there
are in November may actually be able to speak to some of those pieces better
than I can but there are certain codes that have to be put in to make sure that
everything is compatible so for example the screen reading software um if you
use probably the best example of this I’d be curious to know if you think this
is a good example but a lot of times what tends to happen is people will scan
a document in and it scans it as a picture and because when we look at the
computer screen when we’re looking at it and we’re reading it visually we can see
it so we automatically assume that it can then be read well since it scans it
in as an image jaws the screen reading software is never going to read it
because it’s screened in this an image so it’ll just say blank blank and it’ll
actually it’s one of the easiest things for a developer to fix but sometimes you
come across web developers who don’t know what that is yeah any but just
things like how your links are formatted know your the alternative text which is
how graphics will be identified it just seems like that I know and Percy I’m
sure you can vouch for this to every not all websites are created equal I see the
full full spectrum here of website accessibility that is one thing that I
tend to try to make sure I bring to the table whenever I’m working with
any of these venues because if you can’t access the website it you thought you’ve
already lost the first battle just finding out about your back your venue
and just certain things like your making sure you know is the is the contrast
good is it simple enough is it too busy is the font large enough for people who
have low vision or they’re new too many moving parts things like that that just
make it a lot more accessible for people using adaptive software and again that
goes into the proteomic viewer program the computer programming end of things
or so that it does the the content although that that’s important to and
sometimes that that just requires your computer programmer sitting down
sometimes that requires just knowing one of the most kinds of software who makes
them so you can go to those companies for resources okay what what’s going to
make this what’s gonna maximize the efficiency with with which our website
works would say Apple’s voiceover software or you know the jaws for
Windows software or something like that and it doesn’t have to be hard no it
especially when it’s something that’s new and scary to you it doesn’t have to
ruin the overall look of your website unless your website is light grey text
on a white background I’d see that every day yeah but it’s
generally I’ve been doing this work for a decade it doesn’t make your site
uglier it makes it user friendly for everybody you tend to have an uptick
just because the things that we do to make things accessible work better for
everyone so we’ve five minutes so Laurie gets our
last question I just want to say thank you so much for all the work that you
guys are are doing I’m very excited to see this participation and in this
effort coming together and as a person with low vision I am a consumer of audio
descriptive services and I’m in Division continues to decrease
I just appreciate more MORE how much enriches my you know every vehicle
experiences so thank you so much now having said much I will give you a
little bit of a break because I’ve known now that this is your inaugural meeting
but you talked briefly about the strategic priorities of the
collaborative and what you see as the kind of the priority objectives what you
guys see is like this is the biggest need we need to fill right now is it
market demand is it you know institutional you know included so I could but I think Rachel would be
better suited to talk about the priorities this is Rachel Milton’s on my
die so yeah this is that I don’t have experience with Mike work so this is
very much just the beginning the goal for the next year is to have three more
of these forums to discuss different obstacles and interests for the entire
st. Louis region so we’re going to move forward by what you want so the things
that you’re seeking to to learn about and know about that’s what we’ll focus
each forum on so starting out that the goal is to have this conversation and to
keep having this conversation and to learn from each other
the next Arts and Cultural accessibility cooperative I just got this official
yesterday let me pull up the date so you can mark your your calendars is going to
be March I had this just yeah thank you at the Missouri History Museum and that
will be at the same time so it’s going to be 8 a.m. to 9:30 the the next
discussion we’re going to look at specifics as to what accessibility looks
like to get people in and then programs and but moving forward if you have
something like web design if that’s something that you want to focus an
entire forum on then we can do that we can we can take an entire discussion and
focus on what it looks like to have an accessible website so the goal is that
we’re all in this together and then we’re going to lead this
discussion and this movement together ultimately we would like to have a
website we’d like to be able to have people were
behind the scenes to make this grow but right now for the first year when a
focus on these these four forums to see what the needs in our or in our region
are so if you have questions if you have thoughts that you’re like this is what
we would like to learn about message me send me an email and we can formulate
the next forums to focus on those topics that are most interested to your service
organization in your patrons we do want to thank the audio descriptions for
people using it was provided by mind’s eye and the ASL interpretation was
provided by deaf way interpreting services thank you all so so much for
coming I think this was a really great conversation I know we had other
questions we didn’t get to which means that we need to be having these
discussions more so I hope to see you in March thank you so much so join the group if you have a question
if you see something they think is interesting
postage enter it so that in between these forums the conversation of
themself thank you so much for coming here

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