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IAC > Accessibility Resources & Opportunities Accessibility Resources & Opportunities

The Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) is committed to making our programs and panels accessible to all of our constituents. If you are an artist with a disability and need assistance with the application process, please call the community development manager associated with the grant program you are applying for and they will be happy to work with you to provide any assistance necessary. You may also contact, Becca Hopson, Accessibility Coordinator, at, or 317-232-1283 for accessibility questions or concerns.

Kristina Johnson: Dedicated to Advancing Accessibility

In many ways, Kristina Johnson is not a typical graduate student from IUPUI. She readily admits she was an unmotivated student in undergraduate studies, but she discovered her passion much later in her academic life. In fact, some might say she discovered a new life later in life, and all of it came about with the sudden onset of hearing loss.

After completing her undergraduate studies, she was looking for some career direction. She worked in banking, real estate, and retail for a time while trying to figure out her path. She considered going back to school to pursue a career in education, then her “disability” brought into sharp focus the direction her life was to take.

“When I began losing my hearing, it was easy to think, ‘well, what do I do now?” she said.

Through a friend who was doing some writing for an online publication, Johnson decided to try her hand at writing about cultural activities. She soon found that her love of concerts was now compromised by her diminished hearing, but decided to give museums a try because she’d always enjoyed the experience. However, she soon discovered that even museums were not “totally accessible” to everyone with a disability. But she did find a group in New York City, The Museum Access Consortium that inspired ideas for her next step.

The group worked with cultural groups to get them engaged and talking about all of the challenges that are missed by just complying with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines. As Johnson states, “meeting the needs of this population goes beyond building ramps or having printed material in Braille.”

This realization changed her view of her life, her education and career goals. She completed a degree program and, at age 33, entered the IUPUI Graduate School in Museum Studies. The course she chose provided her with the opportunity to pursue and shape three internships at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis where she made significant impact. She has also taken the initiative to visit and network with other Indianapolis area museums and offer consultations with the purpose of raising awareness, offer advice, and build her own knowledge of different museum environments and their accessibility challenges.

“I’ve offered to walk through their facility as a person with a disability, and I often found some accessibility issues,” she said. “I’m like the intern who never goes home.”

In each case, her observations and recommendations have been taken to heart and prompted action. Her advocacy for greater accessibility has also prompted the creation of a roundtable series entitled Access Indy.

Founded by Johnson, with support from the IUPUI Museum Studies Department and an advisory committee of local museum professionals, Access Indy is described in their publicity as ‘a movement to unite museums and cultural arts professionals as they work toward improving access and inclusion for visitors with disabilities’. A series of panel discussions addressing issues such as Alzheimer’s, Autism, and other cognitive disabilities began in November and continues into mid April providing opportunities for discussion and education for the cultural community. If all this sounds like the New York City non-profit model, it has been no accident.

“I would like to see Access Indy become a permanent fixture here, and it would be great if every major city in this country established something like it,” she said. “A group like this can then reach out to museums and cultural organizations in smaller communities too. The need is everywhere, but how do you break the invisible wall that we don’t always think of when we think about disabilities.”

Johnson feels Access Indy is a success if only one person from one organizations leaves a roundtable session with a greater awareness of how they can make their own museum more accessible to everyone.
“Museums are very interactive places,” Johnson stated, but when they don’t make interaction possible for everyone they exclude many. While she agrees society as a whole is slowly becoming more aware, more inclusive for those with disabilities, and less isolating but there is still room for improvement.

“The thing about accessibility is that best practices are often based on being legally compliant, which doesn’t always address issues of social exclusion of people with disabilities,” she said.
That desire for improvement will keep Johnson very busy this year. She will be making presentations to the American Alliance of Museums, the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability, and the American Association of State and Local History. In April she will be honored as an “Outstanding Graduate Student” by the IUPUI Museum Studies Department, and she graduates in May.

The next step will be planning for her career, something she admits to being nervous about.

“The last time I had to job search I didn’t have disabilities. I know there are a lot of employers who don’t understand reasonable accommodations, and many people who make assumptions that a disability makes someone less qualified for a job,” she said. “After all the experiences with museum people here in Indianapolis, I feel very confident that cultural arts employers aren’t those kinds of people. I do feel that potential employers will see me as a equal candidate against other job applicants without disabilities.”

Johnson believes the cultural community may be more interested and enthusiastic about accessibility, and as a person with a disability, it could provide her with an asset a potential employer might recognize as important to the success of their organization.
“I struggle with whether I should apply for jobs that require a lot of work with the public because I struggle so much to hear, even though I have a cochlear implant, but I apply anyway” she said. “My philosophy is to not limit myself without knowing what kinds of accommodations may be available.”

ArtsWORK Indiana

The IAC supports and partners with ArtsWORK Indiana to provide more comprehensive resources for artists with disabilities who are interested in pursuing careers in the arts. Check out their website - - for more detailed information.

ArtsWORK Indiana has a Facebook fan page! Become a fan of ArtsWORK Indiana on Facebook today!

All ArtsWORK meetings take place on the fourth Thursday (except November and December) at 4:00 p.m. at VSA Indiana located in the Harrison Center for the Arts (1505 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis). For more information, visit our event calendar.

Friends interested in participating in the monthly ArtsWORK Indiana meetings in Indianapolis can call in toll-free. From anywhere in Indiana, just dial the 800 number below and, when requested, enter the access code (PIN) followed by the # sign on your dial. The Conference Access Information is listed below:

Begin Time: 4:00 PM Eastern Time
End Time: 5:30 PM Eastern Time
Phone Number: (800) 940-6112 or (812) 856-3600
Participant PIN: AWIndy# or 294639#

Alternate dial-in number: Those in the 812 area code may dial 812-856-3600 instead of the 800 number. This will incur no charges to you or to ArtsWORK. The PIN remains the same. Those in other parts of the state with unlimited long distance plans might consider dialing in at this number as well – it will extend our ability to accommodate more callers in the future.

The phone connection will be available for the ArtsWORK Indiana monthly meetings, courtesy of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. The phone and PIN numbers will remain the same each month, as will the meeting time.

ArtsWORK Indiana Creative Networks

Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Arts and Disability Center at the University of California, ArtsWORK Indiana has expanded the Indianapolis model to satellite programs in Bloomington.  For more information on the ArtsWORK Indiana satellite groups, click here, or continue reading for meeting information.

South Central ArtsWORK Indiana
  5:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at Bloomington City Hall
(401 N. Morton St., McCloskey Conference Room, 1st Floor)
Artist Facilitator: Nadine Pinede
Partner Organizations:  Indiana Institute on Disability and Community; City of Bloomington
More information:

ArtsWORK Indiana hosted Jill Skehan of Aspire Indiana Works at the June 24, 2010 meeting. Jill discussed Social Security benefits and how selling artwork affects these benefits. See below for the first segment.

This video is in three 10 minute segments. For the other two videos, please click on the links below.

Video 2

Video 3

Links for Individuals


ArtsWorkIndiana.org - ArtsWORK Indiana (AWI) is an informal, statewide group of people interested in improving arts-related professional opportunities and careers for people with disabilities. Participants include artists, as well as people involved in supporting opportunities for artists, such as rehabilitation professionals, college counselors, and arts administrators. Meetings are held monthly in Indianapolis. This site includes a more comprehensive list of resources for individuals.

VSA arts of Indiana - VSA arts of Indiana (formerly Very Special Arts of Indiana) is a statewide nonprofit organization and an affiliate of VSA arts, an international educational program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Since 1980, VSA arts of Indiana has offered a variety of programs and services designed to unleash the creative spirit and artistic gifts of people with disabilities. Congratulations to our friend, Gayle Holtman, on recently accepting the President/CEO position at VSA! - The AHIRC database was created by The Actors’ Fund of America, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, as a health insurance resource for artists and people in the entertainment industry. Since then, with support from The Commonwealth Fund, it has expanded to include resources for the self-employed, low-income workers, the under-insured, the uninsured who require medical care and many other groups. - Ask A Lawyer is the Indianapolis Bar Association's free legal advice program in which the public can talk face-to-face with an attorney to get answers to basic legal questions. Legal Line, also from the Indianapolis Bar Association, is an opportunity for those in need of basic legal advice to speak to a qualified attorney by telephone.


Links/Resources for Arts Organizations

Accessibility Self-Assessment Checklist - The Indiana Arts Commission's informal guide for applicant organizations. This checklist is neither a determination of your legals rights or responsibilities under the American Disabilities Act (ADA); the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Section 504; nor binding upon any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA. - The Great Lakes ADA Center, a member of the ADA National Network in collaboration with the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD), a program of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts hosted five educational webinars tackling the difficult issues surrounding compliance with the 2010 ADA Regulations for accessible seating and ticketing.  Great Lakes has archived the audio of all webinars and session materials at the link above.  The focus is on arts venues but is applicable to other venues as well.  [On September 15, 2010, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) published revised Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to update and amend the provisions in the original 1991 ADA regulations. These 2010 Regulations include brand-new language regarding ticketing that has changed the way that arts organizations need to shape ticketing policy.] - 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 should help cultural groups to plan, budget and complete necessary access improvements to meet or exceed legal standards. - Any information technology related products or services purchased, used, or maintained by organizations that receive IAC grants must be compatible with the principles and goals contained in the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards under Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794d), as amended. The Accessibility Standards can be found at this site. - These disability access symbols are intended to help arts organizations advertise access services to customers, audiences, staff and other targeted publics. Advertisements, newsletters, conference and program brochures, membership forms, building signage, floor plans and maps are examples of material that might display these symbols. - The National Arts and Disability Center at the Tarjan Center is the only one of its kind in the nation. They help advance the professional development of artists with disabilities. The NADC also provides guidance and education to arts venues on how to remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from taking part in the arts community. - the mission of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community is to work with communities to welcome, value, and support the meaningful participation of people of all ages and abilities through research, education, and service.

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