Universal Access & the Arts

Office of Raleigh Arts

Last updated Jul. 03, 2019 - 8:48 am

Raleigh’s Creative Life Vision
Raleigh is a community connected through arts and culture, where every person is empowered to lead the creative life they envision. 

To realize Raleigh’s Creative Life Vision, one of the key strategies is to improve the inclusion of people with disabilities in the arts. The Raleigh Arts Plan echoes the Creative Life Vision with a goal that Raleigh become a national model for arts accessibility and inclusion for Deaf and disability communities. Universal Access & the Arts comprises initiatives developed to achieve that goal.

Universal Access & the Arts Day 2019

*Sina Bahram

Tuesday, July 30 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Join the Office of Raleigh Arts and the Raleigh Arts Commission for the third annual Universal Access & the Arts Day. This daylong event highlights trends and best practices in the arts for engaging Deaf and disability communities.
This year’s event focuses on new and innovative uses for technology in the accessibility field. From cell phone apps to iPads, to crowdsourced web content, 3D-printing and more, technology is revolutionizing how people engage with the arts. Internationally recognized inclusive design expert Sina Bahram will deliver the keynote address and lead an afternoon session on digital access projects he has worked on with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and New York City’s Cooper Hewitt Museum.
DATE: Thursday, June 21, 9am-4:30pm
COST: $35 (includes networking lunch)
LOCATION: Raleigh Convention Center, 500 South Salisbury St., Raleigh
Click here to register online. []
Presented by the City of Raleigh Arts Commission and Sponsored by the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau
NC native Sina Bahram is an accessibility consultant, researcher, speaker, and entrepreneur. He is the founder of Prime Access Consulting (PAC), an accessibility firm whose clients include both private and nationally-funded museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Andy Warhol Museum, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, among others. When not working with museums, Prime Access Consulting’s clients include technology startups, research labs and Fortune-1000 companies. In 2012, Sina was recognized as a White House Champion of Change by President Barack Obama for his work enabling users with disabilities to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. In 2015, the international accessibility community recognized Sina as an Emerging Leader in Digital Accessibility at the annual Knowbility Community Heroes of Accessibility Awards. In 2017, Sina served as the invited co-chair of the 2017 Museums and the Web conference.

Join the Office of Raleigh Arts and the Raleigh Arts Commission for the fourth annual Universal Access & the Arts Day. This day-long event highlights trends and best practices in the arts for engaging deaf and disability communities.


Currently partnering with La Jolla Playhouse and the Goodman Theatre on new works by disabled playwrights, National Disability Theatre co-founders Talleri McRae and Mickey Rowe will present the keynote address and lead an afternoon session on national trends inclusive theatre. Internationally-recognized autism in the arts expert Roger Ideishi will also fly in from China to lead a half-day session on sensory- friendly programming.

FULL-DAY COST: $35 (includes networking lunch)


LOCATION: Raleigh Convention Center, 500 South Salisbury Street

Click here to register online.


All facilities for this event are wheelchair accessible. The City will provide audio description, captioning, and American Sign Language interpretation. The Office of Raleigh Arts is committed to making our programs accessible to everyone. If you require an additional accommodation or service to fully participate, please contact Sarah Corrin or call 919-996-4686 at least two weeks prior to the event. If an accommodation would be helpful and the lead time is less than two weeks, please let us know so we can make every effort to help you fully participate.


9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Disability Arts Keynote Presentation

Join National Disability Theatre co-founders Mickey Rowe and Talleri McRae as they reflect on how their theatre company came to be, their own lives in professional theatre, and their identities as disabled theatre professionals. Rowe will discuss his childhood, his professional career as a performer, his relationship with autism, and his identity as a disability advocate. McRae will share how her work as a theatre artist and educator led to her most recent role as an access consultant on the local, regional and national level.

10:45 a.m. to noon, Access on the Fly

What’s going on access-wise across the local arts community? Check out these short 15-minute casual, mini-presentations. Choose the topics that appeal to you most. Choices range from sensory-friendly performances, to finding assistive listening device systems, describing visual art for people who are blind or low vision, ADA accommodations for theatres, artmaking with adults who have developmental delays, and more. There will be something for everyone here!

10:45 a.m. to noon, Wake Arts Inclusion Project

For the past two years Arts Access has been working to increase arts education opportunities for students with disabilities. The organization has provided training for teaching artists, schools and arts organizations. It also collaborated with multiple organizations to do intensive capacity building work to substantially strengthen their engagement with children with disabilities. As Arts Access embarks on a new three-year arts education initiative, come here about lessons learned as well as their plans for the future.

A free, catered, networking lunch will be provided to participants.

1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sensory-Friendly/Relaxed Experiences: Gaining Knowledge, Developing Skills, and Building Capacity

Internationally-recognized autism expert Roger Ideishi leads this session based on his work with the Smithsonian, Andy Warhol Museum, Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pushkin State Museum (Moscow), and Supereroi Printre Noi (Bucharest), among others. Sensory friendly/relaxed experiences provide meaningful participation by, with, and for neurodiverse people in all kinds of cultural art settings. This workshop will review the basics of sensory friendly/relaxed experiences for all ages; how to create pre-visit materials, training programs, and communication/marketing collateral; and the current and future state of research and programming.

1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Professional Inclusive Theatre in the United States: A Sampling

Led by National Disability Theatre co-founders Talleri McRae and Mickey Rowe, this session will share a handful of examples of inclusive theatre companies from around the United States, their practice, their missions and the values that drive them. The combination presentation and question/answer session will explore questions like: What attitudes, values, strategies and tools can we use to support artists with disabilities and prepare them to contribute to the ever-growing field of professional inclusive theatre? How can we, as arts administrators, pave the way for a robust future of disability theatre in this country?

2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., Beam Me into the Museum Scottie!

Museums and other arts and cultural organizations across the country have started using Beam telepresence devices (aka robots!) to allow people to tour their exhibitions from their homes. Lynne Deese from the NC Assistive Technology Program will be bringing her Beam robot to co-lead a session on creating opportunities for “virtual” access to arts programming. Come see how the robot works and have an opportunity to log in for a virtual tour somewhere else!

For more information about this event, contact Arts Grant Director Sarah Corrin.

Betty Siegel Universal Access & the Arts Award

Betty Siegel Universal Access & the Arts Award Winners

The Betty Siegel Universal Access & the Arts Award recognizes the substantial achievements of Arts Learning Community for Universal Access members who complete all three years of the program.

Honorees have successfully improved the accessibility of their organizations through multiple projects and initiatives over the years. They are also recognized as arts community resources, sharing their knowledge and engaging their arts and cultural peers, as well as others, around the topic of accessibility in the arts.

2018 Award Honorees

  • Jamie Katz Court - PineCone, Piedmont Council of Traditional Music
  • Julia Meder - Sertoma Arts Center
  • Gab Smith - CAM Raleigh
  • Megan Sullivan - Artspace

Arts Learning Community for Universal Access

In 2015 the City of Raleigh Arts Commission and United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County partnered on a new initiative to increase the engagement of people with disabilities in the arts. The Arts Learning Community for Universal Access consists of arts and cultural organizations that collaborate to advocate for and improve access to the arts for Deaf and disability community members.

Member Organizations

  • Arts Access represented by Betsy Ludwig*
  • Arts Together represented by Kari Martin Hollinger, Carly Jones, Meg Revelle* & Stephen Wall*
  • Artspace represented by Brett Morris & Megan Sullivan*
  • Cary Arts Center represented by Sarah Preston
  • CAM Raleigh represented by Jaclyn Bowie & Gab Smith*
  • El Pueblo represented by Cecilia Saloni
  • International Focus represented by Ella Fang
  • Marbles Kids Museum represented by Jordan Pearce
  • North Carolina Arts Council represented by Emily Catherine Mealor
  • North Carolina Museum of Art represented by Melissa Roth
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences represented by Liani Yirka
  • NCSU Gregg Museum represented by Dan Ellison & Hilary Leggette
  • NC State University Theatre represented by Mia Self
  • North Carolina Symphony represented by Meredith Laing
  • North Carolina Theatre represented by Donna Mullins
  • Office of Raleigh Arts represented by Sarah Corrin*
  • PineCone represented by Jamie Katz Court* & Courtney Wheeler
  • Raleigh Little Theatre represented by Fidel Benton & Meredyth Pederson Cooper
  • Sertoma Art Center represented by Julia Meder*
  • United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County represented by Ragen Carlile*
  • Visual Art Exchange represented by Brandon Cordrey*
  • Wake Forest Renaissance Centre represented by Cathy Gouge
  • Women's Theatre Festival represented by Johannah Maynard Edwards

*Founding members of the Arts Learning Community for Universal Access

2019-2020 Arts Learning Community for Universal Access Application Process

The Arts Learning Community for Universal Access is a yearlong program that brings together like-minded arts and cultural administrators who want to improve how inclusive their organizations are of the Deaf community and people living with disabilities. The program runs July through June, and the application process generally takes place in the spring.

To participate in this program, applicants must be located within Wake County and be a nonprofit exempt from federal and state income tax as either (1) a charitable organization with 501(c)(3) designation by the Internal Revenue Service with established arts programming or (2) a unit of municipal government.

(Interested organizations located outside of Wake County should contact Sarah Corrin to discuss their situation.)

The 2019-2020 Learning Community application cycle has closed. The 2019-2020 application form and guidelines posted below are for reference only until information about the 2020-2021 application process is posted in April 2020.

2019-2020 Arts Learning Community Guidelines & Application Form

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