2018 MAC Town Hall

2018 MAC Town Hall

Monday, November 5, 2018

Brooklyn Public Library


Lara Schweller, MAC Co-Chair

Michelle Gornstein-Holtzman, MAC Membership Chair 

Ruth Starr, MAC Communications Chair

Aliza Greenberg, Supporting Transitions Project Leader

Constance Stienon, MAC Co-Chair


Full Transcript Below:

Speaker:  Good evening.  Welcome to the MAC member town hall.  Thank you for joining us.  My name is Larish Weller [sp?].  I’m here as one of the co-chairs of MAC. 

I’ll give you an overview of the evening.  First, a huge thank you to Inclusive Services at Brooklyn Public Library.  Thank you for hosting us for another year.  [APPLAUSE]

I’m delighted to invite Margaret Gambano [sp?] to introduce us for the evening. 

Margaret:  Hello! 

Speaker:  Hey! 

Margaret:  All right.  Welcome to Brooklyn Public Library.  We are truly excited and honored that MAC is returning for another town hall meeting. 

I’m Margaret.  I work for Inclusive Services.  I am the outreach associate.  I’m going to go through a couple minutes telling you about Inclusive Services. 

We are a department within Brooklyn public library.  We serve children and teens from birth to 23 years old through programs within our five neighborhood libraries.  We also go into schools, shelters, early childhood centers, hospitals, and clinics. 

We also do workshops for parents, caregivers, and educators.  Not only do we do our programs within the library that focus on literacy, we also do garden programs, STEM programs, and gaming programs. 

This past year, we have revitalized our initiative that is to showcase our talents and skills.  Through that, we have been doing different cultural and art programs that give teens and children with disabilities a chance to show off their talents and skills. 

We partnered with NYS Promise.  We did a professionalized talent show that students from District 75 schools got up on this stage and performed.  They met with professionals who helped develop their performances. 

We also have our self-advocacy group.  We had exceptional artists come in and do an art-making program with them. 

This month, we will be hosting an AHRC for one of their performances of Beauty and the Beast.  We will also host Action Play.  Their chorus will be performing live.  They have made a few shorts that will be screening here. 

That’s just a little snippet of what we do.  If you would like to know more, we have brochures at the table.  We also have flyers for our upcoming events.  We also have our mailing list.  You can sign up for that.  Welcome.  Thank you for coming.  [APPLAUSE]


MAC Name Change & Updates:

Speaker:  For today’s agenda, I’ll give a little history of MAC.  We will share some exciting updates like our new name and membership structure.  We will give an overview of our website, which is also changing.  And we will give an update about the supporting transitions project and workshops for the year. 

For those of you who are new to MAC, we are a New York City volunteer based organization made up of individuals both from cultural institutions as well as disability communities.  We are working together to advance accessibility. 

We have been coming together since the 1990s to host professional development workshops and to develop a mutual network of support.  We want to bridge the disability community and the cultural institution community and create more inclusive programs and knowledge sharing for everyone. 

We are newly a project for the Fund of the City of New York.  We are happy to be part of that organization as of this year.  We are also generously funded by the Far Fund. 

We represent a steering committee made up of 20 individuals.  These are individuals with disabilities, artists, cultural professionals, and service providers. 

We have over 1,400 people in our virtual community.  We work with cultural organizations across the New York City metro area.  These include performing arts venues, zoos, historic houses, parks, etc. 

MAC’s core projects include professional development workshops, providing opportunities for individuals and people within the field to share programs with each other.  We’re all about bringing people together to develop dialogue. 

We create networking opportunities that lead to inter institutional collaboration.  We hope you will network with each other tonight. 

We document and disseminate best practices in the field so we continue to learn from each other.  We take on grant funded projects that add capacity to our cultural institutions in the New York City area. 

We manage a website which shares resources and aggregates and promotes cultural accessibility events throughout New York City. 

As a steering committee, we go to conferences to present, advise on city-wide projects and cultural affairs. 

In addition to our core projects, we also do grant based work.  Our biggest grant based project is the Supporting Transitions project.  This is a multiyear project more deeply engaged with adults with autism and other developmental disabilities through both employment and recreation opportunities. 

We have a new partnership that we are embarking upon.  We’re excited about it.  This is with BRIC.  We will be alongside them developing cultural accessibility training for the downturn Brooklyn arts alliance.  This is through the DCLA Fund. 

We are currently in contract with the Rosemary Kennedy Initiative to develop internships for adults with autism through cultural institutions. 

We would love for you to get involved.  There are a lot of different ways to do so.  Constance will speak more about that later.  She will also talk about upcoming workshops.  If there are workshops that resonate with you, please introduce yourself to anyone on the steering committee. 

Another way to get involved would be to provide us with ideas, feedback.  We have a green comment box on the resource table just outside the theater. 

A third way to get involved is to join the steering committee.  The committee is composed of volunteer representatives.  It is really responsible for guiding the vision and strategic plan of MAC.  We will be sharing more information about applying to the steering committee this spring. 

There is a lot of information here on the slide.  It’s printed and available outside at the check-in table.  You can nominate yourself, a colleague, a friend.  We will send out information this spring via our e-news. 

That is all I have to say.  We have some very exciting updates to share.  I will invite Michelle to the stage. 




Membership Updates

Michelle:  For those that have come to our town hall events in the past, normally we have a lot of conversations.  We changed the format this year because we have a lot of exciting initiatives we want to share.  As Lara mentioned, we want feedback regarding workshop ideas and ways that MAC can continue to help in this area.  There are comment cards that you can fill out. 

In terms of our exciting updates, hopefully some of you saw new signage we have.  The Museum Access Consortium is now the Museum Arts and Cultural Consortium.  MAC stays the same, but we wanted our name to reflect what we’re doing and who is part of the steering committee. 

As you see, our current committee includes artists and individuals from foundations, gardens, museums, service provider agencies, theaters, etc.  We really wanted our name to reflect what we are doing.  We don’t just focus on museums.  We focus on all cultural institutions across the tristate area. 

Along with our name change, Constance, our co-chair, helped create our new logo.  That will be appearing in all of our upcoming feed blasts and social media. 

The last part of these new initiatives is a new membership program.  MAC has continued to offer the community completely free workshops that are fully accessible with CART, ASL, and accessible spaces.  We will also offer free online resources and a cultural calendar. 

To continue providing these workshops for free, we are creating a new membership initiative.  What does being a MAC member mean?  At this point, it meant putting your email on the eblast.  But we will be formalizing the membership process. 

We have created a two-tiered membership system.  An individual membership will be $25.  It will be at a calendar year.  If you join in December, your membership will be up the following December. 

We will have membership-only social events.  Our first one is scheduled in January.  We will also have a MAC contact list where you can network with other professionals or individuals focused on accessibility. 

We’ll also have an institution membership.  If you are joining us from an institution, it would be able to become a MAC member for $100.  This would allow five individuals from the institution to come to the social events we have.  It will also allow institutions to have monthly office hours.  And all institutions that join will have a highlight on our website. 

We are very excited.  Unfortunately, our membership Web page is not yet created.  It will be a click through on our website.  Everyone who is attending tonight will receive an email when it goes live.  We want it to be fully accessible.  We want to be thoughtful in terms of creating it. 

Here are some membership facts.  Members will have access to additional social events and resources.  All of our workshops and our eblasts will continue to be for everybody.  You don’t necessarily have to join, but joining will give you added benefits. 

The first members-only social event will be January 17th.  Mark your calendars.  Dues are annual.  You can become a member through our new website. 

Now I invite Ruth Starr up, who will walk us through some of the new website design.  It is not live yet.  This is something that should be live by the end of the month. 



Website Updates:

Ruth:  I have the privilege to talk today about our website.  As Michelle mentioned, this is not yet live.  Don’t try to access this website on your phone yet.  I wanted to make this a bit interactive. 

Who has visited the MAC website?  It looks like most people in the room.  That is on the left side of the screen.  We’re seeing our former website.  We will have a new domain, which will be a shorter domain from the former domain. 

There’s no need to worry about these details because you will automatically be redirected when the new site launches regardless what you type in. 

Those of you who use our current website probably know many of the features.  They will not go away.  The goal of this site is to reflect the rebranding and to streamline the different functions of how people are trying to use the interface with MAC. 

This will be our new homescreen.  I realize the color contrast is bad on this screen.  I apologize.  We have a small logo at the top.  There are various menu options with the calendar, blog, resources, jobs, and about.  It will show up better when you’re online. 

Here is the new page for the cultural calendar.  It is a great resource for institutions and individuals and service providers who are looking for program options for various communities. 

At MAC, we have a public forum where anyone can submit their program to the cultural calendar.  It’s reviewed by our communications committee and added to this page.  If someone wants to search for upcoming workshops or programs or performances, they can do so here. 

You will be able to do that in the same way you have been in our current website.  It will be under Calendar.  You go to Add Program.  You can submit any events.  They don’t necessarily need to be for individuals with disabilities.  It can be any program you think would be appropriate to market on our platform. 

I’m happy to answer further questions around that if you would like.  Moving from there, we have our Submit Event page.  You go to Add Program under the Calendar tab.  Part of the goal for those of us who have submitted to our calendar before, you may have experienced some errors. 

Part of the work of the last six months is to beef up our capabilities in the digital space and make sure folks are not getting as many error messages.  Hopefully this process is streamlined in our new site. 

We also have an exciting new expansion of our site, which is a blog.  The blog will feature more storytelling from different programs and institutions.  This will also include benefits to members.  Institutions who are members could showcase a program or a staff member. 

Here we have a great sample of our first blog post that will launch in the next few weeks.  I believe this person is in the audience. 

Then we have our About section.  Under About is where you will find the new membership tab.  This has not been built out yet.  There will be an email that walks everyone through how to do this. 

I wanted to mention how MAC has presence elsewhere in the digital space, on Facebook and Twitter.  If you follow any of these accounts, they will continue.  Those will not change.  Just the logos will change. 

We also feature content that is occurring in the disability space.  There might be relevant research or other kinds of programs.  We love to feature other relevant things for our community.  Feel free to share broadly when you think there’s something MAC should be posting. 

Michelle mentioned we have our monthly e-news.  That will continue.  We will time it with the release of the blog post of the website.  That will be more standardized.  I know it hasn’t been as regular in the past.  I apologize for that.  It will be standardized here. 

I want to go over how that newsletter is structured.  We always put MAC events at the top.  We have other relevant announcements.  We have save the dates for upcoming programs.  We feature a program of the month from one of our partner organizations featured on the calendar. 

That’s another perk of submitting to the calendar so it can be disseminated out to our wide audience.  And then there are updates with new research and guidelines and best practices. 

I think that’s it.  I will turn it over to Aliza, who will walk us through Transitions. 




Supporting Transitions Updates:

Aliza:  Hello, everyone.  I’m Eliza Greenburgh and the project leader for Supporting Transitions.  I’m going to run through what this program is then let you know about new initiatives. 

Supporting Transitions is a program funded primarily through the Far Fund.  Cultural connections for people on the autism spectrum and other developmental disabilities. 

Each year about 50,000 young adults with autism exit school.  This leads to a loss of community support, support services, and structured daily activities. 

The Supporting Transitions project really took that challenge of what happens when young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities leave school and lose a lot of the benefits they were getting when they were in school. 

One of the areas that we felt was really necessary to address was unemployment.  The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities overall is 10.7%.  That was in 2015.  That’s about twice that of those with no disabilities. 

For people with autism, the rate is a crisis.  About 80-90% of young adults with autism are either unemployment or underemployed.  There is a great need for an increase in employment. 


That is one of the areas we tackle through the Supporting Transitions project.  We also approached this from a perspective of diversity includes disability.  If a cultural organization has a diversity initiative, that should include disabilities. 

If they are thinking about expanding their audience to a more diverse audience, how do they expand to people with disabilities?  We’re trying to expand the initiatives cultural organizations are already embarking on to include individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. 

We have three goals to help us increase opportunities at cultural organizations.  One was to increase employment, internship, and volunteer opportunities.  Employment is the goal, but internship and volunteer opportunities as building a pipeline to the final goal of employment. 

Another goal is to build recreation programs and life skills development programs.  On your left-hand side of the screen you will see a picture from our symposium we held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last April.  One of the guides is taking a group of individuals through the museum as part of a sample of the Discoveries Program at the Met. 

We are trying to increase not only these types of recreation programs but also build internship and employment opportunities.  At this event we also had a portfolio review, an audition workshop, and several career conversations to get people more aware of the cultural careers that might be available to them. 

One of the really exciting initiatives that we had was the Supporting Transitions pilot internships.  This past year, we supported four internships for 40 hours each.  One was at the 9/11 Museum and Memorial.  One was at the Jewish Museum.  You’ll hear from that intern in just a moment. 

And the other was at the New York Botanical Garden.  One is starting this week at Lincoln Center Education.  These internships provide training opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  They build knowledge, experience, and capacity in cultural organizations. 

We support the cultural organizations in learning how to host and support an intern with autism or development disabilities.  I went up to the sites and did training.  We have support throughout the process. 

We partner with many organizations like Job Path and others to support the interns and the organizations.  Ultimately, these internships will build a path to employment. 

I am thrilled to invite Jacob up to the stage.  He’s going to tell you about his internship at the Jewish Museum.  There is a picture up here of Jacob, his job coach, me, and Samantha, his supervisor, at the Jewish Museum.  We presented this past spring at the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable Conference.  That’s where that picture is from. 


Jacob, do you want to come up to the microphone? 

Jacob:  Is this thing on?  Testing.  Testing. 

Hello.  My name is Jacob Waltuk. I worked at the Jewish Museum this spring — I mean, the previous spring. 

Speaker:  Tell us about your internship experience.  What did you do? 

Jacob:  I guided people and tourists around the museum.  I did research around certain artifacts to understand what they were. 

Speaker:  What was the most rewarding thing? 

Jacob:  Let me think about that.  It was understanding how the relics play a part in Jewish culture and also how I can go beyond my boundaries about what I know about. 

In the future, I hope to work at cultural centers and not just expand my knowledge but also to create a better world for so many people. 

Speaker:  Thank you. 




Aliza:  Jacob will be around for further questions about his internship after we wrap up and move to more networking.  He can answer any questions. 

We have a section on the Supporting Transitions website you can go to and see resources.  We have a series of case studies that highlight different aspects of cultural organizations’ work in this area. 

For example, there’s a case study outlining an internship program.  There’s a case study detailing the Lincoln Center Ambassadors Program.  If you are looking for details around how you can support individuals in your organization, you might get ideas by reading through what other organizations are doing.  They’re pretty detailed case studies.  You can get a good sense of how to implement them on your own. 

We published an article this year in the Journal of Museum Education which is available online.  That issue is available with a link on our website.  You can read a really detailed account of our project and the impact that we’ve seen. 

We have some upcoming workshops.  Sorry, that’s the next thing.  We do have some upcoming workshops for Supporting Transitions.  We will have some upcoming workshops.  We’ll have one on how to make your already existing internship experiences more accessible. 

We’ll have one on recreation programs.  Keep on the lookout for workshops we will be doing.  We’re also very excited to continue our internship initiative with a new set of internships. 

We’ll be partnering with Queens College and the Cook School to offer six internships.  If you are interested in hosting an intern at your organization, it’s a similar structure to the ones I described.  Please see me for more details on that. 

We will also continue to support employment through various initiatives.  We’ll keep you updated there.  Thank you.  [APPLAUSE]


Workshop Updates:

Speaker:  Workshops! 

I’m Constance.  I’m the co-chair of MAC.  We’ll be talking about the workshops.  Workshops are at the center of MAC.  We started with a workshop in the 1990s.  That’s how we do our best work.  We invite people and have wonderful discussions around accessibility. 

This is the list of workshops we will have this year.  We usually decide the workshops when we have a retreat.  Everyone throws out different ideas.  From there, we try to take the ones that seem most relevant that year. 

One of the workshops we will have will be Disability Language.  Obviously language is very important.  The language we use for people with disabilities is even more important.  We will go through a history of how language has been used.  We will talk about best practices. 

We’re also hoping to have a discussion around how to talk about disability in a professional environment and how to bring ability and disability into the discussion.  This workshop is very much in progress. 

We will have another workshop that is a theater workshop.  We did one last year.  This one will grow out of that a little bit.  This is about how to develop an accessible program and create employment.  This is also something new for MAC since we changed the name.  We’re having more theaters involved. 

The Artists with Disability workshop is a really new topic for us.  It shouldn’t be new but it is.  We are still working on how we will address that.  

We have a technology workshop.  Last year, we had a bit of a technology workshop.  This year, we will probably be more general under technology and target the website part.  I think everyone is wondering how to make their websites more accessible.  We will try to tackle that. 

We will also have a fair with that technology workshop.  Another workshop we will have is the mental health workshop.  We will talk about invisible disabilities and talk about how to bring that knowledge into your institution. 

Another workshop will be advocacy and accessibility.  It’s very important to advocate.  We will talk about coalitions and working together.  Maybe this is where we can start linking different groups. 

And then equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility will be a very big workshop.  It’s a very big discussion.  We will try to move forward with that. 

The workshops we do, we always ask where we will have the workshops.  If any of you have any spaces available, just tell us about it.  It’s very central to what we do.  We do not have a place for our original group.  If anyone has a space for us, that would be very welcome. 

We also love to collaborate and share information.  If any of you have a workshop you’ve done in the past with your cultural institution and you would like MAC to work with you, that is always welcome. 

At the end, we have this beautiful box Michelle has made.  You can practice for tomorrow’s election!  [Joke/joking.]  Just put that card with your thoughts in that box.  We can all work together.  Everything works better when we work together. 

After that, in closing, if anyone has any questions, I don’t think we have microphones, so I will do my best to re-ask your question. 



Speaker:  I am Kate.  I work with Joanne at the New York Botanic Garden.  I was interested in the institutional membership and what you were offering to institutional members.  You were talking about office hours.  Talk about what that is. 

Michelle:  The office hours is a new idea.  We’re finalizing the details.  It looks like the MAC steering committee members will identify areas of expertise.  Each month will be a different steering committee member that will have a virtual office hour. 

If you wanted more information regarding a specific area, you would know what month someone will be talking about that relevant topic. 

Speaker:  I’m Christine.  This is all new to my son and I.  We are trying to start a nonprofit to help children with mental illness because it affects our family.  My daughter has social anxiety and sensory processing disorder.  It’s hard for her to go to public places like museums. 

We wanted her to have access.  She goes to a therapeutic school.  We found that there are children there with autism, but a lot of them have the same auditory process disorder.  Have you worked with children with mental illnesses and anxiety?  Is that something that you can help us try to organize or therapeutic schools to organize field trips or get access from museums to the schools if they can’t go to the museum? 

Michelle:  She was asking about children with mental illness and whether MAC was offering programs to museums or bringing programs to schools. 

Speaker:  I can address that.  I had my back to the person who asked the question.  Hello.  Many of the MAC steering committee members also work at cultural institutions because our positions on the steering committee are all volunteer based. 

I work at the Museum of Modern Art.  I don’t want to speak directly for other steering committee members, but our institutions often work with children with mental illness.  If you want to approach anyone during the networking event, we can tell you more individually about what our cultural institutions offer. 

This goes for everyone, you can email MuseumAccess@gmail.com.  Then your email can be passed to whatever committee member can best answer your question.  The Cultural Calendar is a great place to look for events as well. 

Michelle:  Eliza was talking about Supporting Transitions.  That program was specifically funded for autism spectrum disorders.  A lot of what we do is increasing accessibility for all individuals. 

Any other questions? 

We also wanted to give some time at the end for additional networking.  Hopefully everyone put their name, their institution or a family member, as well as if MAC steering committee members should put that on their name tag.  That way you can find us with additional questions. 

There is a wonderful resource table where a lot of cultural institutions provided resources for individuals.  There is food out there.  Please eat!  Take some home. 

We keep mentioning this comment card box.  Your feedback is so critical in keeping MAC running.  While we didn’t have a formal breakout session this year, we encourage your comments regarding upcoming workshop ideas and other ways MAC can help. 

Jacob:  Maybe MAC could give access to certain centers like disability and art and volunteering at different places. 

Michelle:  That’s very good feedback.  Thank you, everyone, for coming on a rainy Monday night.  [APPLAUSE]

[End of event.]

Skip to content