Disability Justice and the Arts: Listening and Learning for Reinvention

Disability Justice and the Arts: Listening and Learning for Reinvention

Disability Justice and the Arts: Listening and Learning for Reinvention was held on July 18, 2020, 3-5pm on zoom in partnership with the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York. The workshop featured a keynote by Judith Heumann and a panel with Jerron Herman, Ezra Benus, Alexandria Wailes, Regan Linton, and Russell Hill. The keynote and panel were moderated by Kirsten Sweeney, Education & Access Coordinator at Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York and a MAC Steering Committee Member. 


Event Transcript

ALIZA:  Hi, everybody.  We will begin Disability Justice and the Arts in a few minutes.  Before we begin to give you time to get into Zoom, we will give a few minutes for everyone to join. To access the live captioning, you can click the closed caption button on the Zoom menu at the bottom of the your screen, or you can click the link sent in the chat to view the captions in a separate window.  Please keep your audio and video off throughout the workshop.  You can control your audio and video using the two buttons in the bottom left corner of your screen.  In order to make sure the only people you see on your screen are the panelists and interpreter, you can hide non-video participants.  To do that, click the three dots in the upper right corner of anyone’s video on your screen.  In the drop down menu, click hide non-video participants.  If you don’t see the option then you already have the setting turned on.  Or, you can go into your video settings. If you prefer to pin the interpreter, you can click the three dots in the upper right corn of the interpreter’s video and click on pin video.  If you have questions or technical issues during the workshop, you can send me a chat, Aliza, and I will help you out.

We will start in a few minutes.

Okay, welcome everybody.  We will start.  I’m going to review some access information one more time, then we will begin.  Welcome to disability justice and the arts.  I’m Aliza, I’m a white woman in my thirties with brown, curly hair, a black shirt and red glasses.  I’m  sitting against a beige curtain and there are some VHS tapes and albums in the background.  I’m the project leader for supporting transitions, with the Museum Arts and Culture Access Consortium. We are thrilled to have you here.  Thank you for joining us.

You can click the closed caption button on the Zoom menu, at the bottom of your screen, or click the link sent in the chat to do the captions in a separate window.  Please keep your audio and video off throughout the workshop.  You can control your audio and video using the two buttons in the bottom left corner of your screen.  In order to make sure the only people you see on your screen are the panelists, and the interpreter, you will want hide non-video participants, by clicking the three dots in the upper right corner of anyone’s video on the screen.  In the drop down, click hide non-video participants. If you don’t see the option, then you already have the setting turned on.  If you prefer to pin the interpreter, you can click the three dots in the upper right corner of the interpreter video and click pin today.  If you have questions or technical issues, you can send a chat to me and I will help you out.

We will go through the agenda, and first, I will introduce our interpreters, who will be with us throughout the event.

On the screen right now, is Craig, a white man with short brown curly hair wearing a black short sleeved shirt and Carllee, a light skinned black woman with an Afro pulled back.  She’s wearing a black shirt and white head phones in her ears. Jacinda is a black nonbinary person,  wearing a black shirt. Candace is a white woman, average height, slim build, long hair and brown eyes and blue glasses.  Lynnette is a slim middle aged woman with short brown hair and olive skin.  All right, we can begin.

    If you would like to see the interpreters, the best way to view is in gallery view.  I will stop and reshare my screen.  Thank you for your patience.

I will pause.  Can one of our hosts share the slides as I can’t see them and read them at the same time.  Thank you everyone for your patience.


KIRSTEN:  Aliza, this is Kirsten.  I have them.  One second.

ALIZA:  Thank you.  Our agenda for today, we are going over welcome and access information and appreciate all your patience to make this event as accessible as possible.  We will move into our key note presentation, with Judy Heumann, then move to our panel, then into breakout rooms.  You will automatically be joined into a breakout room.  Then we will return to the main room, you will be automatically be sent back to the main room for reflection.

One of the hosts of  this event, MAC, is an organization striving toward increasing access to New York City, cultural institutions for the disability community through connection, education and advocacy.  I’m very pleased to hand it over to our partner in this event, Kirsten Sweeney, from A.R.T./New York, and we are thrilled to be partnering with them on this event.  Thank you.


KIRSTEN:  Hi, everybody.  I’m Kirsten Sweeney, I’m a white woman in my mid-twenties, with long brown hair and glasses, wearing a green shirt with a white floral pattern.  As Aliza said, I work for A.R.T./New York, an arts service organization based in New York City. We serve non profit theaters here and offer a white range of programs, but in particular, we have a program called access A.R.T./New York, working to have an inclusive theater sector and equipped to serve artists and audiences with staff with disabilities.

We are pleased to partner with MAC on this. *VIDEO STARTS HERE* That’s me.  On the screen.  My title is Education and Access Coordinator.  And we are so pleased to start this event by welcoming our keynote speaker, Judy Heumann, for a conversation.  Hi, Judy.

JUDY:  Hi.  Do you see me? Because I can’t see me.

KIRSTEN:  I can see you, Judy, yes.  I will stop screen sharing in just a second.  Judy, as it says on the screen, is a lifelong civil rights advocate for people with disabilities. She’s featured in the Netflix documentary, Crip Camp, but that is far from her most important achievement, and we are so excited to- I’m so excited to speak with her today.  I will stop screen sharing.

JUDY:  Got it.

KIRSTEN: Alright, hi Judy.

JUDY: Hi, nice to see you.

KIRSTEN:  Give me one second now.  I have to switch windows from my screen share.  All right.  The first thing that I wanted talk to you about, Judy, is you had such a long, storied career so I want ask you about how have you seen the fight for disability rights and justice evolve over the course of your career?

JUDY:  Thank you.  Let me first start off by describing myself.  I’m probably one of the oldest people involved with this.  Once upon a time, that wasn’t true.  I’m 72 and a half.  And I’m a white woman with dark hair, which needs to get colored.  There’s a bunch of white that you can see in it.  And I’m wearing a Frida Kahlo shirt, because this was her birthday this week. And I am in the foyer of our apartment, and we have a lot of pictures on the wall, family pictures, and other kinds of knick knacks, windows behind me with a lot of light coming in.

So, how have I seen changes over the years.  That basically, after I introduce myself- Could you tell me the question again?

KIRSTEN:  Of course.  The question is, how have you seen the fight for disability rights and disability justice evolve over the course of your career?

JUDY:  I think, over the course of my life, because I had polio in 1949,  I was born in 1947.  At that age, I was not thinking of a career.  And I would say one reasons why I have immersed myself in disability rights work, which in the beginning wasn’t called rights, it didn’t have a real name, so that’s an important part of the changes that have been going on in the United States and around the world.  My personal experiences, like many of you who are participating in this event, whenever you are identified as having a disability, it’s our personal experiences that have in many ways had barriers put before us, literally and figuratively, that have limited our lives to really dreaming about what it is we want to do.  So the changes that I think we’ve seen both in the United States and around the world is the beginning of disabled people mobilizing.

And again, from my perspective, we didn’t really have a movement to look back on.  When you think about the women’s movement, when you think about the Black movement, Latino movement, et cetera, you can really look for many, many, many years, decades, centuries, at the work that was being done by disenfranchised groups.  And many, many organizations, and family members, and following the foot tracks of other family members and friends, et cetera.  But in the disability community, by and large, there are exceptions for the Deaf community, where deafness may be genetic, and you have families, practically whole families, who are Deaf and Deaf culture is just a part of their being and in some cases, in the area of blindness, also, and some other disabilities, but as a rule, that’s not the case.

For those of you who watched Crip Camp, I think you see in Crip Camp, in my book, Being Heumann, and other books that are being written by disabled individuals, our growth, and for me, I think my growth and the growth of other disabled people at that period of time was very much being influenced by other movements.  So the civil rights movement, which was really becoming quite visible and powerful in the 50s and 60s, the antiwar movement, the women’s movement, the Gray Panthers, the senior movement. Those movements were moving forward, and we were, as younger disabled people, being very influenced by what we were seeing.

And I think the opportunities to go to camps, like Jened, but others also, really afforded us an opportunity to both be kids, be teenagers, have fun, date, all the stuff that goes on when you’re a teenager, but for many of us who were at the camp, our life was not the same as our life at home. Because in camp, there was a limited geographical area, there were people there who could assist us in getting dressed, going to the bathroom, doing those things that for myself and most of my friends, if we needed help, we we were relying on our families.  So I didn’t really have the freedom to decide certain things because my mother was helping me and my brothers.

The evolution really, I think, coming about as we, disabled people, really begin to really see that our lives should not be different than someone else who doesn’t have a disability, whatever the form of the disability may be.  And that we needed ourselves to be able to verbalize, not only how we were feeling—exclusion, rejection, lack of opportunities, because our schools, many of us were going to segregated schools, limited interaction with disabled people who were in work and moving, advancing within society. 

So I think as we were analyzing in part the medical model, the telethon model, where we were portrayed also as what I call “hopeless, helpless cripples” that needed charity to cure us and to prevent us, that was going on in a storm.  We were really looking at what we did not want and what we did want.  In the 70s and 80s, I think still til today, one of the things that we continue to address is the ability for those us with many different types of disabilities to be able to come together as one.  And by that I don’t mean that we are casting aside our disabilities and having impact us as individuals, but rather, I define it as we are experiencing discrimination.  

That’s one other changes that’s gone on. We use the words, discrimination, and justice, and equality, civil rights, human rights.  Those were words, in the beginning of my life, that were for others.  Others were experiencing discrimination.  And therefore, you saw many years, decades of fighting for the Civil Rights Act, which did not include disability.  The women’s movement that was evolving was not including disabled women.  And all of these others. That we decided we needed to come together. We needed to learn about who we are, both as individuals and how our disabilities impacted our lives.  So if you were Deaf, what did you need?  If you were blind, what did you need?  If you had a physical disability, what did you need?  What was discrimination?

Laws began to evolve.  Section 504 being one of the most important first ones that was passed in 1973, along with a number of other provisions under Title V of the Rehab Act. A little point there was there was a disabled guy, a veteran, who worked with Senator Cranston, and it was he, with some of the other staffers, that was pushing to begin to get legislation that paralelled other laws like in the area of civil rights.  And it necessitated us, when you look at 504 and the demonstrations that occurred, we were all needing to learn much more. We needed to go beyond discussing the barriers and problems.  We needed to have a vision of what could happen.

And not only did we need to have a vision of what could happen, but—sorry about the clanking—but we also needed to develop knowledge and expertise that would allow us to be at the table, discussing and arguing for things like accessible buses and interpreters and eventually captioning.  Things of that nature.  

Move it forward to today, I think we’ve seen the great work that was done in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I think when we look in 1977, is when the 504 regulations were signed.  It was 13 years later that the Americans with Disabilities Act finally became a law.  And one of the important parts of the passage of the ADA, in addition to what it does and says, was the fact that disabled people around the United States at the local, state, and national level, were organizing. People were coming together, talking about learning disabilities, mental health disabilities, AIDS, physical disabilities, on and on and on. We were more effectively able to discuss discrimination. We were able to discuss the fact that the discrimination was not isolated. It occurred in every community, in every state. And we were able to engage a bipartisan group of legislators to agree that the magnitude of the barriers we were facing did need to have a national law.  And that really I think was a monumental event in being able to get people together and really get the Congress to do this.  

In the last thirty years since the ADA, there have been many additional things happening. We’ve seen really a burgeoning of an international disability rights movement impacting disabled people around the world, learning from each other, sharing information.  The passage of the U.N. Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities coming into effect in 2008, which has been very important on the international level, similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, different but similar, which again came about for the same reason as the ADA.  Disabled people at the local level and international level really being able to come together to demonstrate that disabled people across the world were experiencing significant discrimination and that that discrimination was denying people opportunities to participate in social life, employment, just everyday activities.  Stigma against those of us with disabilities, high unemployment rate, in many countries still high rates of disabled children not receiving education.  So I think, for me, summarizing this, we’ve seen the strengthening of our vision.  We’ve seen as we have been successful in moving more laws forward, that our expectations and demands for what more is needed is becoming stronger.

I think why I was interested in participating in this discussion today is because one of the major areas where we’ve not made the degree of advancement that I think is critical, not just for us but for society overall, is the media.  Disabled people are still, as you all know, not reflected in a significant enough way in media, in theater, in film, in journalism, on and on.  The work you’re all doing to really look at ways of including disabled people of all ages is so important, because I believe it’s intimate. It connects with people. It allows people to learn about the diversity of our communities.  It allows stories to be told.  And the absence of that results in those of us with hidden and visible disabilities continuing to be marginalized.  And I guess I think really another very critical issue is we talk in the United States about 61 million disabled people.  And we talk internationally about 1 billion disabled people.  Those are huge numbers.  But the reality is we’re not reflected anywhere in a public way to allow people to learn about who we are, what our stories are, what our experiences are, or just to be part of the general society, in theater.  You don’t have to be playing a disabled role. You don’t have to be writing about disability. It doesn’t have to be a piece in a museum of a disabled person.

Our engagement and the diversity that we represent must be more front and center if, in my view, we’re ever gonna really attain the level of inclusion, equity, justice, that we are fighting for.

KIRSTEN: Amazing, Judy.  Thank you.  That was so insightful.  I have one more quick question for you and then we’ll wrap up.  You gave us such rich context about your history until now and looking at where we are now, in the arts and culture field.  So now I’m thinking about where we need to go for the future.  I was wondering if you could offer a bit of advice maybe for the post-ADA generation, how we can continue this fight for disability justice in the future.

JUDY:  I know a lot of people are talking about the post-ADA generation, and we think about it as younger people.  I think it’s important for us to recognize that disability is intergenerational.  And the reason I think that’s so important is so many disabled people acquire their disabilities as they’re getting older.  And one of the big problems is, when you’re raised in a society where disability is seen as a negative and then you begin to have a disability yourself, it is likely that you’re gonna perceive yourself in a negative way, not having the same rights, not wanting to be demanding, not engaging in the kinds of changes that you want to see. You want to live in your own home, you don’t wanna have to move out, you want to be able to get whatever supports you need in your current environment.

I think when we look at the ADA generation, I would like to look at it as an intergenerational generation.  Younger people, I think, as I speak to more younger individuals, who maybe were born after 1990, ’95, ’96, 2000, many of them don’t even know what the ADA is.  They don’t know what 504 is.  They may have learned about it later; they don’t know about the movement.  They may be getting involved with it now, which is very exciting, because people have felt alone.  As one woman told me last week, she’s 28, she is a wheelchair user and went to a regular school because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act had all been passed.  She was given opportunities, for example, that I wasn’t.  But, when she was like 15 or 16, she was invited to a youth leadership group of disabled individuals.  And she said to me, “When I went, I found my people.”  That was her language.

And I think that’s something that’s not just for younger people.  I think it’s for people as they get older and, in this case, acquire disabilities.  So I really feel very strongly that those of you with disabilities who are engaged in media, in theater and the arts, and may feel alone in many ways, not yet having achieved what you are trying to achieve, recognize that your resilience and your vision and your ability to work with other people continues to transform society.

And, as terrible as COVID is, I think there are also lots of stories and opportunities that we can pull from this, both the good and the bad, so that, as we move forward, we can feel that our voices are being reflected and that each of us in our own way, individually and collectively, are really fighting to move forward and redesigning not only the United States but the world. Social media allows us to connect with so many people. I just wanna thank you for what you do every day, and I’m happy to be here.

KIRSTEN: Thank you so much, Judy.  That was really wonderful.  It’s a joy to speak with you.  Thank you so much. We’re going to move on to the panel portion of our event now.

JUDY:  Thank you. 

KIRSTEN:  Thank you, Judy.  I am thrilled to welcome to the Zoom stage five wonderful artists and arts administrators from across the theater, museum, arts and culture sector.  Our first panelist is Ezra Benus. He is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, and curator.  His art spans a range of themes such as time, pain, illness, and health, and he is also a curator at a number of arts institutions around the city.

Our next panelist is Jerron Herman. Jerron is an interdisciplinary artist. He creates through dance, text, and visual storytelling, and he has been a performer with Heidi Latsky Dance.  

Our next panelist is Regan Linton. Regan is the Artistic Director of Phamaly Theater Company, that’s Phamaly with a “ph,” which is a theatre company based in Denver that reimagines established theatrical works exclusively with casts of disabled artists. So we are thrilled to have her with us.

We also have Russell Hill.  Russell is a meditation specialist with Job Path NYC, which is an organization that supports people with developmental disabilities, and he also is an administrator at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum here in New York City.  

And our final panelist is Alexandria Wailes, who is a performer, director who was most recently seen at the Public Theater in their revival of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf. 

So I am so excited to welcome this wonderful panel to this Zoom call with me. Their information is on the slide which we will also be sending out after the event if you want to check them out some more online.

ALIZA:  Sorry, can you pause quickly for a glitch with our captioning?

KIRSTEN:  Absolutely.  

ALIZA: I think we’re back.  All right.  Thank you.

KIRSTEN:  Great.  No problem.  All right.  I think we can stop the screen share.  Great.

My first question is for the full panel, and, since this event is titled Disability Justice and the Arts, I thought it would make sense for us to just go around and give a brief description of what disability justice means to you.  Jerron, we can start with you.

JERRON:  Cool. Thanks so much, Kirsten. I’m a Black man with high kinky hair and a mustache. I’m wearing a white canvas T shirt.  I’m in my apartment. There are plants festooned around me.  

And the idea, and thank you so much, Judy, for your words. They really do help me contextualize what I think about and feel about disability justice, especially in the sense that, as I grew up, I was tasked with understanding my disability in really functional ways.  So I think that the idea of disability justice is a process.  It is a way in which our ideas of access or of disability can be expansive and elastic so that they get away from notions of utilitarianism and then go into welcoming, so we understand that our creation of worlds is not just to stave off punitive actions, or the things that we want to, I guess, be hard on, but we create spaces that incorporate folks who do or do not look like us.  I was thinking about this and wondering whether or not access could be a welcoming, questioning practice that expands our notion of our people that Judy just brought up to include folks who are just as interested in justice, culture, and not just those with a disability. So we can move out of just, like, “disability is for disabled people.”  No, let’s all think about it and how it interrogates our lives.

KIRSTEN: I love that, Jerron.  Thank you.  Ezra, what are your thoughts?

EZRA:  Hi, everyone. I’m Ezra. I am a white, male-presenting person. I have big black curly hair and some scruff on my face. I’m wearing a black T shirt and a red cardigan. I’m in my bedroom slash studio right now, so in back of me there’s a big white wall, and over my right shoulder you can see a frame with different colored textile works with pink and green and blue and white strands of yarn on it.  I’m making a rug.

So, yeah. To also think about what Jerron was just saying about welcoming and elasticity, I want to move with that and say that disability justice, from my learnings and from my understandings, is something that has space, that changes, and that looks and learns from leaders who have been doing the work for a long time.  Primarily, folks who are Black and indigenous and people of color and queer and trans folks who have been doing this work, right? And given us language, have given us space, for us to even have a panel right now and talk about it.  Just to name a few I’ve learned from, like Dustin Gibson, Mia Mingus, Patty Berne, one of the cofounders of Sins Invalid, there’s a whole, they have ten principles of disability justice that they’ve written up.  So there’s so much work that has been done.  And is continuing to be done and built upon.  And so, for me, disability justice means understanding the whole of issues in our society that impacts me, that impacts you, that impacts them, and us.  So how can we bring in all of the complexities of what it means to be human and to be marginalized and oppressed and also leverage certain privileges that someone might have, like that I might have, as a white male-presenting person, who is passing as someone who’s nondisabled?  There’s a lot that, you know, for what it means to be working within a framework of disability justice. It means to always have people with me and working with other people, and centering voices and work of people who are maybe less privileged in the ways that I am.  So that’s really how I approach my work.  And again, like Jerron said, this idea of welcoming is something that’s so beautiful to consider, because it’s like how can we create a future if not everyone is welcome?  The whole point of it is we’re trying to welcome as many people as we can.

KIRSTEN: Great, thank you, Ezra, and thank you for naming the people that are lifting us up as we do this work.

EZRA:  Those were a very few.

KIRSTEN:  That was not a comprehensive list, by any means, but thank you for naming a few folks.  Alexandria, we can have you next.

ALEXANDRIA (voiced by JACINDA):  Hello, everyone. My name is Alexandria. I use American Sign Language, and who’s voicing for me? I’mm not sure who’s voicing me. Oh, hi Jacinda. You’re voicing for me? Great. So I am biracial, light skinned. I am a white passing woman with dark curly straight hair, wearing a charcoal gray shirt, or it’s actually charcoal gray/blue family shirt, and a pair of earrings in the shape of a U.  I have a light green-colored nail polish on, and I feel like my clothes are very moody, so to speak, right now.  I have, in the back of me, a maroon-colored wall and, over my left shoulder, I have a multicolored blanket and right above that is a picture frame behind me.

Now, going back to disability justice. Firstly, I just want to thank you all for inviting me to be part of this conversation in the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  When I was a young teen, I remember that was when the ADA passed.  So I have both experiences of pre-ADA passing and post ADA.  So I feel like I can speak on both. And really, being biracial and Deaf and a political woman of color, I felt like no matter what I did, it was always on the receiving end of the conversation about how I live or navigate in this world.

For me, disability justice is inclusive of everyone.  It’s led by members of the disability community, and it’s been, again, inclusive. It’s been welcoming.  And people- Or should be welcoming, sorry, interpreter mistake. And it should be, we need to include the physical space for all bodies.  And that way, we can recognize how the architecture can influence us.  For the larger part for me, it’s largely through the arts and politics as well.  Bringing those experiences in each of those worlds and sharing that with everyone, I feel like it’s an honor and more representative on all layers.

KIRSTEN:  Wonderful.  Thank you Alexandria, and thank you Jacinda. Great.  Regan, why don’t you go next?

REGAN: Hi, everybody. I’m Regan Linton. I am a white woman in her late thirties with a white shirt on and black glasses and short blonde hair.  I am sitting in an office that has very bland white walls with bad fluorescent lighting. And I use she/her/hers pronouns.  

And, yeah, I think this question of disability justice, to me, brings up what Judy was talking about about, in relation to what the other artists were talking about, in terms of a place of welcome and the discrimination that folks have experienced in the past leads to dehumanization. And so I think it’s just a very simple, important principle that people with disabilities are human.  We’re human beings.

And we’re human beings in the same way that everyone else is human beings, just with different characteristics.  And so I think, particularly, when we’re thinking about art spaces, being aware of those subtle ways in which we are consistently dehumanizing people with disabilities. It’s dehumanizing when you’re not considering putting a disabled artist on stage. It’s dehumanizing when you’re saying, “Oh, 70% of our exhibit is accessible, but not 100%.”  It’s dehumanizing when you don’t want to invest in a quiet room or ASL interpretation or captioning or a renovation to add more wheelchair seating.  Those are all ways in which we reinforce that dehumanizing of people with disabilities. So, when I think about disability justice, it’s really about how can we change our attitudes and also our practices to rehumanize people with disabilities so that we are valuing them. We are saying you have value in the same way that nondisabled people have value.

KIRSTEN:  Wonderful.  Thank you, Regan.  Let’s close it out with Russell.

RUSSEL:  Hello, thank you for having me here.  My name’s Russell. I have autism. I’m white. I have black hair and eyes that actually shift color.  Right now they’re green.  And I’m wearing a charcoal T shirt, and I have one of my paintings in the background. So, yes, I wrote some notes on disability justice.  I think it’s about advocacy and accessibility and that part of having justice is the very basic. It’s getting into the building, being accessible.  And I think it’s also very important that we advocate for one another.  And a lot of it is how we see people with disabilities.  There’s so much bias and dogma and all this stuff, and we need to see that people with disabilities are capable and can hold good jobs, can have families, can do all sorts of things that everyone else can. So I want to, and I get more on it later,  I want to see organizations hiring people at all levels with disabilities, and I want to see people in the board of directors and vice presidents, presidents, good entrepreneurs with all sorts of disabilities and all sorts of backgrounds.  So, I want to not just talk about disability but also capability, because a lot of people with disabilities are so capable in other ways, and some people even have gifts that are aligned with their disabilities. And I just really want to see people not underestimating us and just knowing that we can work well at a job, we can be a great girlfriend, boyfriend, nonbinary friend, and that we can be represented everywhere, like in the media, everywhere. Give us a chance, we’re going to do well.  I believe in people with disabilities.

KIRSTEN:  Wonderful.  Thank you, Russell, and thank you, all of you, for your words on that.

As we’re thinking about justice, I want to think about how that applies to the cultural institutions that are here in the Zoom room with us today. And I want to talk a little bit as a group about equity, diversity and inclusion.  That lovely phrase, EDI, one might say. Something that is so prominent in cultural institutions these days. And I want to talk a little bit- we don’t need to speak in any particular order. I’ll just sort of open up the room. If we could talk a little bit about how do you feel when you see these institutions that are often predominantly white, predominantly nondisabled putting out these EDI statements, and how do you feel that these organizations can prove their commitment, not just to this sort of nebulous “diversity and inclusion,” but to true justice?  That’s a big question. Whoever wants to kick it off.

RUSSELL: I just want to say something very brief.  I see almost every website has one of these.  But until you see people in your vice presidents, your Board of Directors, balanced employment, support, accessibility, I’m not going to take that seriously.  Show it.  And, even if you can on your website, I’d love to see, “Our company is balanced in race, and everyone gets an opportunity for every position.”  If you can actually show that, that’s better than just saying stuff.

KIRSTEN:  Yes.  Thank you, and we’re gonna pause for one second to switch out interpreters.  Welcome, Craig.  We can continue.  

REGAN: I’ll say something. Oh, Jerron, do you wanna go? Okay.

I think EDI statements are a great first step.  There’s nothing bad about an inclusive EDI statement, but then you have to be thinking about how are you actually backing it up. Where is the representation that you’re striving for?  And, particularly within institutions, how are you maybe encouraging or discouraging, particularly within the context of disability, the visibility of somebody with a disability? Whether it’s invisible or not, how are you encouraging them to be able to come out and say, “Yes, I do have this disability. I need this kind of accommodation,” and is that part of this statement? How are you backing it up in values? EDI statements are a great first step, but then you have to think about how are you putting them into practice. And just one statement I keep coming back to that I heard recently is it’s not a revolution if it’s not accessible.  And so, as you’re building your EDI, all of your EDI work, if you’re not making it accessible, then it’s not fully revolutionary.

EZRA:  Hi, this is Ezra speaking. I want to address the fact that we’re currently in the landscape where cultural institutions, whatever we thought of or whatever we’re thinking of what a cultural institution or organization is, we do need to kind of throw that out, because we’re at a moment where there’s no going back, right? There’s no way that we can proceed with programming, with DEI plans, or anything without taking into account the fact that the world landscape around employment, around safety, around health, around participation, around actual equity for the people who work there, those are the things that need to be addressed first and foremost.  What I’ve been seeing, from my perspective as someone who freelances and moves between art institutions as my own person, what I’ve seen is a lack of understanding that the workers are people, and seeing that there is a lack of commitment to education, still, always has been. If we talk about access, we can talk about where access lives within cultural institutions, which is often in education departments, but, when we see education being cut in many ways, we also have to understand that often that is part of the only ways disabled people have access to institutions.

And we also have to consider the fact that now so many people who have been working at cultural institutions can’t afford to, or have been laid off.  In ways that I’m talking about, this is going to be a ripple effect, because so much of how cultural institutions have been operating, which is on this freelance, part time, flexible contracting with arts workers and with artists,  and now we’re at a point where of course all that is gone. And so the folks still employed, by and large, are in leadership. So that’s what Russell was saying. If we don’t understand disability justice as the actual framework for something, or, as Regan was just saying, as revolutionary, we’re never going to change. We’re never gonna have a real, true commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and accessibility in institutions.  So, I know it’s hard to hear, but I do really think that there needs to be a really deep look at what the landscape is right now and what it might be. How do we ensure that we’re actually not telling people who might still have jobs that they need to come in if they have someone who lives in their home who’s immune compromised? Right? It’s not just about the people who work there. I’m experiencing this right nowon a very personal level. You know, what does it mean to be an artist right now? What does it mean to be basically stuck inside for this whole calendar year, if not longer, in terms of participation?  I know, I can continue going off, and Jerron and I often talk about that. I can get started and won’t stop, but I’m going to, and hope that we can build off this and have real reflection on this.

JERRON:  Yeah! I mean, Ezra, I’m so for you.  This is Jerron speaking. I’m so for you on so many levels. You can keep going, because actually, in my experience, I’ve been thinking about exactly what Russell’s been talking about in terms of what it takes to really employ diversity at an institution.  As I sit on a board, I’ve been on panels, I’ve served in different capacities, in those spaces that we’re supposed to get to, and unfortunately, the culture has not met the diversity yet. There’s nothing for me to do a give or get for being on a board, for example, but it’s the fact that I am at the lower rung of income already, and then participate in that function and that class is different for me than my peers.  In experiencing that, there is this way in which, if you want people to come to the table, how is the table set, really?  I think that the barriers to coming in power actually are more insidious than we’re giving credit to.  I think that sometimes nonprofit organizations don’t really assess how tied to capitalism we really are. I think that the framework of capitalism has very advantageous alignments, and I would never say- it’s people that make it bad or people that make it good. I think, though, as a framework, nonprofit industry and the complex of nonprofit industry, hides behind a charitable exterior and then therefore isn’t up for critique, and isn’t up for how we could be more effective.  This is why welcoming, this is why DEI is not a package, but it’s like step one: D, step two: E, step three: I, and different versions of that. Because it’s not one size fits all, and it does need to correspond with what your organization looks like and also who you’re serving and who’s coming to the table.  So there are lot of different components that need to be diversified, in the way that you don’t- No one industry, or no one company or organization or institution can do the same thing and call it equitable. 

KIRSTEN:  Alexandria?

ALEXANDRIA (voiced by JACINDA):  This is Alexandria speaking.  I don’t have much to add besides what Jerron was just saying.  Again, this is not a critique, but more of an observational opportunity.  We have the organizations, institutions use numbers or statistics, right? And ones they’re satisfied those statistics, then they’re good for the next five years until they have to recalibrate those numbers.  It’s not- I mean, it’s a revolutionary attempt, I would say, but, with COVID-19 happening and quarantine happening, the first thing we have to adapt to is technology, right?  We have to use Zoom, and our communication was compromised.  If you don’t have Wi-Fi or high speed, it might be affected. 

Imagine those other people who don’t have the same access or financially aren’t able to have those connections.  And so we have a usual way of- or a way that we fix things- I’m sorry, we don’t have a way to fix things.  We have to keep adapting, and making, see if what we apply works and what doesn’t work until we get closer to more, a better way, an overall better experience. And again, what I mentioned earlier about architectural spaces in the arts and culture and things like that.

KIRSTEN:  Wonderful.  Thank you. Thank you all. And I want to highlight something that Ezra said about people being furloughed during this time.  It just made me think about how, right now, often the first positions to be cut are the internships, the fellowships, the entry level positions which are often where the diversity in organizations comes in, which is its own problem.  That can be a whole different panel to talk about.  But that was just something that I thought of while you all were speaking.  

Okay. Moving along, I want to focus a little bit more on the artist experience at cultural institutions. And, Ezra, I think you touched about this a little bit when you were talking about how you hop around from institution to institution. But Jerron and Alexandria, as artists as well, I wondered if you could speak a little bit about the shift that we’ve seen over the past few months and what your relationship with cultural institutions was like before the events of the past few months and what it’s like now.  Alexandria?

ALEXANDRIA (voiced by JACINDA):  Hi.  This is Alexandria speaking.  I would say I’m very fortunate as a freelance artist. I’ve been teaching at a few museums throughout the city of New York and, ever since COVID, I’d say I average about three or four sign language leaders. Or tours, I’m sorry, tours.  And I’ve had about, since COVID happened, I’ve had about one tour in American Sign Language since February.  And, fortunately, we were able to do it through Zoom, which that experience is wonderful, but because of the financial depletion, it doesn’t make sense. The funds of access for education is, of course, to be the first to go.

I know there are other museums out there who are still doing their virtual tours, which is wonderful.  But I do wonder how, what the maximum experience of those kinds of virtual tours would be because the textural, or the texture aspect is missing, speaking in sign language in person, in 3D versus 2D. It’s a different experience, overall.  And we have to learn how to lead in those kinds of platforms, to have other people experience the most that they can.

JERRON:  This is Jerron.  People want to dance in their homes. So I’ve been a little bit more employed, if you will say.  There is, though, a quality of immediacy that I think has been a little hard to deal with, as we individually have to come to terms with this time and as cultural activators or as people who make things, the response of institutions to give them a new avenue to express themselves, through the artists, has been something I’ve been internalizing, how deadlines have really shifted, how deadlines have really shrunk, and the creative process is a little strained for it.  And the ways in which we create, I mean, I’m creating in my bedroom, or I’m creating in the kitchen, or I’m creating in the hallway.  I did a bathtub solo for an artist in the U.K.  I think, in some ways, this is beautifully narrating a disability experience where those who are usually sequestered or usually sitting at home now have the permission, if you will, to see their homes as places of high art making, just like community aspects of art have now kind of passed the test of high art.  So I’m excited about that.  I think that we all got really frenzied for solutions and that affected the artists.

EZRA:  This is Ezra speaking. I think both Alexandria and Jerron just brought up great points, which are just the recognition of limitations that we as artists also have in approaching making work or participating with and for cultural organizations and institutions.  And also, what would be really nice to see are some admittance or admission by cultural institutions or by organizers to say, “We also have limitations right now,” and not to expect “the same” from artists to produce something, but to understand that to really think about what it means to be a disabled artist is to really understand that flexibility is always an aesthetic, is always part of the process.  So how can we also continue to shift with the ways we are also so tied to cultural organizations for producing our work?  This is something that’s only unfolding right now.  And like Jerron said, I’m kind of always working in my bedroom, or there has been some interesting moments for me to realize that like, “Oh, my pain levels have gone down a little bit, because I’m not required to show up physically in certain ways or participate in certain ways.”  And then that quickly back ends to thinking about the ways that so many of us have had to, before this experience, have had to push ourselves to be beyond our physical and mental and body-minds limits to participate.  So I do think there’s something that’s very revealing of what it means to be an artist, period, right now, and how and who is shifting and adapting and how and who has support to do that and who doesn’t.  I think we also need to recognize who’s also not being brought into these conversations in this moment. We also need to understand the different ways that the arts has so much impact outside of cultural organizations and institutions. Like, what are we thinking about art in terms of folks who are incarcerated right now, of folks who are hospitalized right now? Where is the ways that we think about art for a public? How can we also expand that in a time when we’re also being more intimate in our own spaces?  I think that’s a challenge that I put to all of the cultural institutions who, you know, the people who have power to shift those things. 

It’s a lot for artists to suddenly have to solve things for everyone.  It would also be great to have some solutions being promoted by institutions with conversations by disabled artists.  And I think this is a start.

KIRSTEN:  Wonderful.  Thank you all for sharing.  

Regan, I’m wondering, after hearing from all of these artists about their experiences, how you and Phamaly as a disability-focused, disability-led organization has adapted to this current moment, and how you’re thinking about the future and serving your artists and your community.

REGAN:  This is Regan.  First of all, as Ezra was just saying, you have multiple artists right here on this Zoom that you could be involving in those conversations as you start to rebuild, figure things out.  That could be somewhere where you place resources. I think- Well, let me back track a little bit. Ironically, Phamaly was supposed to produce Alice in Wonderland this summer, and that’s the show that we had to postpone, but our tag line for the show this summer was going to be, “Embrace the Madness.”  So it seems more appropriate that ever. I think really, if I think about how we are working with this current moment, it is that. It is embracing the madness.  I think Phamaly is very familiar with that.  As Ezra was saying, for those of us with disabilities, flexibility is often mandatory for us to do our work, and that’s a great skill, adaptation and flexibility. And so that’s a skill where we’re able to employ that right now in this moment where we’re all having to be flexible.

And so I think, you know, there was that initial shock, because there always is, not that that also doesn’t turn into consistent and chronic shock, trauma, pain.  But I think, as you are creating the healing, you can’t rebuild something until it’s been torn down.  Right now is the moment of tearing down.  And as we are thinking about starting to rebuild, and Phamaly is right there with all of the other institutions of thinking, you know, “What can we be doing better? How can we be- Have we been feeling like we’re stuck in a status quo of a certain type of work for years and years and years, and we’ve always wanted to disrupt that but never felt like we had the opportunity? So, in this moment, where is that opportunity to disrupt?”  I know everybody, all of you out there right now are probably looking at your budgets, thinking about how are you reallocating, how are you making things work, so what a great moment to say, “Oh, those things that we’ve always said we don’t have the budget to do that, or we don’t have the budget category, build it.”  

And then, I guess, just in terms of our programming, we have largely transitioned to online programming and thinking about doing things we’ve never done before. We’re collaborating actually with Queens Theater right now. We thought, “We have artists with disabilities in Denver. You have artists with disabilities in New York. And now we’re all in a virtual space.  Why are we not cross-pollinating?” We’re looking at doing our first fully virtual fundraiser in October that is, kind of, somebody mentioned the telethon charity model earlier, I think Judy. And it’s gonna be a kind of tongue in cheek, sarcastic take on the Jerry Lewis telethon, and free and available.  So there’s, boom, access right there.

So I think, you know, we’re trying just to embrace that madness. Embrace that this moment, where we’re all thrown off, and it’s across the board, it’s not just folks with disabilities. We’re all experiencing that disruption in our foundation.  So how can we get past the fear and move into the boldness, move into the risk-taking of, “Okay, this is the moment.” I think that’s from (sings) “This is the moment.” I don’t remember what musical that is. But how can we use this as a moment of opportunity?  

JERRON: The answer’s always Les Mis. I’m kidding. (laughs)

REGAN: (laughs) Thank you, Jerron. This is the moment for us to treat it as an opportunity to be bold and realize we’re all going through that same fear, so how do we also operate in the ways as we are supposed to as artists, collaboratively, and come together and say, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” let’s talk about it, let’s figure it out, and let’s start to rebuild.

KIRSTEN:  Amazing.  Thank you, Regan.  I think we’re going to switch out interpreters.  Great. Bye, Craig.  Hi, Carllee. 

Alright. Yes, thank you, Regan, that was some really wonderful insight.  I’m sure all of the organizations on this call were furiously taking notes.

So I want to talk to Russell. I want to talk to you a bit. I was super excited to get you on the panel because you’re someone who’s newer to arts administration and has just recently entered the field. And I think, I’m really interested in hearing your perspective as you’ve entered the field so recently, what are some barriers you’ve faced as you’ve been seeking arts employment? Oh, you’re muted, Russell.

RUSSELL:  Well, first of all, I’m very privileged because I had MAC to help me. I had Access VR. I have a lot of services that a lot of people have a lot of trouble getting. So I got lucky with that.  When I was applying, I’d definitely come across jobs where they didn’t tell me, or it wasn’t straight up, but I could tell they were like, “Oh, look at that guy, he’s different.  Something’s different about him, so I don’t know. We’re not- We’re going to put him aside. We’re not taking him seriously.” At the Intrepid, well, the Intrepid has been very a good place for me, and, thankfully, I have a job coach from Job Path, because there are some social things that I just didn’t get. Like, there’s a whole new culture to working in an arts space, and you gotta know certain inner things, and that was very hard for me. I also, when I was- I did a lot of spreadsheets and entering information and research, and it’s very hard for my dysgraphia. And I had to get used to it. I actually had to train myself. I think it really helped me get over my dysgraphia.  And then also, some people, when you get into the office, there’s this like, I don’t know, I feel it’s kind of like a standard, but that no one can ever achieve but they hope that you achieve it. They say, “You can’t make a mistake.”  And it’s impossible not to make a mistake ever when you’re doing spreadsheets, and you’re doing office work and admin work.

So, you know, that was a big thing that I really needed to- But it got me to think about things that make me make less mistakes, on the other hand. Like I could double- I would think like, “I don’t want to mess up on my end of year report, so I might as well double check it, triple check it.” When I’m losing focus, I’m going into my own head, I’m just doing it like my practice.  Be present. You know, I was starting to lose a little bit of focus, look over everything.  It actually was really good for my growth as well.  But it’s a lot of pressure to just, the work world and all these unwritten things you’re just supposed to have to know. But the Intrepid’s been super nice and patient with me, so I thank them for that.

KIRSTEN: Yeah, and I wonder, Russell, based on all of those experiences that you’ve had, what do you wish arts organizations would do to support people with disabilities entering the field?

RUSSELL: I just want to see more access positions, full-time access positions, upward movement for people with disabilities in the institution. I want to see people with disabilities in high ranks at companies. It’s not just arts; it’s everywhere.  We’re mostly at the bottom right now.  And we need, you know, I want to also see people with disabilities who want their own place to be able to have enough money to support themselves. Maybe some people, I know not everyone wants this, want a wife or husband or a nonbinary husband or wife and kids, and they just really want that, but it’s so hard with this economy. And especially with this thing where 99% of, well, I don’t want to give a percentage, but a lot, the majority it seems, of people with disabilities are assistants and entry level, and not as many bosses, and certainly- I don’t know, because maybe there’s people I don’t know about who aren’t disclosing or who are very invisible up at the top, and maybe I’m wrong, and I’m sure there are invisible disabilities and people who don’t disclose. But I think we need to see more people, and we need to know that there are people with disabilities everywhere in the rung, and people with disabilities as they advance and they get older, I’m 28, are making livable wages.  And I want to see this for other, you know, for women, people of all races, trans people, that we have, that we all- Because they’re facing the same issue.  And then some people are facing multiple biases. So I want to see everyone having equal opportunities.

KIRSTEN:  Yeah, wonderful.  Thank you, Russell.  And I think it’s really important, you know, you’re talking about how maybe there are some people with invisible disabilities higher up, but they don’t disclose.  I think it’s important to create an environment where people don’t feel they have to hide their disability in order to achieve a higher up position or in order to succeed in this field. I think that is part of this disability justice that we’re striving towards. Exactly. 

Alright, so we’re running a little short on time, so I’m gonna skip ahead to my final question. And this is a question for all of you. I want to just reflect on the fact that we are currently at, or very close to, the 30th anniversary of the ADA, and I wonder if we can go around and just talk a bit about what we hope to see next.  What lessons do you want cultural institutions to take from this time that we’re in, from this conversation we just had, and to carry with them into the future? And how do you want them to lead with disability justice in their work going forward? And Russell, we can start with you.

RUSSELL:  Yes, so I feel like with artists, there’s so many people with disabilities who have different ways of thinking, their own talents and capabilities.  I’ve been in art shows on a very local, small level, but I want to see big museums hosting artists with disabilities. And I just want to see people focusing on the capabilities, disability capability, the other side, how we can hire these people based on their capabilities, and not just at the bottom. So I want to see a focus on capability and different ability, and I want to see accessibility. Everywhere should be accessible by now. You know, ADA came out a long time ago.  I don’t see why we’re still so inaccessible. And I just want to see community. I see so much community and so many amazing people with disabilities really advocating for themselves, and it’s time to give us the opportunities and apply our skills.

KIRSTEN:  Wonderful, Rusell.  Thank you.  Alexandria?

ALEXANDRIA (voiced by JACINDA and LYNNETTE):  I think it’s important, and, yeah, I totally validate you, Russell, what you just said, I think it’s important to see more people in higher positions, people with visible disabilities and nonvisible disabilities.  And we have people who are behind the scenes, and they are involved in the arts scene, either administration or other roles like that who have a typical way of life.  And they see things that happen every day. And- Hold on one sec.  Sorry, interpreter.  Yes, thank you, Craig.  And so, again, for the people, both on the scenes or kind of the face of the organizations or the people who are behind the scenes running the program, curators, they need to be more diverse.  Those roles actually become- Craig, do you mind turning off your microphone?  Thank you, Craig. Thank you, Craig.

Also, my other two points was that, if you have a diverse representation at front of house, it becomes not a unique experience but your daily experience.  We might consider mentorship programs. Programming to help bring in more people and help our social elevation as well. I feel like, a lot of times, people with disabilities move horizontally rather than vertically, and we want to change that. We don’t see them in higher positions. The mentoring programs would help with that. Or those who have a lot of experience could offer support, encouragement, and give new people opportunities for the light. Let them be seen. It’s our gain. We all gain in skills, in skill-building that way, and then it’s not only unique to ourselves. It becomes part of the social fabric. And I think maybe we can think both in terms of short term, long term gains, operations of- So that we can incrementally make changes. We can mark these changes. I think it’s great that it won’t- We need to see changes immediately, but I think we have to move beyond the checklist and think where we wanna be in ten years, and we have to be able to mark those changes. And it means that it’s gonna, we’re gonna need to be persistent in making those changes happen.

KIRSTEN:  Exactly.  Thank you, Alexandria.  And thank you to our interpreters.  Regan, why don’t we hear from you next?  

REGAN: Yeah, I just wanna echo or lift up the mentoring or mentorship programs. I think that’s absolutely right, and training. And that goes to the whole idea of presence in institutions. Again, the room where it happens. You’re not gonna be able to kind of shift things until you have those people represented in the room.  And, through that, I think, or in conjunction with that, a pride and a lifting up of the disability identity, of the culture, allowing people that space to say, “Yes, I have a disability, and I’m not gonna be punished for it. I’m not gonna be fired for it. I’m not gonna be discounted for it.”

And, yeah. I think one thing, the final thing I’ll throw out, is just we don’t have convening spaces for people who are outside of a particular locale to come together, particularly disabled artists.  You have LEAD, but that’s not focused on artistry.  We need something where disabled artists can actually convene, share ideas, come together. And so if anybody out there wants to host it someday, please do.  Because we have pockets where people are working in Phoenix, in Los Angeles, in Chicago, in Denver, in New York, but we never had the opportunity to come together and convene and build that energy together, so I would love to see that.

KIRSTEN: Yeah, that’s wonderful. Someone make that happen out there in the Zoom black void. Alright. Pause for one second for interpreters.  Getting better lighting. Great, thank you, Carllee. Alright, why don’t we hear from Ezra next?  

EZRA:  Great, thank you. This is Ezra speaking. Yes, to everything everyone was saying.  I think mentorship, social and artistic shared space is really important.  And I also want to bring up something that I don’t think is always talked about, but often, in my experience as a disabled artist, I’m often approached just by myself, and then I’m always left to ask the question, “So, what have you already been doing with disabled artists? Who else are you currently working with? Is there space for, with your ask to me, to bring someone else on together?” I think my understanding of what disability justice means is, really, it is community-oriented, and it means making within community and with and by and for community first and foremost. And so I want there to be a commitment to less solo shows of one chosen disabled artist that is often maybe constantly elevated or given opportunities, not because they don’t- Because they’re amazing, but there’s so many of us that are amazing. So how can we create space where we’re brought up all together at the same time, where it’s not the kind of gatekeeper mentality within the art world that persists, but how can we say, “Cool. Ezra, we want you to do something, and who can you bring with you?”  And make that. Put that into the budget lines, like Regan was saying. Rework it. Think about how we can also put it onto the disabled artists, also, who are creating already knowing so many other folks.  We have specific knowledge and contacts and understandings of what we wanna do all together. So that would be something I would love to see moving forward in the landscape of arts in general.  

Because we, as individuals, are really- Our time here is fleeting, right?  But what’s not fleeting is the way art impacts altogether, is really going to stay, going to last. We saw this from having Judith Heumann speak. Someone who’s been involved her whole life around this, and now we get to talk about it. And I want us to understand that it also wasn’t just Judith Heumann, right? It’s not just me. It’s not just Jerron. There’s so much. There’s so much rich culture that we need to bring and continually bring up, and, when I say together, it needs to be multiple people at once.  That’s what I would task us with.  And then, of course, access in every point of any kind of work.  Not just in education. And, yeah, I’ll leave it at that.

KIRSTEN:  Thank you, Ezra.  If we could have had 50 people on this panel, we would have.  Would have taken a little too long, I think. Alright, Jerron, why don’t you close us out?

JERRON:  Thank you so much, and thank you everyone for what you just said, because it really energizes me.  It makes me dream and think expansively. Because what I’m considering now as something that institutions can take hold of is their heart. There’s the heart of an institution. There’s the heart in the draw, the impulses every institution and culture has, and I’d be really excited and curious to see how you authentically engage your art with the lens, the disability lens, and because then we’ll get that variety.  I experienced this with the curation, development, and performance, execution of this disabled-led experience called I Wanna Be with You Everywhere at a performance space in New York. And what was so unique about it was not just its inclusion of disabled actors, performers in the front end, but its caring, its care, around the whole event and around the own organization’s priorities. Especially for that event, which was key, but I think that there was this next commitment to- We tried in a microcosm to create this, the biggest idea of access culture we could, including folks, including voices, and then, based off what we learned in that instance, really taking it, really settling in it, settling in the discomfort of getting it wrong, as well. Settling in the ways in which you were taught, but also understood how your own culture or your own institution makes some things happen, like a care room, like sliding scale pay to come to the event, like good pay for artists. These things were interconnected.

So I would just say for institutions, you need to have authentic engagement and understand how your institution, your heart, can match the lens, or else it will just be performative. And you’ll get the notches, you’ll get the checkmarks, you’ll do the D to the E to the I or some element of it, but the way in which it will be sustainable for us and how we’ll start to feel comfortable, meaning the disability community, is we’ll see you match your own interests and your own curiosities and your own prowess with our prowess and our own genius, noticing that that’s a partnership. And, as Ezra said, some of the disability justice principles of interdependence and, well, yeah, interdependence is a huge one. It’s understanding that it’s not just you that we rely on, but that you rely on us, and you rely on your community. And so I’d love to see institutions take that on individually in how they see fit, knowing what’s at stake.

KIRSTEN:  Yeah, so would I.  Thank you, Jerron.  I want to give a huge, huge, huge thank you to all of our panelists, and a huge round of applause. Thank you all so much for spending time with us today.  You all shared so much insight and wisdom, and I’m sure the group took a lot away from it. We’re about to find out, because now we are going to now split up into breakout rooms.  

For our audience, in a moment you will be sent away into a Zoom breakout room with a facilitator and some of your fellow audience members, and maybe one of our panelists. And you will be given about twenty minutes, probably a little less, to just talk about what you heard today. What you heard Judy talk about, what you heard our panelists talk about. And I want you to reflect and respond to the questions, what did you hear that could make you change what you do, and what can you bring back to your arts organizations in order to affect change? Aliza just sent those questions in the chat, and they will be sent again in the chat when you go to your breakout room.  If you requested ASL interpretation or captioning in your breakout room when you registered for the event, you will be sent to a breakout room that has the accommodation.  If you find yourself in a breakout room that doesn’t have the accommodation you need, just return to the main room, and we will send you to the right place.

I think that covers everything. Once again, huge thank you to Judy, huge thank you to our panelists, and Aliza, you can send everybody away.  

RUSSELL: Thank you.


ALIZA: Just pausing to see who our interpreter is so I can spotlight.

LYNNETTE: Lynnette’s in the room.

ALIZA: Great.

LYNNETTE: If you can find me.

BETH: Am I supposed to be here?

ALIZA: You are. Everyone is back together.

BETH: Oh, got it.

ALIZA: Finding Lynnette.

LYNNETTE: On my screen I’m at the top. (laughs)

ALIZA: Great. Alright, well, welcome back, everybody.  We are just going to close out.  If, Alex, you could share the slides.

ALEX:  This is Alex. Let me get that for you right now.

ALIZA: While we do that, I believe Carllee is going to switch to be our interpreter, so we can find Carllee and spotlight. 

Thank you, Carllee.

ALEX:  This is Alex.  Can you see my screen okay?

ALIZA: Yes, thank you.

ALEX: Great.

ALIZA: This is Aliza, and I just wanted to thank everybody for coming and thank everybody for sharing all their reflections.  This event was the first in a series of events that MAC is hosting for the 30th anniversary of the ADA.  We hope you’ll join us for our upcoming events. I do realize that some of them are already sold out. So we encourage you to join the waiting list and hope that more spots become available.  

We have A People’s History of the ADA next Wednesday, July 15th, at 2:00 PM, Eastern Standard Time.  We have Disability Studies and Self-Advocacy in the Cultural Field on Wednesday, July 22nd at 5:00 PM, Eastern Standard Time.  We have a virtual reading of Emily Driver’s Great Race through Time and Space on July 29th at 2:00 PM.  And you can also submit to be one of MAC’s artist spotlights on our MAC ADA30 website and social media.  All this information can be found on MACaccess.org/ADA-30.  

And I just want to thank A.R.T./New York for being MAC’s partner on this event, to Kirsten for moderating the event, and to all our panelists and Judy Heumann, and to everybody who came and shared their thoughts and experiences.  Thank you very much.  

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