Champions of Inclusion 2020

Documentary coming to pbs-39 this September

It is important to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. One of the most significant pieces of legislation of its generation, the ADA gave protection to persons with disabilities from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It literally opened the door wider for millions of Americans to gain access to opportunities for a full life. Access became a civil right and persons with disabilities were no longer isolated or invisible.

As the ADA marks its 30th anniversary on July 26, 2020, persons with disabilities also celebrate coming of age politically. They are empowered from the experiences they have undergone.

  • 30 years of challenging the parameters of the law
  • 30 years of perspective on how far they have come and where they need to go
  • 30 years of preparing a new generation of advocates

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council had originally scheduled a conference to honor the occasion but the pandemic led us to re-imagine the event in a safer environment.  The Lehigh Valley Arts Council and PBS Channel 39 are pleased to announce Champions of Inclusion, a documentary highlighting the state of cultural access in the region and the champions who have provided hope and progress in changing people’s lives. Meet the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, the activists, and the advocates who have nurtured a culture of belonging by actively inviting the contribution and participation in the arts of all people. This special will air on September 15 & 16, 2020 on PBS-39. Stay tuned!


Presented by:

with support by
Air Products Foundation

B Braun

Crayola LLC

Embassy Bank

Wm Beall Fowler

Harry C. Trexler Trust

Charles H. Hoch Foundation

Just Born Inc.

Keystone Savings Foundation

Champions of Inclusion 2018

An expo of learning and laughter

Champions of Inclusion, a cultural accessibility trade fair took place at the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts on July 12, 2018, from 1:00 to 4:30 PM. The event highlighted six cultural organizations and six human service organizations as the region’s leaders of cultural accessibility. The event also featured a panel discussion by local access experts, a presentation by Philadelphia based career arts administrator Street Thoma, and was capped off with a performance by celebrated comedian Josh Blue.


Josh Blue (left) with guests at Champions.

Champions honored twelve organizations in the Lehigh Valley who have advanced greater inclusion in the arts. The special event welcomed both arts and social service administrators, plus individuals with disabilities and their families for an afternoon of learning and laughter.

The trade fair featured six cultural organizations and six human service agencies, who provided the public with information on the various programs they support, including sensory-friendly performances for children with autism; audio-described, open-captioned and ASL-interpreted theatrical performances for people with vision and hearing loss; lectures, poetry readings, visual art classes, and gallery and museum exhibitions.

Resource guide
  • To highlight the Lehigh Valley’s cultural accessibility resources we created a Resource Guide. It was distributed at the trade fair and is available for the community to use years after the event. To download an electronic copy of the guide click here. To page through the guide online, click on the publication image below.Please let us know if you would like a physical copy!

local Champions of cultural accessibility

Champions of Inclusion was photographed by Marco Calderon. To view images from the event click here.

Audience enjoying Josh Blue’s performance.

The Presenters

Street Thoma, former Manager of Accessible Programs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Street Thoma, presenter at Champions.

Much of Street Thoma’s career has focused on creative ways to help people with sensory, intellectual, and physical impairments participate in the visual arts. He joined the staff of the Philadelphia Museum of Art first as ADA Coordinator and then as Manager of Accessible Programs. Along with sensitivity training and a range of other activities, he oversaw new art history/art making programs for veterans, rehabilitation patients, and people who are homeless.



Jessica Bien, General Manager at Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre and Dance

Jessica Bien, panel moderator at Champions.

Ms. Bien has served as the department’s general manager since 2006. She holds a certificate in Arts Administration from the University of Massachusetts. In addition to her administrative role, she teaches courses in Stage Management and Accessibility in the Arts. Prior to her return to her native Allentown, she held positions as theatre manager and access coordinator of Boston’s Wang Center for the Performing Arts.




Rita Lang, Manager of Innovative Programming at Center for Vision Loss

Rita Lang, panelist at Champions.

Rita is dedicated to planning and implementation quality of life improvement opportunity programming for agency clients living with vision loss.





Jill Arington, Education Director and Assistant General Manager at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

Jill Arington, panelist at Champions.

In addition to coordinating accessible performances for the Festival, Jill is a trained audio describer and recently earned her M.Ed. and teaching certification through DeSales University.





Kim Resh, Executive Director at Mikayla’s Voice

Kim Resh, panelist at Champions.

Known across the Commonwealth as an advocate for children with special needs and their inclusion, Kim is a member and past Chair of the Local Right to Education Task Force 20.





Josh Blue, comedian at Champions.
The comedian

Josh Blue, our honored guest, is an acclaimed comedian who uses his own affliction with cerebral palsy as part of his routine. He is known for his ability to improvise and encourage his audience to overcome preconceived notions about people who are labeled as “disabled.” Blue was the grand prize winner at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival, has appeared on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” and is a favorite on the college comedy circuit.

Visis Josh Blue’s website

with generous support by

  • Dexter F. & Dorothy H. Baker Foundation
  • The Fowler Family
  • Sylvia Perkins Perpetual Charitable Trust
  • Charles H. Hoch Foundation
  • Crayola
  • The Century Fund
  • Harry C. Trexler Trust
  • Air Products
  • PrintForce
  • Lehigh Valley Community Foundation
  • Embassy Bank