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Champions of Inclusion 2020
COVID-19 changed a lot in 2020, so we needed to reimagine our plans. To keep the same energy of connection and learning from our Champions of Inclusion trade fair in 2018, we leaned on the relationships that have developed through our Arts & Access Always program. A documentary is fitting for these unprecedented times as it allows for social distancing and helps to capture our region’s progress now and for years to come. In this documentary, you’ll meet the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, the activists, and the advocates who have nurtured a culture of belonging in the Lehigh Valley.
Champions of Inclusion was produced in celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Access is a civil right. As the ADA marked its 30th anniversary on July 26, 2020, persons with disabilities also celebrate coming of age politically. They are empowered by the experiences they have undergone. With the passage of this legislation 30 years ago, access became a civil right, and persons with disabilities were no longer isolated or invisible. To learn more about the ADA and its history, click here.
With Support By
Champions of Inclusion 2018
Champions of Inclusion, a cultural accessibility trade fair took place at the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Artson 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.
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.
- 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
- Act One DeSales University Performing Arts
- The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties
- The Art Establishment
- Café The Lodge
- Center for Vision Loss
- Disability Friendly Community
- Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network
- Lehigh University Art Galleries Teaching Museum
- Mikayla’s Voice
- Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre and Dance
- Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival
- Service providers who do ASL, audio description and open captioning will also be available to answer questions.
Street Thoma, former Manager of Accessible Programs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
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
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 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
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
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, 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.
with generous support by
- Dexter F. & Dorothy H. Baker Foundation
- The Fowler Family
- Sylvia Perkins Perpetual Charitable Trust
- Charles H. Hoch Foundation
- The Century Fund
- Harry C. Trexler Trust
- Air Products
- Lehigh Valley Community Foundation
- Embassy Bank