Leading the Way for Digital Accessibility in the Arts

Members of the LCI Tech team standing beneath the Raleigh Little Theatre sign
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By John Samuel

This week I attended United Arts Council’s 10th Annual State of Arts and Culture in Wake County at the NC Museum of History.   There were several highlights from the event, but none greater than seeing my friend Charles Phaneuf named President of the organization!

 

Charles and I met when we both attended Enloe High School (Go Eagles!), and we reconnected after I joined LCI. When I decided to build a digital accessibility practice, I wanted to know what the market was for accessibility in the area, so I googled “Raleigh” and “Accessibility.”  One of the first articles that I saw was about the sensory friendly shows that were being provided at Raleigh Little Theatre, and I noticed that Charles was the Executive Director!

 

I reached out to him, and he generously invited me to meet him at the Theatre. At the time, he and I had not seen each other in almost 20 years! I remember being apprehensive about our meeting, because not many people from my past had ever seen me using a white cane. In full honesty, I was still coming to grips with it myself.

 

That reunion was almost two years ago, and our reconnection gave my team our very first accessibility project.  Not only did this open the door for my team to work with other organizations in this sector, but it also gave my team and I a new appreciation of the arts, despite all of us being blind or low vision.

 

Although my passion is about creating jobs for people with disabilities, I also want to improve their quality of life.  We happen to live in a growing region, with a thriving Art scene, and people with disabilities should not be cut out from this. In the short period that I have been engaging with Raleigh arts organizations, it has been amazing to see how they have embraced accessibility. However, as these organizations have been focusing their accessibility efforts on performances and exhibits, they have often neglected their websites – the entry point for people to learn about and purchase tickets to attend these events.

 

As the city of Raleigh prepares to host the 2020 Kennedy Center’s Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®) Conference in August, my goal is to help ensure that every arts organization in the region has an accessible website that people of all abilities will be able to view without barriers. Over the past year, our team is proud to have worked with several of them, including Raleigh Little Theatre, NC Theatre, and Pinecone, but we have many more to go! As a local organization, and native North Carolinian, I want to help our community to host an amazing event, for an amazing audience.

 

If you work for an arts organization, or who is a patron who loves the arts, please contact me to see how we can help provide a more accessible web experience for everyone!

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