Photo courtesy of ArtReach
Report Back: Art Reach’s Cultural Accessibility Forum & Exchange
By Melissa Hamilton


CultureWorks recently attended Art Reach’s CAFE, an acronym for their Cultural Accessibility Forum and Exchange sessions. The April 4th session, The Digital Welcome Mat: Is Your Website and Marketing Accessible to the Disability Community, encouraged arts and culture professionals to take a deeper and more thoughtful look at how they’re reaching folks with disabilities.

The event featured Elizabeth Clay, a marketing and communications professional, who led a discussion around best practices across marketing and communications that better serve and positively impact folks with disabilities. Just a few facts before we begin:

  • 30% of American families include a family member with a disability.

  • 1 in 5 Americans identify as having a disability.

  • 17.3% of Philadelphians between 21-64 identify as having a disability.

  • Only 11% of museum and/or gallery visitors are people with disabilities.

So, knowing these things, how can we in the arts, cultural, and creative communities better connect people with disabilities to the programming, services, and spaces we have to offer. And how can our strategic marketing and communications reflect that accessibility?

First and foremost, we can start where we’re at. Below are just a few ways we can better serve all of the folks.

  • Update content and language to put people first: People-first language puts the person before the disability. For example, we can say “woman who is blind” versus “blind woman”. By incorporating people-first language into daily vocab, you can identify spots in your marketing and communications where language and copy needs to shift.

  • Audit the information on your website, event pages, and/or e-communications: Help folks with disabilities decide if they want to visit/attend. Even the smallest details, like information on parking, accessible entrances, and ADA compliant restrooms are impactful.

    • For a deeper dive, your can audit your website and download a screen reader like ChromeVox, which can assist people who are visually-impaired, illiterate, and/or have a learning disability. Or you can contact Art-Reach to help your organization/venue perform a space audit (for free)!

  • Use the universal access symbols: These symbols help people with disabilities quickly identify services available to them at your space/event, such as wheelchair accessibility, audio description, and sign language interpretation. They can be showcased on your website, brochures, and other marketing materials. You can even download these icons for free from the Graphic Artists Guild and The Accessible Icon Project

  • Write a Welcome Statement: Draft a one-or-two sentence statement for your website that tells people with disabilities they are welcome at your space/event. This shows folks understand that they are a priority and just as important as any other guest.

  • Other Resources:

Each day, we have the power to ensure that people with disabilities feel welcome in our spaces and can understand the full scope of accessible events, program, and services through marketing and communication. Small changes and updates can lead to big impact!

Art-Reach’s next CAFE session will be focused on Trauma-Informed Arts on June 5th in partnership with BuildABridge at The Friends Center. We strongly encourage you all to come out to this FREE discussion!