The most common question I am asked is, “How can I provide access when I don’t have the money to change my building or buy expensive equipment?” Luckily, most access solutions are just good customer service. Providing access is often just an extra step, not an extra dollar. Here are a few tips for providing a universally enjoyable arts experience without breaking the bank.
1. Provide large-print programs and publications.
In order to provide large-print versions of your published materials, you do not necessarily have to do a special printing order. You can simply provide the text version directly from your word processor (without the distracting images and swirly type) enlarged to at least a 16 point font.
2. Caption YouTube videos.
YouTube allows users to attach transcripts or caption files to uploaded videos in order to provide captions. YouTube is also in the beta-testing phase of providing auto-captioning using voice recognition software. Warning—it is not perfect! You may get a clear caption or you may get laughable gibberish, but it is worth trying to help them develop a better product. You can find information on captioning YouTube videos here.
3. Use an accessible font.
Fancy serif fonts are difficult to read for people with low vision, and the general population is also bored with them. Use Arial or something similar when applying fonts to print or Web text. The American Printing House for the Blind has developed an optimal font for people with low vision, which you can download here for free. You must certify that this font will be used for or by a person with a visual impairment before downloading.
4. Provide a “cool-down” area.
Arts experiences can be powerful in the education and social development for persons on the autism disorder spectrum. Museums and galleries offer immersive experiences in specific interests that schools can’t always provide, and plays can present information about perceptions and emotions of others through the conventions of theater. These events can also be overwhelming even for someone without autism. Providing a designated area where people and families can relax and get away from all the stimuli in a public space may help a wide-range of people in your audience.
5. Advertise what you do have!
Often your patrons just want information ahead of time in order to get the most out of your programs, performances and exhibits. Make sure to advertise the access services you do provide by using the universal symbols for accessibility. Let patrons know on your website that you have a cool-down area and that large-print versions of your program are available upon request. Don’t keep your efforts a secret.
Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to be creative! Check out an example from London nightclubs.
Sarah Schmitt, arts access director