Getting All Eyes And Minds On Accessibility

Yesterday, the Western Arts Federation (WESTAF) sponsored a webinar on accessibility lead by Betty Siegel, Director Office of Accessibility and VSA at The Kennedy Center.

Siegel was absolutely fantastic. Her presentation was dynamic, full of relatable examples, and humor. One example she gave as the best sources of information about the history of accessibility was Comedy Central’s Drunk History episode on Judy Heumann’s early advocacy for disability rights. She frequently claimed the Drunk History series was a primary source of information for her.

While she did talk about legal and human dignity issues associated with accessibility, the overall goal of her presentation was about getting staff and volunteers to the point of internalizing the philosophy of making spaces and events accessible. You can renovate the physical space and compose policies, but if everyone isn’t invested in the practice, situational barriers may arise that people overlook as problems.

The example she used was of a historic building that has stairs at the front door and a ramp to a side door. The janitor opens both doors every day, but one day he is absent an a staff/volunteer comes in and not being aware of the full practice, only unlocks the front door.

Interestingly, that aligned with an experience I had just a week earlier when I realized that cleaning or facility staff might be deactivating the powered doors in our buildings at night and no one was turning them back on in the morning.  If someone hit the door plates, they wouldn’t open. So I had taken to tapping the door plates on my way in every day to make sure the doors swing open. But I also need to make sure everyone else is checking the doors as well.

Video of the webinar below. List of resources WESTAF provided below that.



Accessibility Resources

  • U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ): 
    • 800-514-0301 (voice); 800-514-0383 (TTY)
  • U.S. Access Board:
  • ADA Centers National Network:
    • 1-800-949-4232
  • W3C (wcag 2.1 aa)
  • National Endowment for the Arts:  
  • Access Smithsonian:  
  • Kennedy Center Office of VSA and Accessibility:  

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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