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A Mile in their Shoes

I recently had unexpected back surgery for two herniated discs and nerve damage. Although my nature is one of a cheerleader and full of energy (just like an energizer battery), prior to the procedure I had severe pain, weakness and numbness in my left leg. Recovering from surgery was painful at times with lots of leg and back weakness.   I found walking further than 30 feet resulted in an increase of these symptoms. As I contemplated returning to work earlier than advised, I knew I would not be able to walk through the museum as I did previously. Fortunately, I was given an electric scooter to enable me to move throughout the building to perform my job responsibilities.

As I went through weeks in this scooter, I developed a new perspective on the difficulties facing people who need to rely on electric scooters, walkers and wheelchairs. While the museum adheres to all regulations that make it handicapped accessible, I discovered some obstacles that affect those individuals who require the use of wheelchairs. Continue reading “A Mile in their Shoes”

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Making the Exhibit Accessible

Written by Ann Lalik, Gallery Director at Penn State Lehigh Valley, as a reflection on her experience in opening their exhibit, Sacred Sisters, A Collaborative: Holly Trostle Brigham and Marilyn Nelson, to people with visual impairment. Ann participated in Audio Description training to develop the skills needed, and touchable relics were created specifically for tactile reference.PSU Sacred Sisters AD photo 1

The experience of making this exhibition accessible for the visually impaired was priceless for our campus community on so many levels.

First of all, the funding we received through Lehigh Valley Arts Council’s Greater Inclusion Grant allowed us to hire Mimi Smith to come the campus and offer a day of audio description  training, not only for Penn State faculty, staff, and students, but also to other organization in the community who were interested in learning more about describing. The group ended up being approximately 20 people from Penn State, Lehigh Valley Arts Council, Allentown Art Museum, Banana Factory and Lehigh University. It was educational and a wonderful bonding experience. Continue reading “Making the Exhibit Accessible”

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New Experiences for the Young at Art

PATRON---header-for-Young-at-ArtGrowing up means new adventures! As a young child, everything is a fresh experience with new possibilities to experiment and ideas to ignite. It’s something parents often can’t relate to because we’ve lost our sense of wonder in some ways. But when we’re able to sit back and watch the sparks of understanding fly, basking in the brilliance of discovery – that’s something truly special. It’s how your kids become, well, themselves.

That’s the essence of art for children. It has nothing to do with skill, and oftentimes not even with expression. It’s the true nature of experimentation without boundaries – trying out something and not worrying about being right or wrong allows for kids’ minds to develop, grow and thrive. Continue reading “New Experiences for the Young at Art”

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Arts & Access Reaches Halfway Point

Experience---Patron-ImageIn spite of a record-breaking snowfall of 31 inches three days before, nearly 60 guests found their way to the Banana Factory in South Bethlehem on January 26 to experience Arts & Access.  Titled Let’s Meet in the Middle, the event marked the midpoint in the yearlong celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and was the second of three public gatherings planned for the year.

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Storyteller Anne B. Thomas delights audience members with uplifting tales of overcoming obstacles in her life.

Let’s Meet in the Middle offered a multi-faceted program that showcased the artistic creativity by, for or about people with disabilities, including powerful performances by Washington D.C. storyteller Anne B. Thomas and the Lehigh Valley’s chamber music ensemble, SATORI.  Audience members were invited to simulate vision and hearing loss in order to experience first-hand the benefits of audio description and open captioning. Staff from Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network demonstrated the newest technology used in wheelchair design that enhances independence for people with mobility challenges. Continue reading “Arts & Access Reaches Halfway Point”

Accessibility · Arts & Access · Guest Posts

See the Music, Hear the Art!

In October, SATORI played a classical music concert for an audience who couldn’t hear it – and it was wonderful.

SATORI is participating in the Arts & Access initiative of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, a yearlong celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, seen through the lens of the arts. As a performing arts organization with deep roots locally, we wanted to be a part of this special series of events – and thought we already had an ace in the hole. For almost two decades, SATORI has been presenting in-school music education programs that combine classical music with an array of vibrant images and drawings, projected overhead as the musicians play. Surely the addition of a visual component to a music performance might make it more appropriate for a deaf or hard-of-hearing audience?CLIUArtsAccess2015b

Our hope was to develop a program to reach the Lehigh Valley’s deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and to this end we enlisted the knowledgeable assistance of the personnel at CLIU #21, the facility that coordinates the educational needs of deaf students across several counties. Their response was swift and favorable – but there were some additional factors for us to consider. Just adding a visual component to the music wouldn’t be enough – somehow the introductions and the music itself needed to reach the students, since images illustrating inaudible music would be just pictures out of context. ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters materialized, ready for the task – not just of interpreting the narrative of the presentation, but the character of the music as well. Happy or sad, high or low, energetic or relaxing, the nature of the music needed to be conveyed as well as the story expressed in pictures. Continue reading “See the Music, Hear the Art!”

Accessibility · Arts & Access · Guest Posts · Member Profile

With a Song in Her Heart

Donna Yasenchok likes to sing so much she is a member of five different choral groups — and they’re happy to have her: She has a desirable alto-soprano vocal range that would be the envy of choral singers anywhere.

But from birth, Donna was challenged with cataracts in both eyes and, despite several operations, the resulting nerve damage left her unable to achieve sharp focus. This qualifies her as legally blind, and that can be a problem if you want to sing in a choir. Besides having a voice that blends well with others, choral singing requires reading and memorizing complex musical scores plus being able to follow a director’s instructions during rehearsals and performances.

Such a challenge might persuade many visually-impaired musicians to do most of their singing in the shower.

Donna-Yansenchock-8Not Ms. Yasenchok. She makes finding ways to adapt and conquer her visual limitations sound simple. “I just have to know my surroundings better and be more vigilant about where I am,” she says. She also works closely with her section leaders and is not shy about asking for help if she needs it. “You have to be assertive.”

Continue reading “With a Song in Her Heart”

Accessibility · Arts & Access

Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Recognizes the Unique Needs of Injured Artists

dancer in rehab
Margo Ging assisting a dancer in rehabilitation at Good Shepherd.

A dancer warms up with barre exercises and observes her form in the floor to ceiling mirrors. Nearby in the soundproof music room, a musician strums his guitar. These two performers have more in common than just a passion for the arts. They are both benefiting from the specialized care that is available at Good Shepherd’s Performing Arts Rehabilitation Center (PARC).

PARC first opened February 25, 2013 at Good Shepard Physical Therapy–Bethlehem, located on Eaton Avenue. Good Shepherd provides general orthopedic physical therapy for adults and children; however, they have a special niche for performing artists. The reason for this is performers are prone to serious injuries due to overusing muscles and repetitive movements.

“Much like high level athletes, dancers need to rehabilitate their injuries in a manner that is specific to the demands they will be placing on their bodies,” says Cathie Dara, PT, DPT, OCS, STC, a physical therapist and the site manager for Good Shepherd Physical Therapy–Bethlehem/Performing Arts Rehabilitation Center. In order for patients to receive the best possible care, PARC utilizes therapists who specialize in performing arts therapy.

“When a person comes in, whether a dancer or musician, they don’t want to be told they have to stop dancing or performing,” says Margo Ging, physical therapist assistant at PARC. As a dance instructor, choreographer, and former professional dancer, Ging understands that performing artists don’t want to stop doing what they love. The artists will do whatever it takes to continue performing, taking classes, and going to rehearsals. Continue reading “Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Recognizes the Unique Needs of Injured Artists”