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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

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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”

Accessibility · Arts & Access · Guest Posts · Member Profile

Disabilities Don’t Define Who People Are

One characteristic cannot sum up who anyone is and America has been making great strides in accepting people regardless of their race, sexual orientation and disability if they have one.

“It used to be that the disability made up the person, but now it’s just something that’s a part of them,” says Roseann Damico Schatkowski, who considers herself an advocate for people with disabilities. “Be kind to people who are different in any way. Try to make them feel welcome and that they belong in the society,” says Schatkowski as her positive energy and warm smile light up the room.

Roseann Damico Schatkowski, Director of Marketing at DeSales Theatre
Roseann Damico Schatkowski, Director of Marketing & PR and the Playbill Advertising Representative for Act 1

Schatkowski is the Director of Marketing & PR and the Playbill Advertising Representative for Act 1 Productions, DeSales University’s Performing Arts Company. About three years ago, DeSales began making accommodations for people with visual and hearing loss by having at least one open captioned (OC) and audio described (AD) performance for almost every production. Audio description utilizes headsets to provide a narrative during natural pauses in the performance, translating images for patrons who are visually impaired. With open captioning, audience members with hearing loss may view electronic text throughout the show, with lyrics, dialogue, and sound effects in real time. DeSales rents the OC screen and AD transmitters and receivers from the Lehigh Valley Arts Council for a small fee.

“[DeSales] wanted to give access to people who normally wouldn’t have the services,” explains Schatkowski. “The services have been around for a really long time and a lot of performing arts venues don’t take advantage of it.” Continue reading “Disabilities Don’t Define Who People Are”

Accessibility · Arts & Access · Call to Action · Events

Pledging on

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John Kristel, CEO of Good Shepherd, addresses the guests of the Launch Party.

What a phenomenal launch of the Arts & Access celebration this weekend!  More than 150 proud celebrants attended the launch party at Good Shepherd’s Health & Technology Center last Friday, while two local theatrical performances accommodating people with visual and hearing loss, both “Rapunzel” and “Hello Dolly,”  sold out!

After nearly eighteen months in development, more than 30 cultural organizations have teamed up with social service agencies to create a schedule of more than 40 performances,  exhibitions, film screenings, public meetings and lectures  through June 2016, to intentionally reach people with disabilities and their families and friends. Continue reading “Pledging on”

Arts & Access · Events

Increased access to arts essential for communities

A father wrote a note last summer for the sensory-friendly performance of “Gruff!” attended by his child with autism. He thanked Muhlenberg College Summer Theatre for the effort to understand the daily challenges faced by families like his. “Our son may not have the chance to do so many things in life that others do,” he said. “It was a very special day.”

Randall Forte
Randall Forte, Executive Director of Lehigh Valley Arts Council

Engagement in the arts affects people in deeply quiet ways, and it can be particularly magical for those with disabilities who may not get to experience as much as the rest of us.

I understand the isolation that a disability can instill because for the past nine years, I have coped with Parkinson’s disease. The anxiety of controlling my tremors in a public arena often makes me feel uncomfortable. My biggest fear is not knowing what the future holds.

Continue reading “Increased access to arts essential for communities”