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2006 Excellence in Accessibility Leadership Awards

Date: Aug 05, 2006


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New York, New York, August 5, 2006 - Theatre Access Project (TAP), TDF's invitation to the performing arts for theatregoers with physical disabilities, and TAP's director, Lisa Carling, have received one of this year's 2006 Excellence in Accessibility Leadership Award. The award is presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Christopher Reeve Foundation. TAP and Carling have been singled out for their sustained efforts to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in theatre audiences in both the not-for-profit and for-profit theatre communities.  Additionally, Paula Terry, on behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts also recieved a 2006 Excellence in Accessibility Leadership Award for its outstanding efforts to encourage the national arts community to be accessible to people with disabilities.  Ms. Terry is the NEA's Director of AccessAbility.

Both Theatre Development Fund's Theatre Access Project and the National Endowment for the Arts AccessAbility Program under the guidance of Lisa Carling and Paula Terry, respectively, have changed the lives of thousands who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to participate fully in the cultural arts. TDF's TAP program under Ms. Carling’s guidance has organized more than 300 sign language interpreted performances of over 150 Broadway and Off Broadway productions since 1980 and more than 300  open captioned performances of over 200 different Broadway, Off Broadway and regional productions since 1997, making a significant impact on both the for profit and non-profit theater world and on the lives of people who are hard of hearing and deaf. The NEA was the first federal agency to develop its Rehabilitation Act Section 504 regulations in the 1970’s, and ever since then it has, under the guidance of Ms. Terry, made the inclusion of people with disabilities a priority for the United States arts and cultural community.    

In 2004, with support from the Christopher Reeve Foundation, the Kennedy Center’s Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD)  network created two annual awards to recognize outstanding individuals and institutions whose leadership and work furthers the field of accessibility to the cultural arts.  LEAD’s specific goal in granting these awards is to increase awareness and focus on the importance of accessibility in artistic venues and cultural institutions.

The LEAD awards are unique in that they recognize a full body of work and concentrate on addressing the needs of the disability community as a whole.  Recipients are selected for having sustained accessibility efforts over a significant period of time, demonstrating either an individual or institutional commitment to the inclusion of all people with disabilities.  This pertains not only to incorporating accessibility into organizational programs, projects, and environments, but also to including employees, artists, and performers with disabilities.  Other factors considered in selecting award winners are the breadth of impact – local, regional, and national – of an individual or organization’s work and how the person or entity has served as a role-model or leader within the cultural community and beyond the arts in areas such as business, social service, and government.

The Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) conference bestowed the award along with a check for $1,000 at a dinner on Saturday, August 5, 2006 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Prior to being called up to the podium to receive the award, three colleagues gave testimonials to Lisa Carling on her advocacy efforts for better access through open captioning which were as heartfelt as the following:

“Lisa, because of your unstinting efforts, there are thousands of people with hearing loss, including me and Arlene, who now enjoy theater on Broadway, in Great Britain and across the United States!  We are grateful for your willingness to work with grace and perseverance to make theatre and the arts accessible to people with all disabilities.  We thank you and salute you!  You have truly changed the world!”-Ruth Bernstein, Advocate, League for the Hard of Hearing and  a.b.c./advocates for better communication

Past Recipients of The Kennedy Center and Christopher Reeve Foundation Awards for Excellence in Accessibility Leadership:

2005  - Mickey McVey for her steadfast advocacy in the creation of accessible cultural programs and facilities for people with disabilities in the Arvada community and Wheelock Family Theatre for exemplary leadership in the inclusion of people with disabilities in the performing arts.

2004 - John McEwen for dedication and pioneering efforts in the field of cultural accessibility for people with disabilities and The Smithsonian Institution Accessibility Program for dedication and leadership in providing access for museum visitors and staff with disabilities, creating museum accessibility guidelines that are in use around the world, and establishing a model of institutional change through its policy, guidelines, and practices.

To learn more about TDF's Theatre Access Project go