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Accessibility Resources for Arts Organizations

This page provides resources, templates and guidelines for arts organizations working to better able to serve all artists and audiences.

Arts Midwest Accessibility Center

This page, created and maintained by Arts Midwest in Minneapolis, holds resources designed to help arts and cultural organizations in making programming, services, and communications more accessible, including webinars, handbooks, checklists, and more.

Audio Description

For a brief overview of Audio Description, please see these documents:

What is Audio Description (RTF)

What is Audio Description (PDF)

What is Audio Description (DOC)

To offer Audio Description service at a performance, an arts organization should obtain the services of an Audio Describer, paid or volunteer, who will see the production prior to the publicly described show. Pick a date that does not conflict with other AD shows, and then reserve portable AD transmitter and receivers in advance.

The American Council for the Blind provides a full listing here of Minnesota theaters that offer Audio Description.

The Guthrie Theater offer ASL interpretation, audio description and open captioning upon request for discussions, concerts and special events, or any play that runs less than two weeks. Requests must be received at least two weeks in advance. Services are subject to availability and provided at the discretion of the Guthrie.

Renting or Borrowing Audio Description Equipment

Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis)
"We offer ASL interpretation, audio description and open captioning upon request for discussions, concerts, special events or any play that runs less than two weeks. Requests must be received at least two weeks in advance. Services are subject to availability and provided at the discretion of the Guthrie."

Below are sample contracts for an AD:

Audio Description Contract 2010 (RTF)

Audio Description Contract 2010 (PDF)

Audio description Contract 2010 (DOC)

To find an AD, please contact Andy Sturdevant,, 651-294-0907 voice/tty

Accommodations for People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

This guide was created by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) and is also available on their website, along with many other excellent accessibility resources. It offers suggestions of best practices of providing American Sign Language interpreters for events, planning ahead, finding interpreters, signing a contract, reaching an audience.

Guide for Interpreted Performances (RTF)

Guide for Interpreted Performances (PDF)

ASL Interpreting Contract (RTF)

ASL Interpreting Contract (DOC)

Accessibility and your website

This material prepared with the assistanceĀ of Dakota Sexton.

Accessibility overlays

In recent years, a number of "accessibility overlays" have popped up around the Internet, visible on websites as a way of improving accessibility for users, especially blind and low-vision users. These overlays are defined as "technologies that aim to improve the accessibility of a website. They apply third-party source code (typically JavaScript) to make improvements to the front-end code of the website."

Do they work? In short: no. As with any accessibility-related question, there are nuances to the discussion, but we recommend you don't use them, and the broad consensus in disability communities and with experts is that they should not be used. This Overlay Fact Sheet, prepared by a large coalition of accessibility experts, is a great resource to begin with.

Ensuring your website is accessible

The best way to ensure that your website is accessible is to do a manual audit. You can hire an accessibility consultant or professional to undertake a full audit, but you can also get a good start by doing one yourself with these tools:
The World Wide Web Consortiumā€™s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has guidelines about writing for accessibility
The accessibility consultancy Intopia has a very in-depth accessibility checklist, with many filtering options, that might be helpful reference when working with outside web developers.
One excellent method for understanding how to improve the accessibility of a website is to learn to use a screenreader. The a11y project has a great guide to getting started with Voiceover, the built-in option for Mac OS/iOS.
Deque offers a free accessibility extension that's available for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.
WebAIM, an organization run out of Utah State University, also offers an in-browser tool that can be used to test websites without adding an extension to your browser.
An important consideration to keep in mind with automated accessibility testing is that, on average, these tools will only catch around 30% of accessibility issues. This a11y collective article goes into more detail about why, but the short answer is that there isn't a comparable alternative to doing manual testing.

Captioning and Audio Description Resources

The Described and Captioned Media Program provides guidelines and best practices for describing as well as captioning video. Their guidelines are specific to vendors providing captioning and description services, but are reportedly broadly applicable to anyone writing descriptions and captions for all types of media.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services offers this list of national and regional real-time captioners, as well as resources for captioning training programs.

12-Step Plan to Access for Arts Organizations

This 12-Step Plan was developed by Deborah Lewis, a national accessibility consultant, to help arts organizations identify their weaknesses in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to create a plan that will complete their access needs.

12 Step Plan to Access (DOC)

12 Step Plan to Access (PDF)

Sample Access Plans Available (DOC)

Sample Access Plans Available (PDF)

Access Plan Boilerplate Draft (DOC)

MRAC Arts Accessibility Planning Guide (Excel)

Springboard Staff

Artist Resources Director, 651-294-0907

If you have any additional resources or questions please contact Andy Sturdevant.