In 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.

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.

The members of SATORI chamber music ensemble, along with an ASL professional providing her interpretation of the music as they played, gave the audience a unique experience.

The Arts & Access initiative is a project of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council in collaboration with the Disability Friendly Community. Since the launch in July 2015, thirty cultural organizations have teamed up with social service agencies to create a schedule of more than 40 performances, exhibitions, film screenings, and lectures through June 2016, to intentionally reach people with disabilities and their families and friends.

The third and final public gathering features comedian Josh Blue on Tuesday June 14, 2016, at the Williams Center, Lafayette College in Easton. Josh is a diverse and triumphant individual – hilarious stand-up comedian, stand-out guest star on television, talented artist, and stellar U.S. Paralympic Soccer player – refusing to bow to any of the challenges that come from living with Cerebral Palsy.  He continues to break down stereotypes of people with disabilities one laugh at a time.

This performance celebrates with humor and gratitude for the many individuals who expanded access to the arts during the past year.

Visit the website for scheduling updates about upcoming events.

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

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