Difficult Lessons: Creating Access in a Virtual World
Grand Rapids Virtual Arts Festival
June 5 – 6, 2020
DisArt has been honored to help the Arts Working Group produce an accessible 2020 Virtual Arts Festival. The project to move a physical festival onto the Internet, to make it interesting, uplifting, and accessible has been a puzzle that we and our colleagues have enjoyed putting together over the last month. There has been joy in this work because we did not need to argue amongst ourselves that access was a priority. Instead, we all agreed from minute one and moved forward accordingly. Money was raised, technological predicaments were traversed, and we set a course for a new visual moment of welcoming that Grand Rapids had not seen before: all of the videos for the broadcast would include picture-in-picture American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, captions in both English and Spanish, and a sampling of audio description.
Then the glitch.
An awareness late in the game – that the captioning and translation had some uploading challenges and so needed to run tomorrow instead of today, and that ASL was not included for every video.
Access is a process, not a product. It’s something to work towards, strive for, and, when push comes to shove, something to fight for. It’s a messy process that takes learning difficult lessons about cost, organization, communication, and trust. But, it should also be a process that in the end sparks of community rather than division. Access making should be joyful.
When we “account” for disabled audiences, we depend on their perspective and participation in order for the event itself to be successful. We account for and desire participation from disability community members and understand that without it, the event has failed.
So, today we struggle, and tomorrow, when the more accessible version can be viewed, we will get a glimpse of the community of accessibility that Grand Rapids wants to create. Not perfect, but better.