The 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is being marked in Chicago by an effort to increase access to museums and other cultural venues for disabled people. The “25 for 25” initiative, which aimed to entice 25 cultural venues to become more accessible to those with disabilities, was envisioned by Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium founder and co-chairperson Christena Gunther. The initiative was meant to enhance responsiveness between advocates for disability rights and cultural organizations. The success of 25 for 25 has become apparent, spawning a variety of more accessible exhibits in 30 different organizations.

Increasing Access for the Disabled

The Art Institute, the Steppenwolf Theater Co., and many others have made their exhibits more accessible for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, those who are blind or visually impaired, and those who suffer from mobility issues. The Art Institute, for example, offers monthly tours for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, with the discussion of works of art held in American Sign Language (ASL) and verbally interpreted for hearing patrons. This program has been in operation for a year and is very successful.

For the past five years, the Steppenwolf Theater Co. has been offering Touch Tours for visually impaired and blind patrons. Tour participants have the opportunity to explore the set in a tactile manner before the play starts, while also conversing with the actors, who speak as their characters. Playbills are offered either in Braille or as an audio recording, and as the play progresses, disabled patrons listen to a narrator describe the action on stage. Narration is carefully timed to avoid interfering with the on-stage dialogue. These are only a few of the many improvements made in accessibility throughout Chicago.

Living with Disabilities

The motivation for being more inclusive may have come from a push by disability rights activists like Christena Gunther, but these organizations are starting to understand that disabled people should also have access to the city’s many cultural offerings. With advances in how cultural organizations approach the subject of accessibility, disabled people will find they have more, better options than in the past.

For those who are disabled, getting through the world can pose an everyday challenge. Disability can be tough to prove, and getting benefits can be even harder than day-to-day experiences. That’s when it becomes important to consult a Chicago disability attorney. Living with disabilities can be challenging; getting disability benefits shouldn’t be.