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Arts Accessibility

Everyone has a right to the arts!

bush signs disabilityact

President George H. W. Bush signs the Americans With Disabilities Act Into Law, July 26, 1990 Photo: Courtesy George H. W. Bush Presidential Library

More than anything else, the arts are about the spirit. Why do we sing, dance, or sculpt? We do so when words are not enough, and the spirit takes over. It is the spirit that knows no walls, no curbs, no boundaries, and cannot be shackled. Understand that, and you understand why a woman dances in a wheelchair, a Deaf man takes to the stage, and tells a story with his hands and his face, or a man with no sight sings the blues. Approximately 16 percent of Maine residents have some type or some level of disability. The Maine Arts Commission works to ensure persons with disabilities have access to enjoy and participate in the arts. We work with arts venues to help them understand their obligations under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act; we work with venues to help them with outreach to disability communities, ensuring those communities are welcomed, and we work with them to ensure the best use is made of assistive listening devices and other technologies.


Five Reasons for Inclusion

Here are five good reasons your arts organization should work to include artists and audiences with disabilities:

  • Untapped audiences.  Approximately sixteen percent of Maine residents have some type or some level of disability. Ignoring this segment of the population can affect your bottom line. Make audiences with disabilities feel welcome, and word will certainly spread among disabled communities that your organization is someplace they can go, experience the arts, and be part of the community. 

  • Untapped skills. Artists with disabilities have artistic skills to contribute to the community, and creative problem solving skills developed from the daily lives they live. Those skills can enrich the offerings of your organization and increase its productivity.

  • Diverse perspectives.  Artists and audiences with disabilities bring diverse perspectives to your organization, both as artists and as audience. Seeing the world from a different angle can add meaning and power to your organization's offerings, making those offerings more valuable to the community.

  • Enriching lives. Including artists and audiences in the arts community enriches both those with disabilities and those without, each gaining from the other's perspective. 

  • It's the law. The Americans With Disabilities Act requires public accommodations, including arts venues, to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.



Invite Us

We'd love to come talk to your organization about accessibility, why it's important, and what you need to do to make your operations more accessible. We'll come make a presentation, help walk you through the ADA and a 504 Self Assessment and Accessibility plan (everyone should have one). All it takes is a phone call.

Contact: Kathy Shaw at 207/287-2750 or


Accessibility Public Service Announcements

The arts are for everyone. Everyone has something to contribute; everyone has something to gain from the arts. It doesn’t matter if an individual uses a wheelchair, or an assistive listening device; navigates without vision, or speaks a language other than English. Everyone deserves the chance to fully participate in the arts. In an effort to advocate for accessibility in the arts, the Maine Arts Commission has produced a series of public service announcements featuring persons with disabilities and their perspective on what it means to be able to access or participate in the arts.Click for details.


More Resources on Accessibility

mother daughter image For more information about accessibility and universal design,     visit the National Endowment for the Arts’ accessibility page at: This site contains accessibility checklists that will assist you in assessing your organization’s ADA compliance, resources on careers in the arts, and resources on accessible websites, as well as other accessibility topics. Click here to access the publication: Accessibility: A Practical Handbook on Accessible Graphic Design.

The Maine Arts Commission includes linguistic barriers in its definition of accessibility. The agency works to ensure that all cultures, using all languages are welcome and encouraged to practice their arts in Maine.

For more information about accessibility or to request an accommodation, contact: Kathy Shaw at 207/287-2750 or