National Accessibility Leadership Award

The National Accessibility Leadership Award is administered through a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

The purpose of this award is to recognize and support proven, effective programs or promising new initiatives that make the arts accessible and inclusive to individuals with disabilities and/or older adults.

The award includes an NEA grant that must be used to further advance the agency’s access efforts. The award is presented to a state or regional arts agency that has planned or conducted a program or initiative that:

  • can potentially serve as, or is already considered a national model;
  • demonstrates possible or substantiated long-term impact;
  • is of high artistic excellence and merit; and
  • involves the targeted populations in its planning and implementation.

National Accessibility Leadership Awardees

2010 National Accessibility Leadership Award  North Carolina Arts Council

This Award recognizes the North Carolina Arts Council for its exceptional leadership in making the arts fully available to people with disabilities, older adults, and people in health care environments, including:

  • Beginning in 2006, the North Carolina Arts Council organized a team of four staff members who are dedicated to increasing access to the arts through strategic partnerships, planning, assessments, and marketing, which has resulted in a variety of highly effective initiatives.
  • Partnering with Arts Access, a Raleigh-based accessibility service organization, the Arts Council worked to expand the organization’s capacity from a local service provider to a statewide resource. This collaboration included a series of regional access workshops and site evaluations for arts groups around the state.  Arts Access has conducted more than 350 needs assessments to determine where technical assistance and resources are required for increased accessibility.
  • Implementing an awareness-building and technical assistance campaign for cultural providers in North Carolina. This included a new Arts Inclusion section for its Web site and a checklist that is a required component of every grant application submitted to the Arts Council. 
  • Collaborating with the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services to reshape the Division’s online and print tourism guide, ACCESS North Carolina, and include arts organizations in its listings. 
  • Partnering with the Center for Creative Aging -- North Carolina to involve older adults in the arts as creators themselves, and has an on-going role as funder and collaborator of arts-in-healthcare programming across the state.

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2009 National Accessibility Leadership Award Indiana Arts Commission

The award recognizes the Indiana Arts Commission for its leadership and highly effective work to make the arts fully inclusive throughout its organization, programming, and state.  Among the accomplishments of the Indiana Arts Commission:

  • As a result of discussion round-tables and surveys from its 2004 Statewide Forum on Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities, the Indiana Arts Commission, in partnership with VSA arts of Indiana and the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, created ArtsWORK Indiana. ArtsWORK Indiana (AWI) is a grassroots organization that facilitates access to careers in the arts for people with disabilities through awareness, education, and encouragement. 
  • AWI’s website ( provides information, resources, employment, and internship opportunities, as well as an artist directory and discussion forums. AWI invites guest speakers to monthly meetings to address topics such as marketing, artwork sales, and funding opportunities. 
  • In Spring 2009, AWI took its programs to six different areas of the state, partnering with arts organizations, disability service providers, colleges, and community centers to hold workshops, “Creative Connections:  Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities.”. At each workshop the AWI chairperson gave presentations on how to access and use free resources available on the website, and a local artist from each area shared personal experiences, tips, and advice as a working artist and peer.

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2008 National Accessibility Leadership Award Florida Division of Cultural Affairs

This award recognizes the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs for its strong leadership in making the arts across Florida accessible to older adults and individuals with disabilities through a broad range of highly successful partnerships and initiatives that includes:

  • Organizing and working with a Statewide Access Task Force, composed of members representing the cultural and disability communities, that provides guidance to the Division.
  • Asking basic questions relating to accessibility in grant application guidelines, as well as adding scoring criteria to two application categories. As a result, accessibility is an integral part of the Division’s funding decisions.  The Division also maintains a fully accessible Web site that accommodates users with sensory loss and other disabilities. 
  • Establishing a “Best Practices in Access” awards program that recognizes arts administrators and cultural groups who excel in their work to make the arts fully accessible. 
  • In addition to the staff Accessibility coordinator, jointly supporting with VSAarts of Florida an Access Coordinator based in Miami, which makes it possible for the Division to provide technical assistance more effectively to arts groups in the central and southern regions of the state.  
  • Assuring that the Florida Division’s new gallery space, the Gallery for Innovation & the Arts in Tallahassee’s Capitol complex, and its exhibit design are fully accessible.
  • Convening the 2006 statewide Forum on Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities in partnership with VSAarts of Florida.    Since then the Division has sponsored 12 career workshops for artists with disabilities and school counselors, and 14 artists’ mentorships.

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2007 National Accessibility Leadership Award
Minnesota State Arts Board

This award recognizes the Minnesota State Arts Board's exceptional leadership and highly effective work to make the arts fully inclusive throughout the state. Over the years, the Arts Board has built accessibility into every aspect of the agency's work, from its programming to its office space, its requirements for grantees, and its efforts to reach and serve artists with disabilities, including:

  • In March 2002, the Minnesota State Arts Board joined with VSA arts of Minnesota to present the first-ever statewide forum on “The Art of Employment: Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities." As a result, the Artists with Disabilities Alliance was formed in the Twin Cities, which brings artists with disabilities together to work on projects for advancing arts training and career opportunities.
  • Based on Artists with Disabilities Alliance’s success, the Arts Board, in partnership with its regional arts councils, organized and created six regional artists' networks throughout Minnesota.
  • In August 2007, the Minnesota State Arts Board co-hosted the "Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability" conference with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that brought together 180 artists, arts administrators, educators, and access consultants to advance their skills in making the arts fully accessible. Access to Minnesota's art and programming was highlighted at this highly successful, national gathering.

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2006 National Accessibility Leadership Award Maine Arts Commission

This award recognizes the Maine Arts Commission’s exceptional leadership and highly effective work to make the arts fully inclusive throughout the state by:

  • Appointing a standing committee on arts accessibility-where over50% of the members are people with a disability-to provide guidance on the agency’s policies and activities;
  • Convening a series of 16 open forums throughout the state in 2004-2005 to find solutions to accessibility challenges, with 11 additional forums in 2006-2007;
  • Creating a series of Governor’s Awards which resulted from their organizational development program that assists Maine’s arts organizations in planning and complying with ADA standards;
  • Ensuring that all of the commission’s public meetings are fully accessible;
  • Implementing technology upgrades such as a fully compliant listserv, website and a permanent wireless T-coil ready assistive listening system for the agency’s historic building.

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2005 National Accessibility Leadership Award Massachusetts Cultural Council

This award recognizes the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s exceptional leadership and highly effective work for inclusive arts programming as demonstrated by The Healing Arts:  New Pathways to Health and Community.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council, in partnership with the Vermont Arts Exchange and a consortium of local arts and healthcare providers, developed this remarkable initiative that employs the arts to improve the quality of life for adults of all ages living with chronic illness in rural and urban healthcare facilities throughout New England.  Through professional artists’ residencies and intergenerational arts programs, Healing Arts integrates dance, writing, music composition, filmmaking, ceramics, painting, photography, printmaking and technology into participants’ care, and provides training and wellness programs for healthcare staff.

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2004 National Accessibility Leadership Award
New Jersey State Council on the Arts

This award recognizes the New Jersey Council on the Arts’ (NJSCA) exceptional leadership and highly effective work for inclusive arts programming as demonstrated by the New Jersey Arts Access Task Force that was created by NJSCA in 1992 to assist more than 600 cultural organizations in making their programs, operations and facilities accessible to the 1.4 million individuals in the state with disabilities.  The task force is composed of a NJSCA board member and staff person, leading 504/ADA Coordinators of arts groups, directors of consumer groups and people with disabilities who are involved in the arts.

Working in partnership with NJSCA, the task force convenes ongoing regional accessibility workshops throughout the state; publishes a quarterly newsletter, Cultural Access News; created a statewide directory of nonprofit arts groups; and developed a self-assessment compliance tool for cultural organizations.

As a result, all organizational grantees of NJSCA have

  • An accessibility plan that includes short- and long-term goals for improving accessibility in the areas of physical access, policy employment, marketing, effective communication, programs and services;
  • A staff person designated to coordinate 504/ADA compliance;
  • A grievance procedure; and
  • An Accessibility Advisory Committee

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2003 National Accessibility Leadership Award New York State Council on the Arts

This recognizes New York State Council on the Arts’ exceptional leadership, commitment and sensitivity to inclusive arts programming as demonstrated by Beyond Access to Opportunity, a statewide education, information and technical resource program created to encourage and assist grantees in making facilities and programs more innovative and usable by people of all ages and individuals with disabilities.  This comprehensive and highly effective effort includes:

  • Regional accessibility workshops
  • Web-based accessibility resources
  • A bimonthly electronic accessibility newsletter
  • The Beyond Access to Opportunity guide
  • A statewide network of accessibility experts who provide on-site consultations to grantees

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2002 National Accessibility Leadership Award Ohio Arts Council

The honor recognizes the Ohio Arts Council’s exceptional leadership, commitment and sensitivity to inclusive arts programming that makes the arts fully accessible to individuals with disabilities and to the entire arts community of Ohio.  The Ohio Arts Council:

  • Has continued to recognize disability as a diversity and civil rights issue
  • Pioneered the inclusion of persons with disabilities on all review panels
  • Organized, supports and sustains an ongoing, statewide network of artists with disabilities
  • Makes access issues the responsibility of all staff
  • Educates staff and grantees, through ongoing, direct technical assistance and funding for change
  • Has continued to serve as a model, influencing state and regional arts agencies to advance access to the arts

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2001 National Accessibility Leadership Award Arizona Commission on the Arts

The Arizona Commission on the Arts received the 2001 award for its work to help establish, as a founding member, ARTability - Accessing Arizona's Arts, a consortium developed to serve as a bridge between arts organizations and individuals with disabilities -- by promoting and assisting fully accessible arts programming, and facilitating connections to services and resources.

The Arizona Commission worked to convene arts and disability service organizations in the Phoenix and Tucson areas to assess the opportunity for, and design the initial staffing and programs for ARTability; provided staff to serve on ARTability's founding board; provided leadership funding to ARTability; and worked with the arts community to encourage support for, and partnership with, ARTability.

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