About the Careers in the Arts Toolkit

The Careers in the Arts Toolkit was developed by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) through a cooperative agreement with Art Beyond Sight (ABS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing equity, access, inclusion, and opportunity to people with all types of disabilities. 

The toolkit’s origins stem from two national online dialogues with the arts and disability communities facilitated by the NEA and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s ePolicyWorks initiative in coordination with the National Arts and Disability Center and Art Beyond Sight. These “virtual town halls,” which invited feedback and ideas from members of the public, identified a need for more online tools, resources, and professional development opportunities for people with disabilities seeking employment in the arts. They also reinforced research indicating the existence of significant barriers to success for people with disabilities in arts careers. In 2016, a demographic study was published that looked at the workforce of organizations funded by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs as part of that agency’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. The study relied on human resources data collected by nearly 1,000 cultural nonprofits. While various other minority communities were represented in the survey, participants provided statistically insignificant responses with regard to the disability status and identity of their staffs, meaning that analysis of cultural workers with disabilities was largely absent from this important report. 

Yet, equal access to all aspects of community life for disabled people, including employment, is fundamental to our nation’s principles—and codified in our civil rights legislation.

The NEA responded to these findings by engaging in additional work around disability inclusion and equity, including partnering with Art Beyond Sight to develop the Careers in the Arts Toolkit. To inform the toolkit’s development, ABS and its team of partners engaged in a series of comprehensive field scans, qualitative interviews, and other research efforts. The results are the best practices, resources, and artist profiles that comprise the tool’s various sections.

The Arts Endowment wishes to thank ABS and its partners, who contributed significant thought-leadership as reviewers, contributors, writers, editors, and advisors. We look forward to regular updates as new tools and best practices emerge.

Above all, thank you for your interest in the Careers in the Arts Toolkit, and for supporting equity, access, inclusion, and opportunity for people with disabilities in our nation’s vibrant arts community.   

A Note About Person- and Identity-First Language: The Arts Endowment and Art Beyond Sight recognize that there are multiple preferences for the terminology to use when referring to people with disabilities. Some individuals with disabilities prefer the use of person-first language (e.g., people who are blind), emphasizing the person over their disability. Others prefer identity-first language (e.g., disabled artist, blind person) because they view their disability as an integral part of who they are. Within this toolkit, you will find intentional uses of both person-first and identity first language.


Art Beyond Sight
New York, NY 10012

Associate Partners

Concepts Communications

Judith Smith 
Founder of AXIS Dance Company 
Oakland, CA 94601
www. axisdance.org

New York, NY 10003

Harlem Independent Living Center 
New York, NY 10027

Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts Boston
Boston, MA 02125

New Jersey Theatre Alliance 
West Orange, NJ 07052

NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
New York, NY 10007

NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities
New York, NY 10038

Theater Breaking Through Barriers
New York, NY 10036

Open Door Arts (formerly VSA Massachusetts) 
Boston, MA 02111

United Spinal Association
Kew Gardens, NY 11415

Reviewers and Advisors
Christine Bruno
Lou-Ann Blake
Meg O'Connell
Regan Linton
Ann McNamee
Lawrence Carter Long
Roberta Lois Wohle, Ed.D.