. . . field reports from a creative catalyst in the Pacific NW

bellevue youth theater creates access to the disability experience

The following was a proposal I put together with my esteemed colleague, Paula Rees, for the 2010 Imagining America conference: Convergence Zones: Public Cultures and Translocal Practices. Although it was not among the proposals selected, we still have hopes of convening such a panel of interdisciplinary experts…to incubate universal design strategies, leverage emerging social, mobile and locative technologies and create innovative mobility solutions for people with disabilities.

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The word “disability” was redefined by the World Health Organization in 2001. It was redefined as “a mainstream experience of being human” which resides in all individuals, rather than some. It is a contextual experience that can be permanent or temporary. Valerie Fletcher, of Adaptive Environments, explains disability as a phenomenon of the experience that occurs by the individual intersecting with the physical, information, communication, or social & policy environment. She frames this development as a powerful incentive to envision our role as shaping the actual experience of disability…and identified the power that we have through (universal) design to minimize or exaggerate disabling experiences. The World Health Organization specifically articulated universal design as the most promising idea for defining “facilitators for experience”.

Much has happened in the way of technological innovation since this new definition was unveiled. The advent of GPS and mapping technologies, reference applications, game development, media sharing, social networking and mobile devices offer enhanced views of our world and create more connectivity and new access to experiences. This enhanced view has given artists, writers, designers, scientists, urban planners, architects, educators, scholars and other visionaries’ opportunities to create new meaning out of our deepened knowledge. This highly collaborative community of innovative thinkers is creating new narrative platforms, curatorial formats, wayfinding systems while creating an unprecedented level of community engagement. These innovators are the “facilitators for experience”.

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Bellevue Youth Theater’s new building incorporates universal design features to enhance experience of persons with disabilities

2010 was the 20th anniversary of the ADA (American Disabilities Act). It is only appropriate that those who have been involved in researching, implementing and observing the results of these initiatives explore today’s best practices and most innovative developments in universal design and the opportunities for leveraging emerging technologies around a new definition of disability. Having identified the power that we as public scholars and practitioners bring from our diverse fields and through the process of design, the goal of this session is to learn from models such as BYT and other case studies and to explore new possibilities and collaboratively envision our role as positively and powerfully shaping the actual experience of disability.

Program Leads: Genevieve Tremblay, cultural entrepreneur and public scholar; Paula Rees, environmental designer and founder/principal of Foreseer. Participants (proposed): Soula Antoniou, Former President, VSA/Kennedy Center for the Arts; Margaret Schwartz, Principal, Schwartz Design Studio; Roger Whitehouse; Kanta Kochhar-lindgren Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Bothell; Jurg Koch: MA LCDS London, Assistant Professor, Dance Program, UW Seattle

If you know of others who could contribute to this forum, please feel free to add them below so I can follow up. Will keep you posted when we land a platform for this dialogue.

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This entry was posted on January 2, 2013 by in cultural entrepreneurship, public scholarship.


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