The Autism Society of Greater Akron (ASGA) and Tuesday Musical are collaborating on two disability-inclusive events at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron this fall: Akron Legends of Jazz and Dance on Oct. 10 and October Octets on Oct. 30.
The collaboration grew from suggestions during ASGA’s 2018 Akron Community Foundation “On the Table” conversations about Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. During those conversations, community members suggested more local events targeted toward adults living with autism and other disabilities.
“Disability inclusion involves more than opening doors for people with disabilities. Intentional policies and practices must be in effect to make the experience inclusive,” explained Laurie Cramer, ASGA executive director.
People on the autism spectrum and other disabilities, along with their families, may purchase reduced-rate tickets for each performance for $15 and receive assistance with seating and accommodations by calling Tuesday Musical at 330-761-3460.
Regular-price tickets are $45 and free for students. They are available at tuesdaymusical.org or 330-761-3460, and at the door that evening as long as seats are still available.
As part of the collaboration, ASGA and Tuesday Musical are working to address barriers to social inclusion for people with disabilities.
Among their actions: using the Akron Community Foundation grant to offer reduced ticket prices as well as 80 free tickets to several residential housing providers for people with disabilities; updating websites with pre-performance information to help audience members with disabilities prepare for their experience; providing “fidgets” to help busy hands for those who may need them; and offering a quiet area in EJ if someone needs a break.
ASGA also provided free training in September for staff members and ushers at EJ and the Akron Civic Theatre, several musicians involved with the two performances, and others.
“We also want to encourage our familiar audience members to share the concert experience with people with disabilities, and to appreciate that everyone enjoys the arts differently,” said Cynthia Snider, Interim executive director at Tuesday Musical. “You may see a device being used that helps someone hear, or there may be a clap between musical movements. With these inclusive performances, we want to remove stereotypes and biases and replace them with understanding and support, so that all may enjoy the artistic gifts our community offers."
Cramer concluded, “Opening doors wider and saying all are welcome is only part of the equation. We applaud Tuesday Musical, EJ Thomas Hall and the Akron Civic Theatre for participating in this collaboration and encourage all venues to seek help with reviewing their practices and procedures, developing needed support materials, and spreading the word to these critical audiences. Raising awareness of these opportunities to those with disabilities in our community is a challenge in itself. Many of us in Greater Akron are working to truly impact systemic, meaningful change. Finally, be intentional, build inclusion into your budget, and make it a priority.”
The Autism Society of Greater Akron has an Autism Friendly Communities program that trains and supports agencies, organizations, first responders, medical staff, and other sectors in how to be inclusive, launching its program in 2017.