Galoo: Accessibility & Inclusivity in the Arts

 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, artists and arts and culture organizations have been specifically resourceful and creative as they continue to uplift and entertain audiences and communities through webinars, live-streamed performances, virtual classes, and virtual visual art collections, and museum tours. 

The National Endowment of the Arts recommends specifically: “Cultural organizations should remember to ensure that these invaluable resources are fully accessible to people with disabilities, including those with vision, hearing, and learning disabilities.” 

Accessibility traditionally means to make accommodations for persons with disabilities, while the term “inclusion” indicates a universal design that considers the needs of as many people as possible. 

Galoo hears you, NEA! Our virtual experience platform creates massive opportunities for accessibility and inclusion for arts organizations that are easy to produce. 

In fact, the platform itself is groundbreaking in its ability to provide programming for all people—no matter their ability, socioeconomic status, or location in the world.

People with Disabilities & the Virtual Environment

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) “prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation,” and the National Endowment for the Arts does a fantastic job training arts organizations to create programming and spaces that are inviting and accessible to everyone. 

When we think about the ADA and the arts, we often think only of making theaters wheelchair accessible; Galoo’s virtual, digital twin technology allows participation and involvement in events from anywhere. 

With this new technology allowing participation in the virtual world, being a part of the action is now possible for absolutely everyone. 

It’s equally important, though, to consider how to provide programming for people with disabilities that are not physical in nature. This can be complicated in real-world spaces for many reasons. 

In the virtual world, with the right technology that’s customizable to any situation, making sure everyone can enjoy the show is now a true reality. 

The NEA suggests the following to ensure full accessibility in real-world or virtual events: 

  • Live captioning 
  • ASL interpreters 
  • Visual or Audio descriptions 
  • Video captioning 
  • Image descriptors

Galoo’s platform makes this really simple and easy by allowing event planners and arts organizations to embed video, text, sound, and images into the virtual surroundings so that, for instance, an ASL interpreter is visible in the space. 

Inclusivity & the Virtual Environment

Children wearing yellow and white traditional costumes and dancing

Foster an environment in which every person feels that their authentic selves are valued by designing inclusive programming. 

Inclusivity simply refers to design that is welcoming for everyone. 

Designing inclusive programming is a massive welcome sign to the world. It’s a virtual hug, and it’s vastly important. 

Designing a virtual, immersive experience for as many people as possible can be a challenge, but when a little time is spent trying to understand what people need at a very human level, that time investment can make a big difference in the world. 

These are a few truly important things designers and planners of programming must consider when providing accommodations that create opportunities for everyone:

  • Socioeconomic status: “Is the cost of the programming affordable for most people (factoring in travel, not just the cost of entry)?”
  • Cognitive ability: “Have I made accommodations for people who struggle with literacy of any kind?”
  • Age: “Am I using terminology or language that excludes certain generations?”
  • Health: “Is my programming accessible to people who are in hospital or can’t travel due to illness?”
  • Gender “Am I using language that is harmful or exclusive to people of any certain gender? Am I allowing for the inclusion of all pronouns on my forms?”
  • Sexual Orientation: “Am I avoiding language and the presentation of attitudes that are harmful to people in the LGBTQ+ community?”
  • Race: “Am I working to discover everything I need to know about racism and how to avoid programming that is harmful to people of certain races?”
  • Ethnicity: “Am I being sensitive to people with different cultural experiences?”
  • Religion: “Is my programming exclusive to people of certain religions?”
  • Country of origin: “Is my programming designed for only certain people who live in certain countries?”
  • Language: “Am I offering opportunities for interpreters and translators through my captioning and instructional copy?”

At the end of the day, creating accessibility and inclusivity in the arts (or anywhere) is about compassion. It’s about being a human who understands that we’ve all gone through something and that we all deserve to feel included.

Putting out signs that say “only these people” hurts others who have a lot to add to the experience for everyone.

If we do little things like asking for preferred pronouns for everyone who fills out our forms—and allowing people to choose how they will be seen by others in the space—that’s actually a big thing. That says to the world: everyone is welcome here.

If we support technology that opens the walls of museums to those who are not able to travel, for instance, and allow all people to experience our histories, that’s being inclusive. 

That’s social justice. 

Children holding pink powder to celebrate Holi in India for the Festival of Love

It spreads wealth and opportunity, and it negates privilege. These are the tenets of an evolved society that is gentle, warm, and welcoming. This attitude is contagious—and it’s what art does. 

Art is meant to elevate us, heal us, inspire us to be better, to do better. 

We created Galoo as a tool for accessibility and inclusion—for doing better in the world, and we’re proud to show it to you. Just ask! Everyone is welcome at Galoo. 

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