Lincoln Center for Performing Arts (LCPA) is the world’s largest cultural center, home to the New York City Ballet, the New York Philharmonic, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Juilliard School, the Metropolitan Opera and more. LCPA presents hundreds of programs each year, offered primarily for free and choose-what-you-pay, including many specially designed for young audiences, families, and guests with disabilities. Lincoln Center is additionally committed to ensuring that the arts are as accessible as possible. Engaging Kevin Gotkin as the Disability Artistry Guest Curator resulted in innovative and responsive events built in collaboration with the disability community. We also engaged a Deaf Community Engagement Consultant to conduct focus groups, lead tours in ASL, and organize community meet ups for Deaf guests and artists to get their feedback. Additionally, we worked with several audio description providers and educators to provide audio description at several events and series, and Verbal Description Tours of the campus with tactile objects for blind/low vision participants.
Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City returned for the second time this year, turning the campus into a summer festival featuring hundreds of free outdoor events, inviting New Yorkers of all kinds to come together. A key aspect of the festival is that it was inclusively designed from the beginning, amplifying disability representation on stages and ensuring events were as accessible as possible for audiences. We integrated access needs with infrastructure, including a Chill Out Space designed in collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian’s Center for Autism and Brain Development for guests to take breaks, get away from crowds, noise, visual stimulation etc. and reenter the venues when they are ready. We also integrated a range of accommodations: ASL interpretation, audio description, live captioning, haptic suits, and more—no request necessary. Highlights included the Access Magic Silent Disco with haptic suits to translate sound to vibrations; Deaf Broadway’s performance of Company performed entirely by Deaf actors in ASL; Big Umbrella Day, a series of performances, workshops, and installations designed for and with neurodivergent audiences and their families; and a reimagined approach to Relaxed Performances, modifying the social and sensory environment for guests who are neurodivergent, while maintaining the artistic integrity of the piece.
We will always continue to expand and refine our strategy around Lincoln Center’s goal of accessibility and inclusion, so that all guests can arrive as their full selves and have their needs met, and have their experiences authentically presented on our stages. We are excited to continue to build larger audiences and learn from their feedback to tailor our services and programs. We also seek to continue to program more Deaf and disabled artists.
The second annual Summer for the City saw a 50% increase in events with additional access accommodations compared to last year and our kickoff day to Disability Pride Month, which featured Access Magic Silent Disco and Big Umbrella Day, brought in over 5300 people just on that one day. We have received tremendous feedback from audience members, and will continue to build on these successes as we plan for next summer.
Testimony, Big Umbrella Day audience member:
“I hope there are more asd (Autism spectrum disorder) inclusive events. It's hard to find activities where he can practice socializing without being stared at if he acts up due to being over-stimulated. This was an amazing event and I was so happy my 5 yr old was able to enjoy and be himself. Thank you.”
Testimonies, Relaxed performance:
“It was really an incredible experience - our first time trying it. My son, who has a complex neuromuscular disorder, absolutely loved the music.”
“As a teacher of students with disabilities, I loved seeing the accommodations planned for all attendees.”
“It felt like everyone was welcome. And everyone knew exactly where the closest wheelchair accessible bathroom was. It was perfect.”