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Welcoming Families with Disabilities: Parents Speak Out

September 10, 2007

Hosted by the Whitney Museum of American Art

Participating Parents:

Shari Brasner, Maria Garcia, Mary Somoza, Erika Weis

Participating Museum Educators:

Deborah Jaffe of The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Danielle Linzer of Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Panel Facilitator:

Fran Prezant of Abilities!


Marisa Horowitz

Welcome everybody. Welcome to the Whitney Museum of American Art. My name is Marissa Horowitz and I am the new Access Manager here at the Whitney. I’m the first Access Manager here. I’m starting the Program from scratch and we are going full speed ahead. We have lots of fun and exciting things and, if anyone would like to talk with me about it afterwards, feel free. I’m very excited to host this meeting. It’s very exciting for us and for me personally. So, a warm, warm welcome to everyone. I’m going to introduce our moderator, Fran Prezant, and she, in turn, will introduce our wonderful panel today.

Fran Prezant has been actively involved in the disability field for the past three decades as a service provider, advocate, college instructor, parent trainer, researcher, author, presenter and program administrator. After beginning her career as a school-based therapist, Fran served as a university faculty member in Pennsylvania for over a decade and identified funding support to establish and direct a parent training, information and support program for families of children with disabilities. The program assisted families in acquiring necessary information, connections and support that assured appropriate programs to meet the needs of their children. In addition, she instituted a parent panel composed of individuals who served as speakers for college classes training future teachers, therapists and allied health professionals. Several of these parents went on to present at national conventions about family issues and disability. In 1999, she received the Distinguished Faculty Award for Service and the Sponsored Programs Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Service from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

In 1999 Fran joined the executive staff at Abilities! (formerly National Center for Disability Services), a non-profit organization dedicated to the full participation of people with disabilities in society. She is currently the Director of Research and Evaluation and, in that role, interacts with the organization’s employment training programs, the Henry Viscardi School for children with severe physical and medical disabilities, The Kornreich Assistive Technology Center and the National Business and Disability Council.

In addition to evaluating program effectiveness at Abilities!, she is engaged in grant writing and collaborating on the development of innovative programs that facilitate opportunities, participation and empowerment for individuals with disabilities.

She has been actively involved with increasing programmatic and physical access to museums in the New York area through her participation as a Steering Committee member of the Museum Access Consortium (MAC). Fran has coauthored several journal articles on various disability issues, has presented at over 30 major national and international conferences and has coauthored two books –Disability and the Family Life Cycle” and “Married with Special Needs Children”.

Fran Prezant

This is a wonderful turnout. I’m very happy to see you all. Certainly thanks to Marissa and the Whitney. And they have upped the bar, I’m saying that literally, and just go outside to go on (inaudible). I’m thrilled that you’re all here to hear “Welcoming Families with Disabilities: Parents Speak Out.” This panel has been organized by MAC. For those of you who are not very familiar with the MAC, I just want to give you a little information. I believe that there are some handouts outside on the table.

The Museum Access Consortium – MAC – consists of representatives from various Museum Departments throughout the New York City Metropolitan area and member representatives of the disability community. Members of MAC exchange information, ideas and resources and provide a network of mutual support. MAC members include about a 100 cultural institutions from the Metropolitan New York area, that are diverse and the type of, in terms of the type of institution as well as service organizations, educational institutions, design firms and consultants. The Consortium includes among it’s members persons with disabilities, persons with professional experience on accessibility, the number of participants in MAC representing institutions, organizations, consultants and disability advocates is currently about 170.

The Museum Access Consortium strives to enable people with disabilities to access cultural facilities of all types. We define accessibility broadly to include architectural, physical, programmatic, communications, attitudinal and other forms of access. We take as a basic tenant that increasing accessibility for people with disabilities increases accessibility for everyone. And membership in the MAC is free. If you’re not a member and you’re interested we do have periodic meetings and workshops like this throughout the year. We collaborate with a lot of other institutions. Please talk to one of the MAC members after the meeting. Or, when we take a break, a short break in the middle, pick up a brochure from outside.

So, we would like to begin the panel. I’ll introduce our panelists. We have four parents and several Museum Educators, and what we’re going to do is, I’m going to pose some questions and parents can respond. First, I’ll just ask for ground rules - that we take maybe five minutes each. Because I know parents. I’m a parent also, and we have a lot to say. And then after that we’re going to have the Museum Educators talk a little bit about their experiences and hopefully there’ll be some opportunities for interaction.

First, we have Erika Weis, who has a son Robert who has been attending the Discoveries Program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for over 20 years. He also attends Create Ability at MoMA, Erika currently volunteers for The Met in the Watson Library. And she was a teacher in the New York City public schools for 25 years.

Dr. Shari Brasner is an obstetrician, just by way of identification. She is the parent of twins, one uses hearing aides and the other has a cochlea implant. They have attended several programs at MoMA through our partnership with the League for the Hard of Hearing.

Maria Garcia, is a lifetime resident of Harlem in New York City, and raised in a progressive family the child of career trade unionists. With the birth of her daughter Elora in 1996, she became the parent of a blind child with multiple disabilities. Through her experiences advocating for Elora, she learned to advocate for other parents facing similar challenges. In 2003, because of her advocacy work, she was elected President of the Parents of Blind Children of New York State, a Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Through the POBC in New York, she has worked hard to assist other parents in advocating for their children.

In November of 2004, Maria was honored with a Community Service Award by the Cosmopolitan Mind Club in New York City, later that year she was elected to the Board of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. In 2005, she was appointed by Public Advocate Betsy Gottbaum to the Citywide Council on Special Education. Maria continues to strive to insure a productive future for her daughter and children who face similar challenges throughout New York State.

And Mary Somoza the parent of four children including twin daughters who are 23 and have cerebral palsy. One daughter graduated from Georgetown University and the other attends Queens College, and is studying art to become a docent. Mary has served on numerous boards, committees and groups related to children and adults with disabilities including the Governor’s Appointee to the Advisory Council of the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, The Coordinating Council for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities, Community School Board District #2, and Lincoln Center for the Arts Advisory Council for People with Disabilities.

For the past two years, Mary has directed the Metropolitan Parents’ Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the New York State Department of Education, they serve families of children with special needs in the New York City School System. And I actually saw Mary about ten or fifteen years ago on a video when I was working in the University of Pennsylvania and she was a rabble-rouser then! It was a video about daily life with her daughters and it was disseminated through the State Developmental Disabilities Council. So I know she has left New York and gone off other places.

We have two Museum Educators with us who are members of MAC. Deborah Jaffe is an Access Coordinator and Associate Museum Educator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She started working at the museum in 1989 as a Contractual Educator with Discoveries, a family program for adults and children with learning and developmental disabilities. Along with her colleague Rebecca McGinnis, she is involved in developing and overseeing all programs for visitors with disabilities both in the museum and in sites throughout New York City. She also works with colleagues in other Departments to train and advise on accessibility issues. Deborah acts as staff liaison for the group of volunteers who teach special education school groups providing training on the collections, as well as on teaching strategies for diverse audiences.

And Danielle Linzer is the Education Coordinator at the Lower Eastside Tenement Museum. Danielle manages and trains educators, costumed interpreters and volunteers. She oversees the coordination of guided tours and programs for over 125,000 visitors annually, including accessible programming for visitors with disabilities and the Museum’s Distance Learning Initiatives. Prior to joining the Tenement Museum Education Department Danielle worked in the Production and Development of Film and New Media Projects exploring historic and contemporary immigration issues.

Danielle previously coordinating youth education and intervention programs at Congresso, De Latinos Unitos I did that say that right? A bilingual social service provider in North Philadelphia and as an ESOL Instructor and translator for Catalytic Community a community organizing non governmental organization in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Miss Linzer holds a Bachelors Degree in Latin American Literature and Spanish from the University of Pennsylvania. …We needed more time.

Okay. So we’ll start with a few questions, we’re going to throw out for the parents and if you have something to contribute feel free. The first question is, What do you look for before visiting a museum? Some of you, I know, are the parents of children, some of you have adult children as well. So both past and present, what are some of the things that you’d look for in visiting a museum? How do you find that information and are there differences between getting into one of the drop-in programs and one of the programs that you have to make reservations and schedule ahead for? Anybody want to jump in first? Yes?

Mary Somoza

Being a parent of twins who are wheelchair users – so they’ve been, my girls have been in wheelchairs since they were five. So the very first thing I look for is accessibility, and the ability to get around easily in the museums. As they have gotten older that has become more important because they get bigger, the chairs get bigger, the chairs, one of my daughter’s chairs is really quite large and weighs 350 pounds without her being in it. So definitely, it’s accessibility to get into museums – and also the facility to travel there. We do have a wheelchair van, but it’s not always possible you know in New York City to use cars and vans to go everywhere. So we depend a lot on the busses, and the timing of a program is important, the time to get there. For me, when my children were younger, transportation was a very, very big issue. Because I have two girls in wheelchairs and I always needed somebody to help. I used to go with the two chairs and pushing them myself, but it became a bit difficult and so, definitely accessibility.

And particularly when your children are very young, I think friendliness and the welcoming manner of the people who work at the museums. It might just be a smile; it might just be, ‘Can I help you where do you need to go?’ But to make families feel welcome and that we’re already feeling a little bit, you know, because here we are with a wheelchair and we’re going around and people trip over the chair. So it’s always very nice when the staff at museums are welcoming. And like I say, it doesn’t have to be…it just might be a smile and hello, have a nice day or something.

Maria Garcia

Hi. Some of the things that I look for have nothing to do with my daughter’s disabilities, just museums that are welcoming to children. Not all are. With a blind child, in particular, what is important for us is that whatever, whatever we are looking at, or I’m looking at, be accessible to her, and that means putting her hands on it. Being able to pick something up, either the object itself, or a replica of it, that something has been done to make that accessible to her.

Usually I would call museums in advance when I was looking to figure out what places were the better ones to go to. Some things seemed like natural, like the butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. That was one that she just loved, and the butterflies actually landed on her. So that was pretty cool and she has a little bit of residual vision so if I can get a – I know I wasn’t supposed to – but if I could get a butterfly on my finger and bring it up to her… They didn’t really give me too much of a hard time about that. You know some places are a little stricter than others.

Shari Brasner

We live in New York City and we visited many museums before we participated in some of the workshops where MoMA and the League for the Hard of Hearing put together special programs specifically geared for children of a certain age group with hearing loss. And for us it had multiple advantages. They were usually scheduled in the mornings before the museum opened. And for children with hearing losses it sort of highlighted for us the difference in a museum before the crowds arrived and how much, how much easier it was for all of us, even those with no hearing loss to hear and to get more out of the program, before the museum became very crowded. It’s clear that the situations, the environments in which my kids struggled the most is background noise and that’s almost impossible to eliminate you know in any museum setting, except we sort of optimized that by getting early access.

For us, even with the two children with hearing loss, they were, they’re functioning quite well and we, in fact, used very little in terms of assistive listening devices, so one of the workshops was specifically geared to introduce some of the different options that are available in the public domain, for the kids to take advantage of. And for my children this was one of the first exposures they had. So it was really the way to try to get them to get a comfort zone when everybody around them was wearing some sort of device. And for me as well, it was a wonderful experience to hear the difference with a lapel microphone on the speaker and wireless headphones for me. It has helped lower the barriers. We went to see a play the other night and my daughter did wear one of the neck loops, and it just has allowed her to experiment.

Those are really the only programs that we have officially participated in. But it drew us in, certainly, as a family. These were all scheduled events. We have not tried to venture in and arrange anything on a drop-in basis. Although it’s wonderful to come to forums like this to recognize that many museums and other cultural centers are going to be making more and more of an effort. That certainly will push us, as the parents, and hopefully by the time they achieve an age, they’ll become advocates for themselves. So every opportunity that we get invited to, I guess with two working parents it does take a little more effort getting us, the four of us, somewhere together, but every opportunity has been a positive experience.

Fran Prezant

And our hope certainly is that this is a two-way exchange and that the information that you all provide will be forwarded to some of audience participants who work at museums. And that, in response, we will hear about more efforts on the part of museums to become universally accessible.

Erika Weis

I come from another era and have totally different experiences. I have a 42-year-old son and we have never had the luxury of being picky, saying, you know, this is…except to say, “no.” And it’s been very, very, very difficult finding quality programs anywhere, not only in museums but, just nationally, I would say. We’ve educated my son outside of New York City, traveled and lived in various places looking for good schools, looking for good programs and whenever we found one, we were grateful.

How we came to the Metropolitan… I think they were the very, very first – the Metropolitan Museum of Art – people to do this and Robert was in the program 20 years ago. It’s been an incredibly wonderful experience. He goes to as many of the sessions as they have, and he’s enjoyed it. I think it’s made a tremendous difference in his life. He is now, quote-unquote, an artist, because of the exposure that he’s had and anytime that you ask Robert, ‘What would you like to do today?’ – ‘I’ll go to the museum.’ And it doesn’t matter whether it’s The Met or the MoMA, or whether it’s the Museum of Natural History, that’s where he goes.

And his artwork is up there that was done probably 12 years ago. That was an outgrowth of a visit to the Metropolitan, where the people were given an outline of amoebas, is it? He’s very slow and very meticulous and took the project home and decided to color it and it took almost a year for him to finish this. He’d come home from school and he would run to a table that was set up in, you know in the dining area and he would take his crayons and, and he would work on it. And now he does pottery, he does enamel jewelry and just recently started painting designs on silk scarves. And he’s, as I said, we’ve always looked for quality, so Robert has never been exposed to a workshop. We have funded and given our blood to programs and it’s all on a one-to-one individual basis.
 
We drive him and hire people to work with him, and he’s having some wonderful experiences because of that. But I have never found really any institution that could match the Metropolitan until Nova came along and I’m not aware of any programs anywhere else that are excellent and welcoming to people who have seizures and just are just good, and worth going to. And so that’s been my experience. But again, you know we go back much, much further than any of these people because your children are much younger. And I hope the world is changing for the better and if there are any programs out there, please let me know.

Another point I would make is that these programs are fabulous. The one from MoMA is just marvelous. I would love to see – as the children grow older and school is out – there are no more programs from 8 to 3, or 8 to 5, and people are left on their own, not able to drive, not able to walk the streets on their own, but need assistance. In my case, in Robert’s case of seizures, there was an employment element, there was a volunteer element worked into there so that somebody who was really interested could do something at a museum, as a volunteer. To be paid is even greater. That’s what’s needed because no matter what the talent, if you’re not up there and you’re not 100 percent nobody will hire you. Yeah, you could fling hamburgers at Burger King or clean toilets, but there isn’t really much out there.

It’s a shame that museums don’t take – and I must tell you about one experience that I had. It’s a long story. The University of Arizona in Tucson had a man who was a PhD student and decided that archeology – which if you were to ever ask Robert what he wanted to be: an archeologist – had a program where they took disabled people of all disabilities, took them out into the Sonora Desert. They dug the way archeologists did with straight trenches, learned to mark things, took the shards back to the lab, cleaned them and there were doctoral students all around doing the same work. And this fellow, Jamie Gates, who thought of the program said, why use them when we have people to do this? So that was an experiment that lasted for a couple of years. It no longer is in existence, but museums have the ability to really change people’s lives. And I hope that you people can do that. Thank you.

Fran Prezant

That’s an excellent suggestion about the employment and, because of the work I do everyday, I get to – I don’t know what you know about the figures I’m going to raise… For people with disabilities, even people with training and graduate degrees and all types of professional backgrounds, they’re still at an astounding 70 percent – 70 percent – unemployment. So that raises some interest in the question, and you know this is a good idea.

Some of the things that were just mentioned here in terms of what do you look for in a museum is: a welcoming environment, and specific museum programs were mentioned; the ability to interact with the objects; accessibility for people who need physical access; travel to and from the museum; a sense of welcoming. And some people have tried to get groups and some of them have tried drop-in. Have any of you – one person mentioned that you call the museum ahead of time. Have all of you called museums ahead of time to find out what they had? And just out of pure curiosity, did you find that the person who spoke to you on the phone was able to provide accurate information? No?

Mary Somoza

I think that you have more, with the smaller museums you have more luck perhaps getting a live body on the phone. And with the world we live in nowadays, it’s very frustrating when with machines, I often would take a trip on my own to a museum beforehand to find out information and see if it was [accessible] before actually getting there and being disappointed. But now with websites and all the availability of, I know that when I was on the Advisory Council at Lincoln Center, we put together a guide of all the cultural institutions in New York City and their level of accessibility, and I think that was, I don’t know how up to date it is now, but it was very, very important. And we worked on that, but that is very important for families with every level of disability, equally for the blind, for the hearing impaired, the physically disabled.

To go back to what Erika was saying as far as employment is concerned, one of my daughters who, one of my twins who attends Queens College and is studying art, she’s non–verbal, she’s a severe quadriplegic and she has a communication device. And for the last, this will be her fifth year, every Wednesday she attends at The Met she goes to The Met with her team, and she is studying to be a docent. She has taken docenting programs at the Guggenheim with non–disabled people. She was just one of the – she signed up and paid as part of her program of study, and went around and did five docenting programs at the Guggenheim, going down there scared, that’s scary. In her wheelchair, on her own, guiding it and she’s also really impaired so – my heart – I didn’t attend.

She went with her home health aide. It’s not good to have moms hovering when you’re trying to make your child independent, and so she, tomorrow, actually will start another program which she’ll go to every Tuesday at Pure Vision Arts, because she paints and she’s a painter. And she goes into her own world and loves it, and something that, as a mother, as a mother of twins – and I have one whose verbal, who just graduated from Georgetown with a degree in Political Science in Government and the other one non-verbal – and I always worried about my more severely disabled daughter, What will she do? What will she be able to do? Potentially, her twin, Anastasia, will potentially get a job, otherwise she’s going to go to Law School, so I’ll just tell her to sue them actually.

Fran Prezant

She’ll sue them. (laughter)

Mary Somoza

And with my other daughter, we were brainstorming and thinking how, what, what sort of a career, what could she look forward to in the future doing something potentially for pay – but certainly something that she could do and she would be interested in doing. Her interest was always young children, working with young children and museums, the world of art.

So, we came up with the idea of a docent and it could be in this market where she is a person with a disability, with a severe disability and only communicates with her communication device, could do tours for other people with disabilities, groups of children perhaps with disabilities and have a pre-, within her computer have a pre-programmed session and the ability to answer questions to the little ones and take them around and older people too, but basically with children. And it would serve, she would serve as a role model, she would be doing something she loved. Everybody knows her at The Met right now, particularly on Wednesdays. She’s a member of the Apollo Club and goes to these events in the evening with non-disabled people, and cocktails and private showings and she’s there.

And I think, you know, the fact that with all these young people who go to the Apollo who are socializing, and she’s there and they see her and she’s part of their group. And how much interaction goes on, I know secondhand because I don’t attend, because, as I said, the worst thing a mom can do when your daughter’s 23, is hover around. And the last thing they want is mom with them. They’ll go – she goes with an aide, who we recruit, aides who are her age. So it’s like a companion and she’s been attending those programs since, and they’ve been wonderful. And I must say that we have not really had a very bad experience. We’ve had difficulties, but we sort of expect that. If I can work out the difficulties of access, or whatever it is with the museum, I want to work with them. I want to change.

That’s one of the reasons I was delighted to come here tonight, because you get to hear what our – what the barriers are that face us as families, and our adult children. And so it’s educating the educators. And I think that it’s a phenomenal forum and I hope that you all will open up your mind to people with all types of disability – people with cognitive disabilities – there was a couple of people who went to the Discover Program. My daughters went when they were little as part of the “Y”, the 92nd Street Y, they attended the Discover Program and I think that both the programs that are only for people with disabilities, as well as the ones where they’re integrated, where my daughter has done both, they are equally important.
       
For those of you who are, who are in positions to hire people – I mean, I hope that you’re hearing this, because what I talk about is a welcoming environment, and what could send a clearer message about the philosophy of an institution as when you walk in, when you have a diverse group of people who are working there and who are visiting? And why not be a docent for people with and without disabilities, why limit it to people with disabilities.

Fran Prezant

Before we go into three more questions, before we go on, are there any quick comments from people in the audience? Yes?

Audience Member

I just want to state that a friend of mine’s son has a basic developmental disorder and goes to a school in Brooklyn and in the summer the school takes that opportunity – employment opportunity – for their students. And the last two summers he’s been a docent at the zoo, the Brooklyn Zoo. And so you know that…

Fran Prezant

The Brooklyn Zoo?

Audience Member

So that’s another example of where schools for children with disabilities are seeking out employment opportunities.

Fran Prezant

Thank you. Yes?

Audience Member

Susan, speaking of the school, we also offer opportunities for their students, the teenagers primarily, to work at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, not just in the summer, but year round under supervision from their staff and so they are interning at the museum throughout the year. That means fall, spring and summer. So we have a pretty good collaboration with them and their principle access advisor is on our Committee, to give us all kinds of advice on how we can make it better for children with special needs. And we’re constantly trying to improve ourselves.

Fran Prezant

Thank you.

Audience Member

Is there any question about what parents are looking for? For our family, we have a child with a hearing loss as well. Having the information on the web site – even what you have and don’t have, is really helpful. I’ve actually worked with a number of the museums and a lot of the museums, like The Met and MoMA, have really improved their websites amazingly. But there are still a few museums out there that the websites just say we are accessible. Which–

Audience Member

–Whatever that means–

Audience Member

– Which means nothing, because it should be broken out by disability – hearing, visual, mobility. And then, within that, having the ADA appropriate symbols on the left and the corresponding paragraph on the right. And putting that under “access,” which is under “visit us,” so if it follows the pattern that’s now become best practices around the city – everyone can find it. It cuts down the phone calls and, you know, parents with disabilities really have limited time, because they probably have so much more, you know, therapists in their life.

Just a few things to do, having to cut down and knowing, yes, the videos are captioned; no, the videos are not captioned, or assistive listening devices. And be specific: yes, we have headsets and neck loops, or we have headsets. And being specific really is just huge.

Fran Prezant

So the suggestion is, go back to your websites and look at them and if it just says accessible – that may not be enough information.

Audience Member

And if anybody needs a listing of really great websites, I’m happy to provide it to them because there’s a whole listing. And also, removing politically incorrect language at this point. It’s offensive when you see the word “handicapped” in this day and age. And, and things like that. The website has to be accessible. And that is the problem for a number of institutions. Having an accessible website is the first step.

Fran Prezant

Yes, thank you. Any other comments about that particular issue? You may have answered this question already, but in terms of making a successful visit, what were the elements barriers, elements, materials, factors that influence participation? And then, what are the major barriers? I want to know if you have anything to add beyond what you have already said, maybe about other barriers? Any others that you can think of?

Shari Brasner

Well, I think, Janice, you eluded to it, I mean even the signage. You know, so many of the museums, you walk into a lobby, it’s crowded. It’s difficult to figure out where you have to go to get the appropriate help, or in our case the assistive listening devices. You know, that seems something that’s so simple it doesn’t require sort of on-going care, maintenance, time, money, but, you know, would help tremendously. Just thinking of some of my most recent experiences… And again, going to these things with my kids, not necessarily yet advocates for themselves, the idea that I am thinking about, so many things upon entering, that very clear direction, yeah would be…

Fran Prezant

And what about the first line people who you come to, or the people who sell tickets? Those probably aren’t the people who are in this room right now. Have you found that the people at that level in the museum have all the information that you need? Has that been helpful, have there been obstacles? Anybody?

Shari Brasner

I would say not, usually no. I mean, I can’t say that we’ve had any negative, first hand experiences, but I’ve certainly heard from others that they have asked them, and they sort of looked like they have no idea what you’re talking about, you know: I don’t know where to send you.

Fran Prezant

Any comments from the floor on that? Janice?

Audience Member

All right, I can also give you information about that. The thing is, you know, I’m with Shari. Signage helps prevent the training from falling through the cracks. And when people are not trained, we’ve had numerous instances where people will tell us that they don’t know who to call. Is it Director of Communications, Director of Education…? And you’re all over. If the person behind the desk had a binder with all the appropriate ADA symbols on the spine, and then a page for every disability with all the appropriate access available at the museum, and then most key important is a contact name and phone number. So at least you’re not sent all over the museum, because it becomes frustrating.

You know, how many times can you go to a museum – it’s not just one museum, you’re going into every museum and having a battle and it’s exhausting. And it’s not fair to the child with the disability because they don’t want to go to a museum after a while. I mean, my daughter has finally said, “I don’t even notice when you argue with the people behind the desk anymore.” That’s not a good thing. And it would just be really wonderful if the appropriate training was there. At least if there’s like a stopgap of a binder, so that the parent knows what they’re looking for. And they reach and say, “Don’t worry, I know what.” And then it should say where you can find it.

Fran Prezant

So the suggestion’s about making sure that the front line staff has training first of all, and that there’s maybe a binder up there that can provide additional information. Karen?

Audience Member

Yeah, I’m a person who is legally blind. I’m an adult and I just feel it would be so helpful if museums had an accessible phone number. So, in other words, if I call a museum, if one of the options on that voice output was “accessibility,” that would be such a great help. Because then I could call that department and ask any questions that I have. So for me, it’s within “about verbal imaging and touch tours.” But for an individual that’s hearing impaired, they would have a whole different set of questions.

Wouldn’t that be great if you could just ask those questions on the phone? So that by the time you go to the museum, you know who to talk to, and you know where to go for that information. It’s just so, it sounds and it seems too easy. Just to have a telephone number and someone you can speak to live.

Fran Prezant

Good suggestion. Let’s move on to the next question. Which, let’s see, Mary, maybe you want to do this one first. The pros and cons of participating in programs designed specifically for people with disabilities, as compared with participating in programs designed for general family programs. And you began to talk about that before.

Mary Somoza

I think that this – I said my daughters have been involved in both. Particularly when they were younger, they went on a school trip, for example they’d go, they were in the third grade they were included in general education. And so from the third grade on, if there were any trips at school they would go with the school. And we had to educate the public school system about including our children on trips, because it required an accessible bus to get them there. Or they’d get the, the school itself would get all the kids there, and then my kids couldn’t get in the door.

All sorts of issues that came with us with the schools. But they attended programs, for example, when they were at school included with their (inaudible), which is wonderful, which is phenomenal, I’m told. However, they’ve also attended specialized programs. Which was wonderful as well, because sometimes they got a more intense and a slower pace and a deeper explanation of a docent tour, for example, targeted to certain children, certain age, type of disability. If it’s a cognitive disability, you want to pose your questions and your discussions in a simple and more comprehensible manner that those youngsters will understand.

And yet it can still be interesting for them, and so I think targeted tours are really very important. Although all my life I’ve fought against segregation, separate, separate this, separate but… but I do believe that in certain instances these are great programs. But it should also be available for the regular tours. I’ve been to hundreds of museums across the world, as well as in the United States with my children. And just walked around the museum without being part of a tour, just being a family together. So, I think both, I think integrated tours, special tours, special programs – I think each of them have their own value and are very helpful to parents, very helpful.

Fran Prezant

Okay. Are there responses? Pros and cons?

Shari Brasner

I would say we thoroughly enjoyed our segregated tours. There’s a social aspect. Because my children attend a mainstream school, they really don’t socialize with other hearing impaired children. So this is another way for them to connect and, and hopefully, you know, forge friendships, outside of school. For us as the parents, it’s a way to kind of gauge again where they’re, where they are, get feedback about other programs – the next great place to go, the next great theatre that’s accessible. You know, sharing that information. Because it is tough out there and everybody is busy and, even knowing the Internet is a resource, you still have to kind of know more about where to start.

And so for me it’s been a part of my education process to be able to interact with other parents. At the very early ages, we were just so focused on the technology and what we had to achieve to be able to get them to this point. Now, it’s learning about all the other tools that they will be able to take on, and empower them so that they can take advantage.

Fran Prezant

Any other pros and cons? So there are definitely pros of each – well, I hate to call them “segregated” programs. And the point of those is not to segregate children, but because you can target the needs. Yes, go ahead?

Audience Member

I wanted to ask – my name is Jim. I’m a New York City resident. I have twin girls who are sixteen years old. One has epilepsy and significant cognitive and motor and fine motor delays. I think one of the ways we always look – her name is Natasha – we always look at what’s “Natasha friendly.” And I think that’s a phrase we’ve developed throughout her life. I think when you go to targeted tours, you have parents and staff members who are used to behaviors that may be atypical, impulsive, distractible, you know. And therefore there’s a level of comfort there for the parent, because they have parents who are aware of that and understanding and, and it’s not a big deal.

But when you go to an included tour, let’s say that the staff, the other parents, they may not be knowledgeable or aware. And there’s some level of – your child is having a meltdown – some level of frustration, there’s some level of stigma, which if not handled appropriately usually means not a return to that program. So I think that, to me, is something that we always look for. Are they, are they flexible? Are they going to be understanding? And I think when you have the targeted tours there’s a greater chance of what’s going to happen.

Fran Prezant

So, you’ve raised the next interesting question. Which is, what do you think could be done to the general tours? Or do you think any – do you have suggestions for how you make the general tours more universally accessible to everyone? I understand both of your issues, but as an inclusionist I cringe when I hear about segregated programs. But I understand the need for the targeted program. What could we do, if anything, about these larger general programs that might make them more universally accessible? Is there anything that could be done? Any suggestions?

Erika Weis

I really don’t think that’s possible, I really don’t. I know that we go on tours with adults at museums, and if a question is asked by my son, who has a delayed response and has difficulties with word–finding, people look at him. The people who are taking the group around don’t expect that. They don’t know how to handle it. And it becomes embarrassing. It becomes difficult. I totally believe in segregated tours and what I would like to see is, in addition – what, and all I’m speaking about are the two programs that I’m very familiar with, which is The Met and MoMA’s program.

I would like to see more being done on an educational level. It’s great to go into the galleries. It’s great to look at art; it’s great to discuss it. I love it. To see it taken further, where possibly art history could be taught. And go out into other fields, and broaden the knowledge. Because as a teacher, that’s how I look at things. You want to teach. You’re not entertaining you’re, you’re teaching. And you’re bringing about growth. And if that’s not happening, what’s the point? I mean, they might as well sit in front of a TV set, or go watch some stupid movie.

I would like to see an expansion of educational facilities, which the schools don’t do. They certainly don’t teach art history. Not to my knowledge. Maybe on the college level they do. And just expand into books, into art history, world history from there. I mean there you could – one lesson, spend a whole year teaching that. That’s what I’d like. And I absolutely believe in segregated programs. I think they work well.

I have gotten tremendous help from other parents who were totally unbeknownst to me, who would say to me, “Do you know about this, or can you tell me about this?” And it’s a way of networking and it’s comforting. The educators are certainly familiar with the population, whereas a regular docent, I mean docents are not trained. They’re trained in art history or in whatever. They’re presenting. They’re not trained in behavior and, and understanding of what they’re really looking at. They expect perfect adults who can behave and ask the right questions and understand, but that’s not what you’re getting if you’re taking – and I’m talking on the adult level. You know, I don’t know what happens with small children in an integrated group.

Fran Prezant

You raise an interesting issue in terms of docent. And I understand your comments about segregated programs. But in terms of docent training, are there are any feelings about what museums should be doing in general to train docents and make sure that they’re more – and many docents are volunteers in many …museums. And you’re not sure what skill sets they’re coming in with or what attitudes they have. And so, what do people feel about the importance of sensitizing docents just to the diversity of people who are coming to the museum? Janice?

Audience Member

I can’t say for all disabilities, but for hearing loss there’s no reason why, you know, it can’t be integrated. I think it’s great when the museum can offer a menu and allow us to pick and choose. It’s great when you plan an event and there’s a great program at MoMA. It’s wonderful. And I too share Shari’s – we’ve met some incredible parents.

But sometimes you’re just visiting and want to spend the day and you don’t want to have to do the special group. And knowing that if the docent just knows that, okay the child needs this, you know there’s a child with a hearing loss. And if a child says they identify that they have a hearing loss, the docent should automatically know to go get the docent system and the neck loop and it should be no big deal. I think, through the action of the docent making this not a big deal, it makes that welcome feeling that people spoke about. This isn’t a big deal, and then the child is comfortable with it, and then the family is comfortable and they don’t’ have that “oh my God” feeling.  Like, “here we go again.”

That’s really it. Doesn’t take much and every docent should know about those type of things that are available. And if they’re not aware, they shouldn’t be a docent. Because it’s, it’s so simple. I mean, some things may be more complicated, but having an assistive listening device available with headset and a neck loop, is really a no-brainer.

Fran Prezant

Okay. Yes?

Audience Member

I just wanted to speak on the plus side. I’m a Museum Educator, and one of the frustrations that we have when schools come is, even though there’s a spot on the application that says, “Is there anything special we need to know about your group that’s coming?” There’s never anyone that lets us know. And I don’t know whether they feel like, “My class is perfect, there’s nothing wrong. If we don’t say anything it will go away, or whatever.” It’s just, when we have kids who then arrive for a certain program, that’s in a specific class, and there’s a wheelchair, but we don’t have the elevator that goes there… Or when we also have the opportunity to choose which educator is taking that group, and it’s given to an educator who could have been done with another group, and there’s another one who’s – maybe she’s busy now with another group, and she could have taken a group with the special needs or challenges…

Fran Prezant

This issue has come up before. I can’t remember if it was through The Met or just at a MAC meeting. I know that one of the problems is that there’s so much you hear about confidentiality that some educators, when they get those forms, think that they are not allowed to talk about a specific need. So that, you know, it has to be this joint partnership between whoever is sending out the form and the schools to say, we don’t really want your confidential information. What we want is to make sure that we’re providing an accessible experience for your students. So you don’t have to tell us it’s Johnny Smith, and he’s the kid with the blond hair–

Panelist

–Exactly–

Fran Prezant

–And the blue shirt, you could just say that there’s a student in the group and you may have to point that student out to the docent when they come. But I think it’s important that the museum and the school system have an understanding of why that’s important.

Panelist

Because it even goes beyond that. Too many times we get kids and it’s a whole bilingual group who rarely understand English and, unfortunately, we’ve got the English docent there.

Fran Prezant

Okay. Yes?

Audience Member

Hi, my name is Kerry and I work with general education programs. I just wanted to respond that we often, we have (unintelligible). To all of our educators you know to be informed about certain, (unintelligible) also work for other programs, too. So if you ever come to our program, if you let us know, we can also make – try to make it where we all can (inaudible) an educator who’s worked special ed and that’s who (inaudible) about registration and so that is also necessary maybe try to find an educator who is a (inaudible).

Fran Prezant

Great, thank you. Maybe we should take a few minutes before we hear from our museum specialists – hear about some of their programs. Maybe we could take just a quick five-minute break. We could mill around for five minutes and just come back quickly as the time is limited. We only have about another 45 minutes.

[After the break.]

Fran Prezant

I hope you guys had a chance to talk to each other a little bit. I don’t know how much time we have afterwards, so that people could mingle a little bit as well. But we did want to hear from some of our museum folks. Before we go on, though, I’m just curious. A show of hands – how many here are Museum Educators? Wow, wow. All right, other museum staff? Parents? And other? Whatever is “other”?

Audience Member

Consultant.

Audience Member

We’re from the New York Public Library.

Fran Prezant

The Public Library? Any others?

Audience Member

Cultural Institute.

Fran Prezant

Cultural Institute. Everybody, great, great we’re really glad that you’re all here and participating. And so we’re fortunate we have some museum specialists here representing different museum programs, Deborah Jaffe and Danielle Linzer. Deborah do you want to go first and talk a little bit about some of the programs that you have?

Deborah Jaffe

Sure, thanks. But I just want to, before I go on and talk specifically about some of our family programs with The Met, I just want to pick up on the topic of training. It’s so important training the different areas of staff in a museum. From just the first people you meet, security guards, Rebecca [McGinnis] and I and, at The Met we meet with all of the new security guards. We offer services and an audio guide, with people who become your contractual educators in all of the programs at the museum. It’s one of our biggest challenges, too, because of the scale of the museum, and the staff and the turnover. But it’s one of the most, I think, one of the most important things that we do.

So, I just wanted to mention that I know that you acknowledged that as a really important thing for museums. But to make sure that your colleagues know what you offer, know how to greet people, know how to interact properly, and know what you provide at the museum. So, it sounds easier than it is, actually. But let me now talk a little bit about the Discoveries Program. Erika talked about it with her son Robert.

I first started at the museum in the late 80’s, I guess, and Robert was a participant at Discoveries and that was how I first got involved at the museum. I was, I had just worked on Sundays, teaching in this program for people with learning and developmental disabilities, children and adults. And it was, it was such a great introduction for me into Museum Education. Because I learned from teaching that program kind of everything I needed to know about working in a museum with different audiences adults, and children, family groups, school groups. They told me be flexible and adaptable and teach to people’s strength and, and it was a wonderful introduction for me. Excuse me.

And we still do have Discovery, which we call a specialized program for people with specific disabilities. We also have a program that’s another kind of specialized program called, Picture This. It’s a program for children who are blind or partially sighted and their families. But we also try and make, the museum, The Met has so many family programs, ongoing family programs, it’s a big part of the Education Department and we really want to make those as inclusive as possible. So, again talking about training, that’s something that we want to make sure of. And we do training with contractors just, just to think as inclusively as possible.

We have assistive listening devices for our family programs. We have sign language interpretation. We have deaf educators who teach in sign language, and, and just in general trying to do, to make educators think as inclusively as possible, using tactile material for everybody. Using movement, using body non-verbal responses to our things that everyone can succeed at. And then we do have Discoveries, which I guess I’ll just talk a few minutes about.

I think, Erika, you described it well. It’s been around for a very long time. And it’s very similar to the ongoing family program, the quote unquote “Regular Family Program.” The difference is we have some adaptations. And the main one is that it isn’t a drop-in program. We do require people to sign up. So at that point it allows us to get a little bit of information about the family, about the person with the disability. And it also allows us to limit the size, which is an important factor, because at The Met a drop-in program can be a 100 people. There’s no limit, so size is important. We like to keep the groups intimate.

We try and use as many different ways reaching audiences, we have, having tactile materials. We always sketch, so there’s always a way to respond to a work of art, without having to answer questions. Several years ago I was getting questions from people, like Erika and other parents, who often asked me, This is great but aren’t there other museums that, that offer this program? So we started partnering with other museums doing two–part programs, which eventually led to our working with MoMA. And MoMA creating “Create-ability,” which is wonderful. And we have shared our families and I think that’s really great, a great way to create family, create programs working with someone who has an established program.

Sharing audiences, we worked at the Tenement Museum many years ago; we did a two-part program I think you participated in that was wonderful. The Queens Museum of Art, too, so that would be a suggestion I have. But maybe I’ll pass it over now and you can talk more about your program.

Danielle Linzer

Sure. And for those of you who are, or are not, familiar with the Tenement Museum, we have quite a different series of restraints that we’re operating in, which really affect our ability to create and offer accessible programs. We are a National Historic Site, a very small land-marked tenement building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. And we invite visitors in by guided tour only. To tour the museum and to learn about the history of immigration and migration to New York, to the United States and to, hopefully, encourage tolerance for all people today. So in keeping with our mission of tolerance, we really seek to be as accessible as possible.

And in some ways our programs are very adaptable. We do offer, we have assistive listening devices, headsets and neck loops available. So that anybody taking a guided tour can make use of those, and we announce them at the beginning of every program and they’re used quite frequently. We offer sign language interpreted tours. We offer touch tours, we have reproductions of some of the architectural and ornamental details inside the building that we encourage visitors to interact with.

That being said, we are not a wheelchair accessible site. The building itself, as a National Historic Landmark, can’t be altered to put in a lift, or to put in a ramp, or any of those things – although they are looking at ways in 2009 to be able to do that. It’s part of the non-historic fabric of the building, but for the time being, we are limited. And so we do have a visitor center that is accessible. We do a virtual tour that we really encourage. We can do educator lab virtual tours with people on site. We also have that available on our website. So that people anywhere can learn about and experience the Tenement Museum and really experience sort of a similar program.

Another way that we found around the physical limitations of the space in which we’re located is by doing off-site programs, and by really striving to build our capacity for distance learning initiatives. Off-site programs we can send trained educators all over. We’ve never really like flown anybody anywhere, but we will travel far and wide, to the extent that is possible, and bring period objects and bring photographs and bring primary source documents and do programs similar to what we’re able to offer on site.

And we’ve also been lucky to work with Fran [Prezant] in the past, doing distance learning broadcasts. We have one program that’s actually a living history program, called The Confino Family Program, and it’s actually our most hands-on. We encourage people to come in and touch everything in the apartment. It’s a period recreation of 1916, and visitors actually interact with a costume interpreter who portrays a woman named Victoria Confino who actually lived at 97 Orchard Street in the tenement, back in the year 1916. So it’s sort of traveling back in time. Role-playing, it’s a very interactive, very hands on program.

And we have the ability to broadcast from inside the tenement, so that students who have mobility impairments that would preclude them entering our historic site, even if they can’t travel and come to us, we can, to a certain extent, bring Victoria to them. And through wonderful technologies that are available, see and hear each other and ask questions and look around in real time and real space and sort of zoom on different objects.

So that’s another way.

I think one thing also that you touched upon is the importance of training. And of training all of your educators to really have a sensitivity to working with diverse audiences. That’s something we really try to cultivate. And with the high turnover rate that characterizes many museum programs, it’s a constant challenge to make sure that our educators are really sensitive to the needs of different audiences.

I think one of the things that came up earlier that I am interested to hear more about is the ways that you reach out to cultural institutions, both to let them know about your needs, and to take advantage of whatever they have available. I think the Tenement Museum has some advantages because we are really small. So the likelihood that you will get a real person on the phone is much greater than if you’re – because it’s a, just a little place, so that you’ll walk in the door and you may very well meet a friendly face. Somebody who will give you some personal attention. You know, all of our groups are limited to no more than 15 people because of, again, the size constraints of the space in which we operate. So that also can create an ability to give different visitors personal attention. I don’t know, is there anything else that I should talk about?

Fran Prezant

I’ve had the good fortune to work with both of these people, doing interactive broadcasts. Part of my organization is a targeted, or segregated, school for children with very, very severe physical and medical disabilities. Who have trouble with travel and accessibility and certainly couldn’t get into the Tenement easily. We’ve also broadcast from The Met, in the Egyptian area. And then we had to wait till the museum was closed to do that. We did it on a quiet day.

Deborah Jaffe

On a Monday.

Fran Prezant

Yeah, on a Monday, right. The first time we’ve done was the Tenement, a few years in a row. And just to show the change in technology, the first year we did it, we had to send three guys to run the wires down the street. And then somebody sat on the front step and it interrupted the signal, or something like that. But now they have all their own equipment and can just broadcast to us. But in both of these situations it was doing something that they really hadn’t done before and it was partnering, creativity, putting heads together, trying to figure out, okay this is a barrier, this is a obstacle, what can we do to circumvent this. So I think that that’s a key in all of this. I mean obviously there will always be obstacles, but that’s very important I think. Yes?

Audience Member

A question about the beginnings of the Discovery Program? It sounds like you guys were out in front decades ago, and I’m wondering what brought it about? How did it start? Was it a mom, or a board member? Or a lawsuit? What was it made you start?

Deborah Jaffe

It was before my time. So maybe Rebecca [McGinnis] can help me answer this as well. But I think it was probably a staff member, Charles Steiner, who became the first access person at The Met, even though that wasn’t his job title. That was just something he was into in the Education Department. I don’t even know exactly what his title was. But he was very interested in access for people with disabilities and it was kind of, I think, almost a personal thing.

He started the first group of volunteers that were trained to work specifically with kids, the special education school groups. He started, or was instrumental in starting, the touch collection at The Met. So I don’t know if he specifically started Discovery, or if it was what he brought to the museum and to the Education Department – that kind of mindset. Does that sound right, Rebecca?

Audience Member

Yes, it does.

Audience Member

I just wanted to, well first of all, I want to go back to what Deborah was saying about the gracious attitude that The Met had. Really letting us know about what they did for Discoveries, and kind of teaching us and training us in how to develop a similar program at the Museum of Modern Art. And sharing the families. We continue to work together to make sure that when we’re scheduling we don’t schedule on the same days, because we know that there are a limited number of programs specifically developed for this particular audience, so that there is no overlap.
 
I wanted to go back to Danielle’s question and comment, which was: now that we have a program, what do we do? What would you all, as parents, on the panel and also in the room, recommend that we use as outreach avenues? How can we market our programs, whether they’re – and most of them are free anyway? So, how do we let the parents know that we have them available?

Fran Prezant

Good question.

Mary Somoza

Primarily, contact the disability organizations – United Cerebral Palsy, AHRC, Young Adults Institute, all the large agencies that serve families with children with disabilities. And you can contact the school systems. The “District 75,” for example, who serve a large population of children with disabilities. Also, now with the new structuring of the schools, everything is going to be more school–based. And reach out to Linda Wernikoff as the Director of Special Education for the City of New York. Let her know that you’re doing these programs.

And if you advertise it, we will come. More than you probably want. But one thing I’d just like to say, one other thing I’ve been dying to get in somewhere… It might not be the right moment, but as you all know, America is aging. Not me, I’m Irish, but it’s aging. So many, many folks, patrons of your museums, are out there are now encountering problems that we have with our children. Visual impairments, hearing impairments, mobility impairments. It would be wise to let the higher ups know about that, because they are your customers and maybe sometime in the future they will be donating their art to you. It is going to be very big in the next few years that you think about that other aspect of people with disabilities as well. I didn’t want to forget that.

Maria Garcia

I have a number of suggestions. I think that I like your idea about working within the Department of Education. I think the Citywide Council for Special Education, which is an outreach, sort of a liaison between District 75 and the parents of the children in District 75. I can speak as a Council member that we work very well to make some of that information available. I’m sure that you’re using agencies or organizations like Resources for Children with Special Needs, as a place to make your information available? The Citywide Council also has a website. The Department of Education, of course, has a website. So those might be some, some ideas.
 
In fact, for blind children in particular, there is a Special Division of the District 75 called Educational Vision Services, and they will send things out through the various TVR’s – the Teachers of the Visually Impaired – through the classroom and it comes home in the kid’s book bag. That isn’t always necessarily the best way for parents to get things, as I’m sure the parents in the room know. But I, at least, check my daughter’s book bag everyday.

Fran Prezant

Thank you. Any other comments? Suggestions? Yes, Rebecca?

Audience Member

I just have a fantasy, maybe. We recently have the fortune, through Ken [Struve] and the City Access New York website, to have a presence on the web for the Museum Access Consortium. We’ve been talking about trying to use that as a way for museums’ clearinghouse, so that we can have links to other museums and, maybe, even specifically the Access pages on different museum websites. Which would, I think, fill a great void for everyone – to give families, parents, individuals with disabilities, everyone a place to begin to go. And this is the fantasy part – to get some information about programs that are accessible in different museums and other kinds of cultural institutions around the city.

So I guess I’m telling you this, other museums, please get in touch with Ken or me or contact MAC, however you would like, and let’s talk about how we can link to your museum’s website and somehow pull everything together. This hasn’t happened at all yet, so it’s really, I’ll just say it’s partially a plug and an announcement, and partially a fantasy or something. Maybe not a fantasy – a wish for something that that might happen in the future.

I want to say that to parents here, as well, because you know I want to let you know that we want to get the information all together. We know that it’s very hard for you to reach out to lots of different places and try and grasp this information from wherever you can. I hope someday in New York we can find a way to have a calendar, like a hands–on calendar for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Maybe we could do something with all the museums together through MAC or somehow. So anyway, just to put that out.

Fran Prezant

Thank you, Rebecca. And that website is new. Ken, would you like to tell us the website? Ken and Rebecca co-chair the MAC. So I’ll just say now, if you’re not a MAC member and you want to be, you can talk to one of those people. The forms out here have the web address–

Audience Member

Please do.

Fran Prezant

–For City Access New York www.cityaccessny.org, which is kind enough to host a web page for MAC. One of the problems the MAC has had is, we’re not an independent non-profit, formal body. And we consist primarily of volunteers, advocates, and museum specialists, who are very, very interested in this issue. And we usually meet at this crazy hour, when most people are eating dinner. So we would love to have you involved. So please, pick up a form. Yes?

Audience Member

If anybody is interested in seeing all those websites, or if the museum needs help, I’m happy to help set up yours, you know, and proof anybody’s websites. I developed a list of all the accessible websites, and the formula kind of matches – it’s not ADA prescribed, but it’s what they’re doing in the United Kingdom. All the ADA symbols are on the left, and the corresponding paragraph is on the right. The groups are broken out by hearing, visual, mobility, and I recommend doing it in alphabetical order so no one’s slighted. And you can get the symbols on www.gag.org/resources/das.php.

And I’m happy to give out my email address, because I proofed for quite a few different museums in this room. And caught some typos: such as, standing room only seats for the Lincoln Center (inaudible) for wheelchairs.

Fran Prezant

How would people get hold of you?

Audience Member

It’s jschacter@nyc.rr.com and I don’t charge anything. But I’m happy to just proof it and help you. Then, for someone with a question on visual issues, I can forward it to people at the Lighthouse. If it’s mobility, I forward it to the Spinal Association. So it’s like one stop shopping, so you get help.

Audience Member

I’m Jeff Cohen, Shari’s husband. I’m on the Board of Directors for the League of Hard of Hearing. And the League for the Hard of Hearing has a push email to all the parents, which is probably almost 2,000 strong. So, where you’re talking about promoting your event, I have to assume that there are similar organizations that have a similar type of thing. I think reaching the parents is the end goal, because the parents yap with all the other parents so…

Audience Member

And I would just ask all the parents in this room – I work at MoMA as well – and a lot of the organizations you were talking about, for instance, AHRC, they’re coming through the organization, but maybe not through the parents. So, either tonight, or as time goes on, if you just think about a meeting where it would be good for us to send a flyer, or an email, where it would be good for us to send a post. Anywhere you like. We said all of our programs are free, but they’re not all at capacity. And so let us know anyplace you think of, anytime that we could advertise our programs. Because we’re trying to get the word out. And you could send to accessprograms@moma.org.

Erika Weis

I’m always amazed that more parents don’t knock your doors down. And again, I’m speaking of the Discovery Program and the program at MoMA. I really don’t understand. One of the things that you people have to realize is, having a special needs kid really drains you. It drains you emotionally and physically to the point…it’s not obvious but it, it really happens. And I think people are very tired on the weekend. They just need a rest and they really don’t come for that reason.

One of the things I would suggest is attending parent-teacher association meetings in the public schools. And going to the individual private schools and speaking to the school psychologists, I think maybe they’re the ones, or even art teachers or, yeah well, it would be art teachers. I know I, personally, have told many, many people, who are quite intelligent, about the program. They just don’t bother. They just don’t do it. They just don’t come.
 
And I think part of it is just being so weary, and just not having the strength to really go out and do it.

But going to AHRC or any of those organizations… I think they have their own programs. They’ve got their own interests. You have to go to the public that is not biased and is willing to listen. That’s the only thing that I could think of.

Fran Prezant

We have heard some wonderful suggestions tonight. I’m wondering, Ken, is there a place on that web page that people can communicate with us? With MAC? Can people send in comments?

Audience Member

Yes, send emails to access@metmuseum.org. And if you go to the MAC page on the City Access website, there it is.

Fran Prezant

I would encourage people to send in your suggestions.
I think that this has been a great interchange and everybody’s learned something and had a chance to express some suggestions and opinions.

And we hope to see you at future MAC Meetings.

And thank you. Thank you.