Learn More about This Dialogue

Why is this dialogue taking place?

Notable progress has been made over the last 25 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including greater inclusion and integration of students with disabilities in public schools, the expansion of technology and supports, and greater physical access to communities. As part of this movement, cultural organizations have increased their accessibility, and people with disabilities are increasingly contributing to and experiencing the arts. Despite these successes, a great deal more needs to be done, particularly in the area of employment. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, working-age people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disabilities (9.7% vs 4.3%) and far less likely to be participating in the workforce at all (20.5% vs 68.4%).

What is the picture for employment of people with disabilities in the arts? There are two million artists in the United States, or 1.35% of the total workforce (U.S. Census Bureau's "EEO Tables 2006-2010"). This is in addition to the number of people working in arts administration and technical jobs, such as artist management, marketing and public relations, lighting, sound design, curating, and exhibit design. Arts careers vary by discipline, type of work, income, qualifications, opportunities for training and professional development, career paths, working conditions, and funding, so there is a wide variety of career opportunities and options available in the arts!

People with disabilities continue to face difficulties in getting work in the arts and becoming part of the larger arts community. A 2009 study funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) showed that accessibility challenges and attitudinal barriers continue to make it difficult for people with disabilities to get training for their craft and opportunities to practice it.

The NEA has, for the past few decades, played a key role in addressing these barriers and advancing career opportunities for people with disabilities in the arts. In 1998 and 2009, the NEA held national summits with leaders in the arts and disability communities to discuss challenges and opportunities for the field. The NEA has also advanced the field through its ongoing grant funding for artist residencies and other projects. The National Arts and Disability Center (NADC) at UCLA has administered arts grants at the state and national level; their California Arts and Accessibility Technical Assistance grants support arts organizations to make their programs and venues more accessible to audience members and artists with disabilities, and supports the professional development of artists with disabilities. In partnership with the NEA, NADC held 28 Statewide Forums on Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities, which helped artists with disabilities learn the business side of the arts and how to promote themselves and their work, while also helping arts organizations learn how to better serve artists with disabilities. These collective activities have yielded useful discussions, new attention to the issues, and new initiatives such as professional development opportunities, funding opportunities, apprenticeships, and publications.

Through this ePolicyWorks dialogue, we hope to: 1) continue to explore how artists and arts administrators with disabilities have been successful in gaining employment, and 2) find out more how arts and disability organizations can support people in their arts careers. Your participation in this discussion will:

  • Provide input on how to increase visibility, participation and employment success for people with disabilities;
  • Help us to better coordinate and collaborate with other federal and state agencies to advance arts education, preparation, and employment opportunities for people with disabilities; and
  • Generate ideas on what still needs to be improved to advance careers in the arts for people with disabilities.

Why participate?

The NEA would like to hear from an array of voices from within the disability and arts communities. We want to hear your story and experience in working in the arts and ensure that your voice is included in the dialogue, to help the NEA in its continuing efforts in the field. This is also an opportunity to engage in a national dialogue with others in the field and provide you with connections to other artists and arts workers across the country.

Who should participate?

We would like to hear from the following:

  • Artists, arts managers, and other people with disabilities who are working or seeking work in the arts;
  • People working for arts organizations, arts service organizations, and arts advocacy groups;
  • Arts employers and arts educators;
  • People working for disability service organizations and disability advocates; and
  • Policymakers at the federal, state, and local level.

This online dialogue will run for two weeks starting on June 6, 2016. To begin participating in the online dialogue, return to the dialogue's home page and register to submit ideas and vote and comment on ideas submitted by others.