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Activating the Principles of Universal Design

Charles Baldwin, Program Officer

Music Therapy at South Shore Conservatory, a former Innovation and Learning Network organization. (Image: Macy Gilbert)
Music therapy at South Shore Conservatory, a previous participant in the Innovation and Learning Network. (Image: Macy Gilbert)

The Universal Participation (UP) Initiative is grounded in service learning; activating the principles of universal design across the cohort of participating organizations. UP’s 2019 Innovation and Learning Network (ILN) cohort consisted of representatives from:

  • Berkshire Pulse
  • Boston Lyric Opera
  • Cambridge Arts Council
  • Cape Cod Theatre Company
  • Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
  • Gore Place
  • Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
  • Mosesian Center for the Arts
  • Peabody Essex Museum
  • Springfield Museums

Over the course of six months, ILN participants :

  • Attended five experiential workshops on universal design practices in physical, digital, social, and communication environments
  • Received a facility site review and consultation from the User/Expert Lab of the Institute for Human Centered Design
  • Received a website audit from the National Center for Accessible Media
  • Defined and identified barriers for removal and methods for implementing an Access Plan

The final workshop was hosted by Gore Place in Waltham, MA and each organization presented on their distinct response to these evaluative processes.

Seen here are the concluding priorities and implementation plans of the 2019 participants:

Gore Place

Gore Place located in Waltham, MA, has distinct challenges around balancing the need for public access with the mission of historic preservation. A strategy to address a multi-sensory approach to educational tours was deemed the first step, with the investment in new technology to help create virtual access to upper floors as a long term goal.


Cambridge Arts Council

A unique organization to have participate in the ILN, the Cambridge Arts Council stewards grants within the cultural sector of Cambridge – and can impact the sector in profound ways. While creating a more accessible building for visitors to their office, their goals include building awareness for the need to explicitly include people with disabilities in artist recruitment, audience development, and program design.


Eric Carle Museum

A beautiful museum in the upper Pioneer Valley, multiple staff from the Museum attended the ILN. Based on their site visit and web audit, they started their process with exhibit and gallery design, addressed web accessibility, and a long-term commitment for developing institutional wayfinding.


Cape Cod Theatre Company

A community theater with limited human and financial capacity, the Cape Cod Theatre Company was determined to highlight the specific work they already do and in the long-term, address website accessibility standards.


Peabody Essex Museum

A team committed to equity and inclusion from the Peabody Essex Museum presented on the big need to address wayfinding consistently and with multi-department coordination. Additionally, a safe drop-off zone was discussed.


Mosesian Center for the Arts

Prioritizing the physical space, the Mosesian Center for the Arts looks to wayfinding and clarity of signage to assist patrons, and in the long-term, facility renovation for safety and access.


Boston Lyric Opera

With a contract and venue changes in 2014, the Boston Lyric Opera became a company that activates a new site with each production. Embracing this distinction, the company responds to their aging audience and decides to focus on systems for guest engagement; box office systems, know-before-you-go information, and site assessments for egress and safety.


Springfield Museums

The team at the Springfield Museums realized the first step they wanted to address was to put together an inclusion committee; helping the institution respond to the needs of the staff, the campus, and the collection.

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