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Find the tools you need to make your programming more accessible

More art for more people means that arts experiences should be accessible to all. Mid-America Arts Alliance is committed to promoting historically underresourced or overlooked communities, and to receiving feedback from those who see places where we can improve.

We abide by state and federal laws that prohibit public support to organizations (people or entities) that discriminate against people with disabilities. All of our partners and grantees—that includes exhibition venues, grant recipients, and presenting organizations—are required to assure that they are in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

If you have questions, please contact Angelette Sevart , Accessibility Coordinator at Mid-America Arts Alliance. She can be reached by email at Angelette (at) maaa.org or by phone at (816) 421-1388 ext. 216. Each of our member states has an Accessibility Coordinator, and you can find their contact info on this list.

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that provides people with disabilities equal access to employment, state and local government programs, and goods and services.

Businesses that are open to the public, including, but not limited to:

  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Taxis and shuttles
  • Grocery and department stores
  • Hospitals and medical offices
  • Theaters
  • Zoos

must comply with Title III of the ADA, and are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into their establishment, even if the establishment has a “no pets” policy.

Title II of the ADA requires state and local government entities to modify policies and practices to permit the use of a service animal by a person with a disability.

The ADA affects:

  • People with disabilities and their family, friends, and advocates.
  • Employers with 15 or more employees.
  • Private businesses of any size that operate facilities such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, retail stores, medical offices, museums, private schools, day care centers, nonprofit organizations and amusement parks.
  • State and local government entities including school districts, law enforcement, judicial facilities, voting facilities, recreation programs, libraries, post-secondary institutions, emergency management departments, and other programs.
  • Telecommunications systems.
  • Public transportation.

(Information source: Rocky Mountain ADA Center)

9 Tips for Excellent Constituent Service
  1. Train staff in disability etiquette.
  2. Treat everyone as a valued customer; don’t treat people with disabilities with pity or disrespect.
  3. Make eye contact and speak directly to the individual with a disability, not their companion.
  4. Avoid derogatory terms such as handicapped, victim, afflicted, deaf and dumb, deaf-mute, confined to a wheelchair or wheelchair bound as they may be disrespectful.
  5. Make sure there is a clear path of travel for customers using mobility devices or service animals.
  6. Service animals are dogs that have been trained to do specific tasks.
  7. If unsure if an animal is a service animal, only two questions can be asked to clarify. No visual or written documentation is required: (1) Is the animal a service animal needed because of a disability? (2) What task has the animal been trained to perform?
  8. There are tax incentives to make your business more accessible and to hire employees with disabilities.
  9. Remember, people with disabilities—and their companions—are your customers. You will find that many of these practices also improve your services and products for ALL patrons!

For more tips, visit www.adata.org and search ADA Quick Tips.
Your regional ADA Center is available to discuss requirements, provide training and answers to your other ADA-related questions. To contact your regional center call: 800.949.4232 (V, TTY).

(Information source: Rocky Mountain ADA Center)

Service Animals

Service animals ARE

A service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Service animals are working animals, NOT PETS.

Service animals are NOT

Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals under the ADA. However, reasonable modifications in policies must also be made to allow individuals with disabilities to use miniature horses if they have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the individuals.

An animal that provides: emotional support, crime prevention, comfort or companionship is NOT considered a service animal because it does not perform specific tasks associated with a person’s disability.

Service animals in-training are NOT protected under the ADA. However, some state laws may afford service animals in-training similar protections as fully trained service animals.

What tasks can a service animal perform?

The tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the disability of the person handling the animal. These tasks include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Guiding a person who is blind or has low vision.
  • Alerting a person with a hearing loss to certain sounds.
  • Picking up or retrieving objects.
  • Providing non-violent protection or rescue work.
  • Assisting an individual during a seizure.
  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens.
  • Providing physical support or assistance with balance.
  • Assisting a person with psychiatric disabilities by interrupting impulsive behaviors.

How do I know if the animal is a “service animal” under the ADA?

If the person handling the service animal does not have an obvious disability, businesses or other public entities can ask two questions:

  1. Is this a service animal?
  2. What task has the animal been trained to perform?

Business or public entities should refrain from:

  • Asking about the nature or extent of a person’s disability.
  • Requesting the handler demonstrate the service animal’s tasks.
  • Requiring documentation proving the animal has been certified, trained or license.

Service animals must be under the handler’s control at all times. Service animals must have a harness, leash, or other tether unless the handler’s disability prohibits their use or if the animal’s work or tasks would be adversely impacted by their use.

Also note that a vest or any other type of identification is NOT required.

Miniature Horses

Under the ADA definition of a service animal, only dogs are considered service animals, with the exception of miniature horses.

The same ADA regulation that apply to dogs also apply to miniature horses. The regulations require businesses and public entities to make reasonable modifications to permit a miniature horse that has been trained to do work or perform tasks, is housebroken, and is under the handler’s control. Businesses can determine whether they can make reasonable modifications to allow a miniature horse by assessing:

  • The weight of the miniature horse (ranging from 70–100 lbs)
  • The height of the miniature horse (ranging from 24–34 inches)
  • Whether the miniature horse’s presence in a facility compromises safety

Common Service Animal Issues

What should a business or other public entity consider when interacting with a person with a service animal?

Keep in mind that service animals are working animals, not pets. Do not pet, feed or distract a service animal. It could interfere with the dog’s training or endanger the person with the disability.

Can a business charge extra fees or surcharges for customers with service animals?

No. Neither a deposit or a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability even if deposits are routinely required for pets.

What if the animal is disruptive, out of control, or damages property?

If the animal is disruptive, threatening or not housebroken you may ask the handler to remove the animal. If the animal is removed, businesses should allow the individual with a disability the option of returning to the establishment without the animal. If a business charges all customers for damage they cause, a customer with a disability can be charged for damage caused by his/ her service animal.

Are allergies to or fear of dogs valid reasons for denying access to a person with a service animal?

No. If it is possible, separate the person with the allergy or other animal aversions from the person with the service animal.

Is a business or other entity required to provide food or care for a service animal?

No. It is the responsibility of the handler to control, care for, feed and supervise the service animal.

(Information source: Rocky Mountain ADA Center)

More Resources

Federal Accessibility Laws

Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Information and Technical Assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act

Disability Access Symbols

Provides downloadable symbols that can be used to promote and publicize accessibility to those with disabilities.

A Planning Guide to Making Events Accessible

A resource guide provided by the ADA National Network on how to make events more accessible to those with disabilities.

A resource guide from the National Endowment for the Arts on how to make virtual events more accessible.

Design for Accessibility: A Cultural Administrator’s Handbook

A downloadable PDF created by the National Endowment for the Arts to help organizations comply with Section 504 and the American Disabilities Act and to make accessibility an integral part of their planning, mission, programs, outreach, meetings, budget and staffing.

ADA National Network

Provides resources and technical assistance for accessibility and information on how to find your regional ADA Center.

Regional Grant Opportunities for Accessibility

Explore Access: Tools for promoting access and inclusion, from the University of Arkansas.

Nebraska Arts Council: Provides non-matching reimbursement grants to arts organizations to defray costs of accessibility event services ($250 per event or up to $2,500) and improvement projects (up to $5,000).

Oklahoma Arts Council: Arts in Alternative Education provides grants for schools to provide art programming to students in alternative education environments. Individual schools are eligible to apply for two grants of up to $2,500 per year. Schools must provide a cash match equaling five percent of their total project budget. Awards are subject to funds available.

DIY ADA Access Planning
We convened in January 2021 for DIY ADA Access Planning. Scott Artley, Accessibility Program Director for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, developed a do-it-yourself approach to ADA planning that works for large and small cultural organizations, whether you’re just beginning to center inclusion for people with disabilities or ready to level-up your efforts.
Accessibility on a Budget
On September 23, 2021, we presented Accessibility on a Budget with Fran Sillau, Accessibility Coordinator, Director, and Teaching Artist, at the Rose Theatre and Christina Shutt, Director, at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.
Access for All
On Wednesday, July 29, 2021, we hosted for Access for All: Celebrating Thirty Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act with Beth Bienvenu of the National Endowment for the Arts.