ACE Act Hearing

An Act to improve accessibility within the creative economy, sponsored by Rep. Dan Donahue and Sen. Paul Mark, H.151/S.113, would establish the Accessibility in the Creative Economy (ACE) Fund to be distributed through the Massachusetts Office on Disability and provide grants to organizations focused on the arts, culture, humanities, and interpretive sciences that would remove barriers encountered by people with disabilities.

Many organizations have already endorsed the ACE Act, but if you haven’t had the chance yet, click here to endorse.

Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities
Submitted testimony:

Good morning/afternoon, Joint Committee on Disability for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I am Christopher Robinson. I’ve been on staff of Boston University Disability & Access Services since 2005.

I have 30 years of experience as an ASL/English interpreter, specializing in theatre and performing arts both locally and nationally. I’ve co-founded a non-profit, Think Outside the Vox (VOX) alongside Sam Gould Esq, the Artistic Director of Open Door Theater Company of Acton, a non-profit, accessible community theater working for and with adults, children, and individuals with disabilities since 1980. Together at VOX Sam and I provide arts accessibility and disability culture consulting and training that facilitates hiring Deaf, disabled and marginalized artists.

There are accessibility and compliance funding challenges faced by organizations in our creative economy that are impacted by the loss of vital experienced staff and significant revenue cutbacks due to funding cuts. These challenges inhibit growth and more critically, they directly impact persons with disabilities. – per the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission’s 2021 Annual Report, only 35.6% of persons with disabilities statewide are employed. It is also noteworthy to state that disability may arrive unexpectedly during a staff member’s tenure.This thinking recognizes the fact that emergence of disability, while not always anticipated, is inevitable so, it’s imperative that our organizations are equipped to adapt.

When we speak of accessibility and compliance in relation to Workforce Development, we do not mean to speak exclusively of liability and the “compliance cliff” of ADA structural codes; we mean that there is a horizon line of opportunity, with state funding, to open new avenues to sustain and support employment of persons with disabilities (PWD) in our arts sector.

In conclusion, the proposed ACE grant program provides a holistic solution. It’s an opportunity to overcome financial setbacks, bolster staff retention, and build a more inclusive workspace. By supporting this program, we’re paving the way for a more resilient, inclusive, and enriched creative economy in Massachusetts.

See Christopher testifying in support of this Act in the following links:
Massachusetts Legislature Hearing Details – Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities

From Mass Creative – In the News: ACE Act Hearing

People in courtroom.
Foreground. Black male and two white-presenting females, professionally dressed sit at a long brown table. Microphones are in front of them. The look down toward their notes, toward one another and toward a panel of legislators. They are in a legislative chamber room.