Chicago D(ART), or Deaf ART, was launched in the summer of 2016 to provide a home for Deaf artists in Chicago - which, up until now, was the only major city without a theatre or arts home for the d/Deaf. Focusing on finding ways to bridge the communication barrier between the d/Deaf and hearing communities Chicago D(ART) has received national attention since its launch - going so far as to be praised by the Kennedy Center's LEAD (Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability) program.
In the coming months Chicago D(ART) will be hosting a Deaf poetry night (ASL SLAM - February 17th, and a day TBD in May) as well as kicking off their theatrical works with a production of POLICE DEAF NEAR FAR by David Rush and directed by Chicago D(ART)'s executive director, C. Richard Costes.
While the company is still new to Chicago's art scene - the city's theatre community has wholeheartedly embraced them and future announcements of partnerships with other arts organizations are planned soon. Currently they are being mentored by one Chicago's most respected theatre companies, Steep Theatre, and will be performing there in July thanks to a generous offer of space on their part.
In addition to the creation of artistic works - Chicago D(ART)'s secondary goal is to help other arts organizations become accessible to the d/Deaf and hard of hearing communities by offering advice, services, and knowledgeable people. These include, but are not limited to, captioning services, help in acquiring ASL interpreters, advice on making shows accessible (both on and offstage), workshops and training for arts administrators looking to broaden their accessibility programs and more.
What new functionality we are looking for
We are currently looking to completely revamp our website with an eye towards accessibility. While our focus is primarily geared towards the d/Deaf community - there are many other audience members with different accessibility needs and we would like to accommodate them. We hope by being the first arts company in Chicago with a fully accessible website - we can lead the way for other organizations to follow suit.
Some of the upgrades needed (beyond a complete overhaul of the very basic design are)
*A tool to allow users to switch from dark-on-light to light-on-dark
*A tool to allow users to switch from normal to high-contrast text
*A magnifying tool
*All pages should be screen-reader compatible for the blind
*The ability to switch pages between English text and ASL video
**By this we mean the text of the page will be done completely in ASL so that native signers can get the information on the page in sign language rather than English. (Video can be provided by the time of the Overnight Website start date)
Beyond these upgrades - the website needs an entire visual overhaul as it currently is very basic, at best, and not at all aesthetically pleasing.
How the new functionality will help
If D(ART) is going to be a leader in accessibility in Chicago everything they do has to be with accessibility in mind. D(ART)'s website is one of the first user experiences a potential customer has with the company - so it has to be built with a wide-range of user needs in mind.
By creating a fully accessible website - it will also give other arts organizations a template to use for their own websites, helping to spread the need for accessibility throughout the greater Chicagoland area.
If our end-goal is to build bridges between the d/Deaf and hearing communities - we also need to include those in the hearing community with other disabilities that may not be readily apparent.
How our organization will use the technology
The website will be our primary source of news - all marketing, news releases, and information will be contained there in easy to read format (high-to-low contrast, dark-to-light schemes, screen readable, and ASL signed) no matter what the consumer of the information prefers.
With a fully accessible website all social media promotions will be driven directly to the website for the best possible user-experience. Currently we are planning on relying heavily on social media due to our lack of accessible options on our current website and because, well, it is rather bland.
After our first show launches we are also going to use the website to be our ticket-sales portal - selling tickets for any events we may host.
Who will use the technology
Currently the website is maintained by the Executive Director, Richard Costes with information being provided by the Marketing Director, Brenda Wlazlo, and the Accessibility team, Phillip Lewis and Havalah Grace.
As stated above - the goal is not just to make the website better for Chicago D(ART) but also to provide a template for other websites throughout Chicago's diverse arts scene to show them what a fully accessible website looks like.
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