The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Chicago 2017, March 18-19

Chicago D(ART)

Paired with Heap o' Nerds

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

*Skip navigation

*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.

Before & After Snapshots

Thumbnail_chi2017-chidart-before Screenshot_thumbnail

36 Messages from Supporters

2017-02-10 20:15:58 UTC
Beth Cummings

Chicago DART leads the way in accessible theatre here in Chicago. They are a model for the type of inclusion that will one day, hopefully, become standard for performances. The stories they are telling are ones that have been absent from the American theatre cannon for far too long and add to the range of diverse narratives audiences experience.

2017-02-10 20:29:07 UTC

Chicago D(ART) is the first of its kind in Chicago. Being able to bring theatre to a community of people which has long been ignored is so important. Not to mention, being able to tell the stories of groups that have been absent from the Chicago theatre scene is long overdue.

2017-02-14 13:36:36 UTC
Kris Harrington

I have long been aware of accessible theater and have kept my eye on up-and-coming programs and initiatives. (D)ART is much-needed in Chicago. This emerging not-for-profit has the potential to provide a blueprint for other accessible arts projects, a movement that will empower all artists to rethink their craft and grow in their potential.

2017-02-12 07:49:09 UTC

This company is at the forefront of accessibility in Chicago theatre and will prove as the new bench mark for the rest of the theatre community to follow. The better and more effective their online reach, the sooner we can all enjoy their work.

2017-02-12 17:36:04 UTC

If someone in the Midwest has a special gift, wants to share with the world. Chicago DART is a perfect place to start!

2017-02-13 16:52:37 UTC
Andrew Huff

There are so many events happening in Chicago every day, it's hard to keep track of what's going on -- and even harder when websites aren't accessible to you. I support and applaud C(DART)'s effort to take the lead in breaking down technological barriers and creating a template for inclusion.

2017-02-10 20:26:39 UTC
Claire Alston

Chicago (DART) is exploding on the theatre scene in Chicago because they're exceptional people who are fundamentally collaborative and the narratives they are hoping to construct are critically important. This is the perfect time for Chicago (DART) to develop resources that ensure their lasting survival and sustainable, meaningful contributions to the theatre scene in Chicago on the whole. Chicago (DART) is made up of wildly talented storytellers and actors and theatre practitioners of all kinds, but the technological demands of accessibility can often prove to be a challenge. Sometimes accessible tools are costly or, paradoxically, cumbersome to use. I would love to see this deserving organization get its chance to forge a critically important narrative of a different kind with a website that sets the standard for beautiful, clear, theatrical accessibility -- just like they will do onstage.

2017-02-10 20:46:49 UTC
Molly Brennan

The high level of talent behind this project, and a mission of representation that all Chicago Theatre should share are two BIG reasons I am excited for D(ART).

2017-02-10 20:58:23 UTC

I have kept an eye on Chicago D(ART) since it's inaugural announcement and can personally say they are already the go to company for accessibility questions and advise from other artists in Chicago. With the plan they have laid out here to further their diversity in their website platform and launch a truly inclusive user experience, they prove that they have the knowledge, the leadership and the passion to be the leaders of Chicago's d/Deaf/diversity conversation. I am excited to see where they go, and believe this opportunity would be a perfect match to showcase how technology and inclusion can pair together to create something truly meaningful to an otherwise marginalized community.

2017-02-10 21:21:04 UTC
Ted Brengle

I have nothing but absolute faith in the creative and organizational personnel behind Chicago D(ART). The updates that they are seeking for their website are imperative to their mission of reaching communities and audiences that have historically been underserved by Chicago theatre.

2017-02-10 21:32:52 UTC
Joseph Alvey

The talent behind this project is so astounding and unbelievable. As an organization reinventing how theatre is produced and how it should be looked at is what makes (D)ART so exciting! I am extremely looking forward to seeing their productions and to see how they shake up the Chicago theatre scene!

2017-02-10 22:37:17 UTC

Some of the best theatre I've seen in Chicago. A group worthy of this grant.

2017-02-10 23:43:23 UTC

A lot of people are looking to see what Chicago D(ART) does. It has quite the buzz and people are hungry for the work. People are also looking at D(ART) as an example of what strong accessibility services look like. This STARTS with a website. Help!

2017-02-10 20:01:56 UTC

C(DART) is more than an ambition plan toward success. It is an opportunity for more unmentioned artists and creators to be recognized and celebrated. It is a moment that could truly celebrate Chicago's diversity and drive to create meaningful and memorable art. As a minority artist myself, opportunities to showcase my work is extremely rare and brief. Having a fully accessible organization such as C(DART) gives me more means to create work with other minority backgrounds and make art that speaks to the communities that support the industry in Chicago. As it stands now, there is no other organization that does that to the capacity that C(DART) can.

2017-02-10 21:31:10 UTC

Chicago D(ART) theatre is one of a kind. The talent and passion behind their work is incredible! Keep doing great things D(ART) crew! 5 stars *****

2017-02-10 21:39:45 UTC
Priya A

Chicago Dart is already a leader in the theater community. I would personally benefit from the website updates that they are suggesting above. Looking forward to seeing what this company can do.

2017-02-10 21:48:24 UTC
Brad Akin

I'm beyond thrilled that D(ART) is joining the Chicago theatre community. Richard and his fellow artists bring some very talented and much needed voices to the table. And I'm even more excited that they're working so hard to make their work (and website!) accessible to all of Chicago. D(ART) is poised to be real leaders in our community, I hope you can help them in their mission!

2017-02-10 22:01:20 UTC
Crom Saunders

D(ART)'s arrival in the Chicago theatre community could not be more timely; now more than ever, diversity and inclusion is of the greatest importance in the theatre community, and D(ART) delivers both in great quantity and quality. The hardworking and motivated people behind D(ART) deserve recognition for their efforts and creative output. A website that is visually engaging and easy to navigate would go a long way in fostering greater awareness and support of this theatre group, in turn allowing D(ART) to contribute further to the arts world of Chicago.

2017-02-10 22:31:24 UTC

I Chicago is such a great theater city, it is hard to imagine the lack of inclusive, diverse ttheater that existed. No more. D(art) will open up the city to new artists, exciting new productions, written by and for the formerly underserved theater lovers.

D(art) is an exciting new addition in the perfect time to welcome all to well produced, great new talent both on and off the stage.

The dedication of this new theater company, to this new type of theater is apparent to all. They are multi talented and eager to show Chicago what real inclusive theater is all about.

2017-02-10 21:41:24 UTC

This company knows what it's talking about when it comes to inclusion. They don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk. I've already asked for their advice on numerous occasions to make my theater more inclusive.

2017-02-10 22:39:07 UTC
Noelle Bowles

Because D(ART) serves as an important access point between the d/Deaf and the hearing worlds of theatre and other performing arts, it does vitally important work in providing a platform of connection, cooperation, and accessibility. A website that supports multiple means of access for the greatest level of inclusion is crucial to its mission of diverse representation and outreach. I am excited to see what more they might do with an expanded and accessibility enhanced online presence.

2017-02-10 23:07:59 UTC
Bianca Phipps

D(ART) is leading the charge in accessible, relevant, and representative art. The people behind it are intelligent, hard-working people who are doing all that they can to make theatre a better place for those who are differently abled. They deserve to win!!

2017-02-10 23:42:45 UTC

I have had the pleasure of working with most of Chicago D(ART)'s founding members, and I am thrilled that these artists have come together to showcase d/Deaf talent. What's more, Chicago D(ART) is already taking an active role in conversations about inclusive theatre. They are acting on the belief that art should be inclusive and inviting the rest of the theatre community to join them.
These dedicated artists deserve every bit of support they can get to accomplish their mission.

2017-02-11 14:11:32 UTC
Kim Voeks

I'd like to recommend D(Art). As the sole arts program elevating deaf artists in Chicago, it fills a vital and, until now, overlooked need in the arts community. D(ART) provides a space that promotes artistry from both deaf and hearing performers but gives the broader community insight into a perspective different than provided in other forums. D(ART) deserves wider exposure and celebration as filling a desperately needed voice in the theater community.

2017-02-11 13:24:29 UTC

Accessible and inclusive art is a point of pride in Chicago. While these are proud endeavors, there is still great need and strides to be made. D(ART) is now filling the long-needed and major gaps in Chicago's history and theatre scene with art that is accessible to the d/Deaf community. No company can survive without a strong online presence in our world and this company in particular must have a website that serves the different abilities who benefit from its existence. D(ART) deserves this website support not only for the great work they bring to those with different abilities, but for how that work will change the perspective and improve the lives of all.

2017-02-12 03:52:39 UTC

There are several deaf theatre companies in East Coast and West Coast. Here in Midwest has none but we definitely need one right here!

2017-02-11 23:54:04 UTC
Matthew Teaman

DART is going to be the driver of accessibility in Chicago theatre, helping develop best practices and spurring other companies to step up their game. It has the right people and the right mission to make this happen.

2017-02-11 22:06:21 UTC
Pat Foltz

Chicago Theatre has a reputation for being inclusive and diverse. I am so excited to see these Chicago artists taking the lead as usual with D(ART). Helping D(ART) to have a great online presence for the rest of the theatre community to emulate is a must.

2017-02-13 15:01:53 UTC
Regan Davis

Accessibility is the next important step for the future of web design and development. Much like mobile-first design changed our approach to how we want to interact with the web to ensure everyone has access, websites today are missing key functionality that stops people from experiencing the best the web can offer. WCAG 2.0 guidelines can be difficult to interpret and truly understand the outcomes.

Chicago DART is a great example of a non-profit that wants to push for open, accessible experiences in art. Their vision of live performance that all can experience is a great goal, and creating a website that shares that goal would be a tremendous help. In addition, I would hope this would inspire a team to really dig in and learn about how to design "accessible-first" and bring that to their projects for the rest of their peers, to bring accessibility into the mainstream.

2017-02-14 15:53:46 UTC
Matt Bivins

D(ART)is the real deal. Not only are they taking on the much-needed task of being Chicago's d/Deaf theater company... their goals include inclusion of any and all people with disability. The time for "maybe we should make this website accessible" has passed; as has "maybe we should make this show accessible". It isn't a question of "should we?"... the question is "how do we best?" and I believe that those at D(ART) are answering that question better than most in Chicago.

2017-02-14 16:28:10 UTC
A Scott

Web design needs to take the next step to fully accessibility. This is a great opportunity for this development to take this next step. It will be a truly big leap forever in a world that is staggering and leaning backward.
D(Art) can give Chicago and the art world an example of how important this will be.

2017-02-14 16:36:21 UTC
Gaby Labotka

This talented group of artists are bringing much needed perspective and passion to the Chicago Theatre scene. I am extremely excited to witness the work D(ART) is creating and the impact it will make on storytelling and the theatre community at large!

2017-02-14 17:15:05 UTC
Jenna Baugh

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is what D(ART) is doing on a daily basis.The fully accessible website would allow for diversity, equity and inclusion in the online realm.

2017-02-15 22:02:25 UTC
Carl Del Buono

D(ART) encapsulates one thing Chicago is already known for: a diverse theatrical community with immense integrity. They are the next step to an even more intelligent, accessible, heartfelt, and inclusive artistic experience for all!

2017-02-21 20:26:20 UTC
Carol Robinson

I have long wondered why there has not been much Deaf theatre in Chicago--a company will produce a show now and then, but there is nothing consistent. (D)ART is building a HOME for Deaf theatre, and that in itself deserves major applause. What's more, this group is bringing innovatively creative performances that EVERYONE should see!

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Our Mission

MISSION Chicago (DART), or Deaf ART, is the creative home for artists looking to bridge the communication gap between the d/Deaf and hearing worlds. VISION D(ART) will be recognized as a home for art and culture for Deaf artists in the city. We will create quality works in a wide variety of mediums that reflect the underserved communities of Chicago and serve as a leader in accessibility in the always vibrant arts scene. VALUES D(ART) relies on four core values to guide it in its mission​ We celebrate diversity We believe that art is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our community We encourage the development of new ideas We promote accessibility and social justice