It is a great honor to announce that has been awarded an Emerging Leader Award by the The Kennedy Center for our accessibility work. Andrea Luke, Executive Director has also been accepted into an Arts Learning Community for Universal Access (LEAD) as a CVNC representative by Raleigh Arts, which includes LEAD Conference attendance this summer and cohort meetings with other arts professionals. Luke has also been awarded the Kennedy Center Lehman Scholarship to further help support her LEAD Conference experience. This year’s LEAD conference will take place in late August in Boston, Massachusetts.

CVNC is grateful and excited to accept these opportunities and jump into arts accessibility work with both feet. Luke has noted that as executive director for CVNC, LEAD has been one of most fun and rewarding part of her job thus far. Says Luke, “I’m so lucky to be receiving extra support and validation in these efforts.”

Last year, Raleigh Arts sponsored the attendance of Luke and Maggie Pate, Editor in Chief at the LEAD conference which was held in Raleigh. Luke notes that since that time, she has added arts accessibility work to her job description because of the impact that the Kennedy Center’s Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Conference had on her. Last year’s conference gave the CVNC team many amazing ideas on how to improve our coverage and CVNC has begun a massive website redesign over the summer that will not only update our infrastructure, but allow us to implement more thoughtful accessibility features throughout.

Luke shared her thoughts on last year’s conference: “The LEAD Conference last summer started me on an amazing journey that has culminated in an autism diagnosis, validating and explaining some differences and difficult experiences I’ve had over the course of my life. The accommodations at last year’s conference, the information I came away with on neurodiversity, plus a lot of support from family and friends, has all helped me reach a much better understanding of myself as a person – and allowed me to start liking myself a lot better.”

Established in 2001, the Cultural Voice of North Carolina serves as an arts hub for the state, where artists and readers alike can search for upcoming events, arts news, and professional reviews of selected arts events and exhibitions. CVNC’s web journal is primarily visual, so large-print versions of articles have historically been available upon request, and the entire site incorporates high-contrast text formatting, as well as image descriptions and alt text. After CVNC leadership’s first experience at LEAD in 2022, they were inspired to bring home what they learned! Since then, CVNC has prioritized coverage of events that support artists with disabilities or address themes of disability justice, and sought to hire writers of more diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise, including people with disabilities.

All CVNC’s active writers will be expected to participate in an accessibility training program in late-summer or early fall of 2023; this training will address ableist language and allow the organization’s staff and contracted artists to discuss as a group how to include disability inclusion as an element of reviews and articles.

On a larger scale, CVNC is undergoing a cultural overhaul in efforts to everything from infrastructure all the way to branding. The bulk of this project revolves around an updated website that, along with improving the overall infrastructure and ease of site maintenance, begins from a place of universal design. The site is currently under back-end construction (there are 21 years of articles and data to migrate into a new system!), but in the meantime staff and leadership are strategizing the design and elements of the planned site. Screen-reading compatibility and better integration of alt text are priorities, but a larger goal is to contract user-experts who can help evaluate both the technical accessibility elements and create a more inclusive arts community.

CVNC will share our experiences and take-aways with our readership later this summer. Watch this space!