MCA Accessibility Leadership Task Force

MCA Accessibility Leadership Task Force

The accessibility team is a pan-institutional group meeting once monthly. Members include staff from Collections and Exhibitions, Design, Publishing, and New Media, Education, Facilities, HR, Performance, and Visitor Services. In 2015, the group developed a 3-year accessibility plan in response to a challenge by the Chicago Community Trust’s ADA 25 celebration of the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The MCA plan outlines the group’s commitment to providing a welcoming, accessible, and authentic experience for all museum visitors, both onsite and online, regardless of their ability or need. The group’s activities are reported to the Access, Inclusion, and Equity Task Force by Pat Fraser and Yolanda Cesta Cursach.
Many of the task force’s goals for Year 1 of its 3-year plan have been met or are underway. A summary of achievements and activities to date follows:


  • Barak adé Soleil (disabled artist): 10-day MCA Stage residency and public performance (FY16)
  • ONEOFUS’s Beauty and the Beast stage performance treating issues of disability and sexuality and featuring a disabled performer, organized with UIC-based disability and arts consortium Bodies of Work (FY17)
  • MCA’s first “relaxed performance” for people uncomfortable in a traditional theater environment, of ONEOFUS’s Beauty and the Beast (FY17)
    8 stage performances (FY16) with enhancements (ASL, titles, open captioning) for patrons who are deaf
  • 18 stage performances/post show talks/workshops (FY17) with enhancements (ASL, titles, open captioning) for patrons who are deaf
  • 3 ASL tours for 4th floor exhibitions, created and provided by a tour guide with hearing loss (FY17)
  • Pop Art touch tour for Blind Services Association (FY16)
  • Andrew Yang artist-led touch tour (FY17)
  • Sculpture Garden artist-guided touch tour (in development for FY18)
  • SMLXL balloon rides for visitors with mobility devices (FY16)
    Mobile tours for Murakami, 50th anniversary shows (in development for FY18)


  • Full facility self-audit conducted by leadership group (FY16)
  • Visitor services plan for construction (restrooms, accessible entrance, performance seating) (FY17)
  • Accessible (“talking”) map of building developed for launch of new public spaces (FY17); new wayfinding signage will include upgraded accessibility information
  • Office renovations consider universal design practices (FY17)
  • Admissions and box office desk replacements consider universal design practices (FY17)
  • Listening device test for theater (FY16)
  • Tech table reset for improved ADA seating (FY16)
  • Pre-show chair sets for patrons (FY16)


  • Institutional sensitivity shift = understanding and welcoming visitors with disabilities via accessibility leadership committee
  • Welcoming training for VS staff (FY16/17)
  • Accessibility principles included in onboarding for all new MCA staff (FY16/17)
  • MCA lunchtime Discovery Forum presented by JJ’s List, a disability training team (FY17)
  • Box Office/Usher/Performance team training for relaxed performances (FY17)
  • FT ASL-trained staff member at Admissions


  • New website sets goal of being fully ADA compliant (FY16)
  • Sina Bahram hired to work with design/digital team for planning and launch of new website (FY16)
  • MCA website evaluated against the WCAG AAA standard (FY16)
  • Coyote project created to describe website images; monthly training/description sprints draw volunteer staff from across the museum to create and review descriptions. Participants include staff from curatorial, education, publishing, visitor services, store, and collections teams, among others (FY16/ongoing)
  • Coyote featured in a New York Times Fine Arts and Galleries section article on innovative uses of technology in museums (Oct 30 2016)
  • Review of new intranet software to maximize accessible features
  • New accessibility information online (FY17)
  • Hi badges and lanyards for VS staff (FY16)


  • Yolanda Cesta Cursach appointed to Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC) Steering Committee for a two-year term (FY16)
  • MCA hosts 5 CCAC meetings (FY16/17) with 400 attendees, including LEAD round robin; MCA staff are featured speakers at the CCAC technology accessibility meeting
  • MCA is one of two cultural organizations featured at the 2016 ADA 25 Cultural Accessibility Summit, presenting the Coyote project at a Goodman Theater event for cultural organization directors, board members, and patrons
  • MCA represented at 4 citywide ADA 25 seminars (2015)
  • Coyote presentation at Board of Trustees Lab (Feb 2016)
  • Coyote workshop and presentation at Museum Computer Network (Nov 2016); several museums agree to partner in Coyote development, including the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh
  • Coyote presented by Susan Chun and Sina Bahram at AAMD midwinter meeting (Jan 2017)
  • Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago partnership including complimentary admission/tours/stage passes for RIC therapeutic use and marketing of MCA accessible activities (FY18)
  • Partnered with Beth Finke, blind/low vision consultant on facility and program (FY16/17)
  • Partnered with Bodies of Work and CCAC to welcome disability community to ONEOFUS (FY17)
  • Partnered with Deb Kent to support teens and touch tour (FY17)
  • Host annual Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Job Shadow Day

Planned Near-Future Activities

  • Internal accessibility statement
  • External accessibility statement
  • Additional planning for universal design for exhibitions, facilities
  • Consistent, scheduled, and promoted accessible offerings for performance, education, and exhibition programs (ASL, open captioning, touch tours, audio description)
  • Artist-led touch tours of most Chicago Works exhibitions
  • Accessibility line in MCA budget
  • Grants to support accessibility initiatives
  • Tessitura ticketing accessibility for patrons with blindness/low vision
  • MCA accessibility “manual” for staff use
  • Short video descriptions for web videos
  • Store descriptions for online merchandise
  • Develop broader partnerships with RIC, CCAC, Bodies of Work, Blind Services Association, and Lighthouse (opportunities for teens with blindness/low vision)
  • Mobile tour for Murakami exhibition with ASL video (in English and Japanese)
  • Paper on touch tours authored by ABB and SC with registrars as target audience with a goal of increasing field-wide understanding of potential of touch tours, development of shared guidelines