Pittsburgh Magazine: How Are Pittsburgh Cultural Institutions Improving Their Accessibility?
PHOTO COURTESY PITTSBURGH BOTANIC GARDEN
The Allegheny Regional Asset District is funding projects that will open up experiences to the broader public.
by Abby Yoder
Sensory-friendly performances, websites that are better adapted for people with visual or hearing issues, concert programs in Braille and purchases of all-terrain wheelchairs to navigate outdoor pathways.
These are among 10 local cultural projects that will be funded with more than $415,000 by the Allegheny Regional Asset District to foster more accessibility and inclusion for patrons.
More than 1 in 4 adults in Pennsylvania have a disability, ranging from mobility and cognitive impairments to hearing and vision difficulties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Over three decades, RAD has provided financial support for public facilities and cultural organizations in Allegheny County. With half of the proceeds from the county’s 1 percent sales and use tax, RAD has invested more than $2 billion into regional assets, including libraries, parks and trails, sports facilities, public transit and more.
“We’re excited to see that organizations are taking this opportunity to see where they can be more accessible and welcoming,” said RAD Executive Director Rich Hudic. “We want to ensure that these places are open to and enjoyable by everyone.”
Here are the organizations receiving the project grants:
Allegheny County Parks ($90,000) will soon make the Vale of Cashmere Trail in South Park more accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The parks will install an 800-foot accessible trail, pave the parking lot and add ADA spaces, put in seating at the entrance of the Vale and add an ADA-compliant footbridge. The project is expected to be completed by summer 2024, with Allegheny County Parks paying $93,804 towards its completion.
New Hazlett Theater ($75,000) will upgrade its ramp entrance into the lobby to include a concrete walkway, 10 new walkway lights and an automatic door opener at the North Side theater. Additionally, more seating accommodations will be made. These improvements are expected to be completed in time for the fall 2023 season.
Pittsburgh Glass Center ($75,000) in Friendship is replacing its elevator and extending it to the third floor as part of its $15 million expansion project set to conclude by summer 2024. The new installation will also feature a set of doors for added accessibility. Additionally, the center will be installing a wheelchair lift at the entrance.
SLB Radio ($35,000) is improving its website for people with visual or hearing impairments and adding voice navigation. New studio equipment will also be purchased, allowing individual adjustments for microphones and headphones.
Pittsburgh CLO ($35,000) is set to showcase a sensory-friendly rendition of “A Musical Christmas Carol” in December while also providing complimentary tickets for families with children who have disabilities. This comes after the CLO’s successful pilot of a sensory-friendly performance of the same show last year.
WQED ($30,000) in Oakland is revamping its website with ADA enhancements. These updates will improve navigation and accessibility, allowing more individuals to access podcasts and other content.
River City Brass ($28,102) has planned a two-step accessibility project to enhance their website to meet compliance standards and produce Braille programs for their concerts.
Pittsburgh Botanic Garden ($13,985) plans to purchase three all-terrain wheelchairs — one for adults and two for juniors — to enable greater accessibility on their outdoor walkways this summer.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra ($5,000) by September, plans to add three water fountains that are ADA compliant. One will be located on each level of Heinz Hall, while another will be placed backstage.
“In the 32 years since the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, our regional assets have made great strides in improving experiences for people of all abilities. But we cannot stay stagnant,” said board members Daniel Rosen and Kendra Janelle Ross in RAD’s Project Review Committee report.