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2023 LEAD Conference Hybrid Sessions

Photograph of a woman seated at a conference. People seated around her are blurred.

Recorded August 29-31, 2023 as part of the Kennedy Center's 2023 Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) conference. For more information about LEAD, visit

Access to the 2023 LEAD Hybrid Session is an exclusive benefit of the Access/VSA Network. Membership starts at just $30 a year and includes access to professional development webinars, conference discount, networking opportunities, and more! Learn about becoming a member today.

LEAD 2023 Awards

Everyone can view the 2023 LEAD Awards ceremonies by visiting the following links:

Wednesday, August 30 Ceremony:

  • Award for Emerging Leaders: Gustavo Padrino and Cultural Voice of North Carolina, Inc. 

  • Community Asset Awards: Fred Beam and Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo 


Thursday, August 31 Ceremony:

  • Award for Emerging Leaders: Ross Edelstein and Francisco echo Eraso  

  • Community Asset Awards: Dan Ellison and Britt Sutton

LEAD 2023 Hybrid Sessions

Welcome to LEAD 2023 & Keynote with Kerry M. Thompson

Kerry M. Thompson is the Executive Director for Silent Rhythms, Inc., which she founded in 2008 with the mission to creating inclusion in the arts for people of all abilities. She is a renowned dance instructor and has performed worldwide including in Paris and Havana. In addition, she is a global human rights activist driven by her own struggles as a person with Deafblindness. She co-created Text4Deaf, a communication tool to bridge the communication gap between the Deaf and Hearing communities in healthcare. Since 2008, she has worked to advance human rights in the Global South as part of her work with the Disability Rights Fund setting up best practices in grantmaking, communications, programs, operations, and analytics. She completed a master’s degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University with a focus on international law and human rights.

Why Can't I Say That? On Semantics, Circumstance, and Disability Justice

Language matters and has a direct impact on welcoming and centering disabled people. People First Language or Identity First? Who can use “crip”? Join a group of disabled cultural access workers to discuss and share best practices on how to consider and understand the ever shifting landscape of language, so that our personal and organizational choices demonstrate awareness and respect.



  • Rachel Arfa, Commissioner, City of Chicago Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities

  • Robin Marquis, Cultural Access and Inclusion Specialist, Prime Access Consulting

  • Ayla Dumont


Funding at the Intersection of the Arts and Accessibility

What are key considerations related to accessibility in arts funding? Join Michael Bobbitt, Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council, Michael Greer, President and CEO of ArtsFund, and Kerry Thompson, Senior Advisor, Inclusion & Accessibility for Disability Rights Fund, and the Executive Director of Silent Rhythms. The panel will share information and perspectives to prompt discussion and questions.



  • Michael Bobbitt, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council

  • Michael Greer, President & CEO, ArtsFund

  • Kerry Thompson, Executive Director, Silent Rhythms, Inc.


Accessible Social Media

This session covers the core concepts of accessibility on social media platforms. Presenters will cover key information, terminology, and demonstrations, and provide a dynamic environment to cover practical applications.



  • Brian Charlson 

  • Austin Dunn, Social Media Coordinator, Wexner Center for the Arts 

  • Jay McKay, Assistive Technology Specialist, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services 


Onsite or Online: Cultivating Multisensory and Meaningful Group Programs

For school and community groups with disabilities, museums and cultural organizations offer tremendous opportunities for multisensory and meaningful engagement both in person and online. Explore how to make the most of both settings and how and why to adapt programs from one to the other.



  • Charlotte Martin, Director of Access Initiatives, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

  • Alejandra Rodriguez, Senior Educator, K-12 Student Experiences, Art Institute of Chicago


Good Architecture Includes Everyone

Too often building design adheres to the narrowest reading of the ADA and building code, missing nuance and the over-arching goal of equal access for people with disabilities. What would happen if architects approached every building opportunity as a chance to design around the full range of human experience and ability? This session brings panelists together to discuss just that – through the lens of experience and commitment to accessibility and human-centered design. 



  • Aaron Wong, Architectural Designer, SmithGroup 

  • Valerie Fletcher, Executive Director, Institute for Human Centered Design

  • Alexa Vaugn, Landscape Designer, Accessibility Specialist, & Consultant, UCLA Architecture + Urban Design


Historic Sites and Accessibility

There are many misconceptions about historic sites and accessibility, both what is required and what is possible. Don't underestimate the potential historic sites have to connect and be innovative. In this session three panelists describe some of the key challenges found at three historic houses and share creative and practical methods used to approach those challenges. This session will also include an opportunity for participants to exercise problem solving skills together.   Leave with a customized tool you can put into immediate action back at your historic site.



  • Kristin Peszka, Interpretation & Visitor Services Director, Paul Revere Memorial Association 

  • Aaron Rawley, Outreach Specialist, Partners for Youth with Disabilities 

  • Wanessa Tillman, Director of Visitor Services, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum


Working with Advisors and Building Community

There are many ways to center people with disabilities in the Access and Inclusion work at your institution or program. Engage with the presenters in the sharing of models and approaches that have respect, authenticity, and creativity at their core. Attendees will have ample opportunity to ask questions, and consider how they might try something new or enhance what they are already doing.



  • Maria Cabrera, Co-Director, Families Creating Together

  • Susan Glass, Poet

  • Lisa Eriksen, Principal, Lisa Eriksen Consulting

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