“Nothing about us, without us.”
"The 30 anniversary of the signing of the American with Disabilities Act was a few days ago, July 26th, 2020. The ADA was signed July 26, 1990. The ADA put simply is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. The ADA includes those with physical and mental disabilities. It requires reasonable accommodations be provided to those employees with disabilities as well as accessibility to public places. The ADA is often referred to as “ The Emancipation of the Disabled.”
Crip Camp is a documentary film about Camp Jened, a camp where non disabled and disabled people came together in a care free environment. The film shows the perspectives of people with lived disabled experiences. “Crip Camp” also shows disability history in the way our disability ancestors fought for disability rights like they did for civil rights. Many people with and without disabilities are unaware of disability history. People with disabilities are often discriminated against, unable to access public places, and isolated from others. This happened both in history and now.
"Ugly Laws" and State Institutions
Many cities passed "ugly laws" which made it illegal for any person diseased, mutilated , or disfigured were not allowed to show themselves in the public view. Many people with disabilities were institutionalized because their family was embarrassed of them and/or couldn't take care of them. These institutions were state run, had large barbed wire fences, and were forgotten about in society.
Passage of the Civil Rights Act
The passage of the civil rights act laid the groundwork for disability rights legislation.
Center for Independence Living
The first Center for Independent Living is formed in Berkley, California in 1972. It is the first center to be recognized for independent living.
Passage of the Rehabilitation Act
In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was passed. The law states, “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States, shall solely by reason of his handicap, be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” This law was intended to prohibit discrimination in federally funded programs and services.
Passage of Education for All Handicapped Act
In 1975, the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Act permitted disabled children to be integrated into the public school environment. This act was later renamed into Individuals with Disabilities Act or IDEA. In the same year, the supreme court ruled that people could not be held against their will, or placed in a psychiatric hospital institution, unless they are proven to be a threat to themselves or to others. In the court case named O’Connor v. Donaldson.
Section 504 Sit-ins
In 1977, protesters and disability activists in ten cities demonstrations and occupants of the federal department of Health Education and Welfare or HEW to force the Carter Administration to issue regulations to implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The longest demonstration was held in San Francisco, California it lasted a month long. On April 28, 1977, HEW secretary Joseph Califano signed the regulation.
Passage of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act
In 1980, congress passes the civil rights of Institutionalized Persons Act which allows the justice department to file suit if a person institutionalized rights were violated.
The Capitol Crawl or Crip Crawl was a protest of more than 1,000 disabled people who crawled up the Capitol steps. Jennifer Keelan, an eight year old with cerebral palsy said " I'll take all night if I have to." The Capital Crawl gained much attention and political pressure. This lead Congress passed the ADA within four months and George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law July 26, 1990.
Why is it important to know disability history?
I think it's important to raise awareness around these events in history because not many people with or without disabilities have knowledge of what happened. Also, if we as people with disabilities don't understand our history we are bound to repeat it.
Now and Moving Forward
This blog is also posted on Photography through Autism Blog.
On July 25, 2020, Barrier-Free joined forces with Blue Apple Theatre to share a co-presented "hands across the ocean" workshop. Blue Apple Theatre is a non-profit company in the UK that "produces high-quality theatre, dance and film to challenge prejudice and transform the lives of people with a learning disability."
Similar to Barrier-Free, Blue Apple's programming has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis in our world. These shutdowns didn't stop Blue Apple Theatre's artistic director, Richard Conlon, from getting creative and seeking new opportunities for his actors. Richard began contacting inclusive theater companies from around the world, and in his research he found Barrier-Free! Richard, Britt, and Lauren began communicating via email and set-up a Zoom meeting to lay the groundwork for co-presented theatre workshop.
The video shows the full 75-minute workshop, but if you're short on time, check the video description for time-stamps to different chapters of the workshop for your convenience.
Once the date was set, we needed actors to share in this incredible opportunity. Christopher Anderson, Michael Eaton, Nicole Hurley, Jenny Laatsch, Jared Parrish, and Jen Shillingburg jumped onboard. These Barrier-Free stars committed to two workshop rehearsals, prepared costumes, practiced lines, and more!
On the big day, we spent a fantastic 75 minutes with Blue Apple Theatre, learning about their company, sharing in some of their favorite warm-ups, and hearing speeches and scenes that ranged from Shakespeare to Charles Dickens. Barrier-Free had the opportunity to share our story, inclusive theater process, warm-ups, actor insights, and a modified scene from Cosmic Crime!
We are thankful to Blue Apple Theatre's talented actors for sharing a creative space with us. Using virtual tools, we were able to break down distance barriers and accomplish what may have felt "impossible" just a few months ago. We now have friends and inclusive theater connections across the ocean!
Have you ever considered joining a Barrier-Free theater company but felt hesitant to take the plunge?
Want the inside scoop on how Barrier-Free shows are brought to life?
Look no further, as Sam Silverman, Company B actor, is telling all in his actor spotlight!
View Sam's video responses with full transcripts below.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself - name, age, current city, education/school.
A: My name is Sam Silverman, I’m 18 years old, going on 19 in May. I go to school at Kennedy Krieger High School Greenspring Campus in Baltimore Maryland.
Q: How and when did you become involved in Barrier-Free?
A: Well, it was actually you [mom, Shari] who asked me. You were showing me two different groups to try, the Monday night group and the Wednesday night group. I went in for both and I seemed to like everyone in the Wednesday group, like I got along with them.
Q: What is your favorite part of the theater process?
A: I’m going to have to say, coming up with the characters because it gives you a chance to be someone you’re not. When you’re normally told to “be yourself,” you get to be a completely different person.
Q: How do you decide what character you want to bring to life each season?
A: Well, once we have the scene and theme and genre down, I basically start thinking from there. For the past two performances I was kinda a bad guy but this year I thought, well, I want to make a character where I can use my sarcasm so I came up with a bartender.
Q: How has Barrier-Free impacted your life?
A: It has allowed me to meet friends who are more in my age group and have something to do rather than stay home and sleep.
Q: What activities do you participate in outside of Barrier-Free?
A: Well as you probably already know, I’m big in the combat robotics scene as I have a story every few months to tell you guys.
Q: What would you tell someone that is interested in becoming involved with Barrier-Free's Inclusive Theater Companies?
A: If we’re talking...well, let’s start... say, with staff for example. You might want to tell them, this isn’t your usual drama group, it helps with adults with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and autism so, yes we may seem different but just treat us like normal human beings and we’ll get along fine. For performers themselves, just tell them how things are going to run through. Like the first few weeks, we’ll play improv games*, “getting to know each other games,” especially this one with a ball, but you’ll all learn to love it. Once you start making friends, you’ve probably made friends for life like how I met Mike Eaton.
*Learn more about the Inclusive Theater Process here.
Q: What's the biggest change in you or how has Barrier-Free helped you grow?
A: I’d say probably in maturity and being around people my age. It just shows me how, just because we’re older than kids, doesn’t mean we can’t be friends and have fun. The social club if anything has been a great help to help me come out of my shell and help me make more friends.
Q: What do you think is the best part of Barrier-Free?
A: Hm… might be the hardest question on here… I’m going to say - creating loads of different characters and putting input like… for the past two plays (the first play and the second play I was in), in the first play, they needed, some heavy metal music for a makeshift fight scene so I offered up my suggestions and had my input. Then, I’ve had a few little changes, like the biggest thing about this [our recent] play is, you’re on an island and there’s this stuff called “nectar,” I actually came up with that idea during an improv game. We were set on an island and I was like a “witch doctor” and we were trying to think, well… how could we turn them into animals or something and I was thinking “Here, try some of this nectar,” and then poof we have island nectar and “Island Mayhem.”
Thank you Sam for taking the time to share your thoughts with us on Barrier-Free's first-ever actor spotlight!
Interested in being a featured actor? Email us at info@BarrierFreeMD.com.
Ready to join in the Barrier-Free Theater experience?
Have you ever wondered what is so special about inclusive theater? You've seen our posts, pictures, and maybe even a show, but here's the inside scoop as to what we think sets inclusive theater apart from the rest.
1. Inclusive theater brings together people of varying abilities.
Barrier-Free inclusive theater companies are comprised of approximately 25 people. Our actors are self-advocates who self-identify as having down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, autism, and/or developmental disabilities. Our actors work alongside our teaching artists who also act in our shows. In addition, Barrier-Free has a partnership with McDaniel College to welcome student interns into our companies. Our interns are pursuing a variety of degrees that include but are not limited to, psychology, theater, education, counseling, or biology (genetics). Our student interns have the opportunity to earn credit through their internships with Barrier-Free.
When our company members come together in an inclusive space, we are all equal contributors to the inclusive theater process. Barrier-Free uses equitable practices to ensure all of our actors can succeed to their highest potential while working together towards our final production goal of bringing our show to the stage.
2. No idea is too crazy.
At Barrier-Free our tagline is "Create. Express. Achieve." for a reason. The musicals our inclusive theater companies create are all original. We spend many weeks of our Inclusive Theater season exploring "improvisational acting." This means that our actors work together in small groups to create scenes. This scene-work begins with the instruction to "make an improv scene with a beginning, middle, and end." There is no given direction as to what setting, characters, or plot elements to include as our director is waiting to see what ideas our actors bring to the creative table.
As these scenes are created, we discover common, reoccurring ideas. For example, we may see many scenes taking place on an island, or in outer space. Once we've determined a setting, we explore these in our improv scenes. We start to see actors connect to certain characters, and we encourage them to explore and develop these ideas.
After we have settings and characters, we begin to explore plot lines. Our improv scenes now have more direction from the director. For example, the direction may be, "Your scene begins with lost travelers arriving to an island, finish the scene with your improv group." Every step of the improvisational acting is intentional and leads us to creating our final show.
Once we've landed on a setting, characters, and plot our director brings the ideas to life with a final written script, and our music composer creates the original songs and scores for the shows. Next stop - rehearsing with our script!
3. Social skill work is embedded into the inclusive theater process.
Inclusive theater rehearsals begin with everyone sitting in a circle, greeting one another. When you enter the space, before rehearsal starts you'll hear the room buzzing with conversations and excitement. These organic conversations are proof of the relationships and connections formed between actors. When rehearsal officially starts, we check-in about our weeks and share updates before warming-up. Check-ins are a time to practice conversation skills such as active listening, asking follow-up questions, and sharing responses of support for one another.
Each rehearsal has built-in break time, another perfect opportunity for actors to socialize, take pictures, and spend time forming friendships and connections. Barrier-Free teaching artists use this time to ensure any newcomers are included into conversations, and help to facilitate social connection between actors. Just by engaging with one another during rehearsals, our actors are learning and enhancing their social skills.
Want even more social-based programming? Barrier-Free offers a monthly social club outing where individuals of diverse abilities come together to enjoy all the community has to offer, foster new friendships, and develop a sense of confidence and independence in society.
4. We have an incredible founder - Sally Bailey.
Barrier-Free's Creative Director, Britt Burr, earned her M.A. in Drama Therapy from Kansas State University. While there, Britt studied under Sally Bailey RDT/BCT, MSW, MFA, and learned the Barrier-Free Theatre method. Sally has dedicated her career to using drama therapy methods to serve recovering substance abusers and individuals with disabilities. She now serves the field in her role as Director of Graduate Studies in Theatre and Director of the Drama Therapy Program, by educating future drama therapists on her Barrier-Free Theatre methodology.
After graduating from K State, Britt returned home to Maryland and, with permission and continued guidance from Sally Bailey, brought Barrier-Free Theatre to her local community. In 2019, "Barrier-Free Theatre Company of Maryland" became "Barrier-Free" you know today, as we expanded our staffing, programming, and mission.
While we have grown and expanded through the years, Barrier-Free will always be thankful for our roots and Sally Bailey for laying the foundation of this incredible work.
Learn more at Sally's website http://www.dramatherapycentral.com/
5. Our actors bring their character ideas to life.
Have you ever wanted to be 1920's flapper? What about a permanent vacationer? Inclusive theater is the perfect outlet for all of actor's creative desires. As we develop a setting, our actors create a character that they enjoy. During the improvisational acting portion of our process, the actors and staff work on character development through their improv scenes. Our actors make intentional decisions about their character's personality, actions, and purpose in our show.
Oh, and the character's names - chosen by the actors! As we say in our core values - no idea is too wacky, "we welcome it all at Barrier-Free!"
6. The curtain call.
Ask any actor, and they'll tell you that the curtain call (when the actors take their bows) is very special to conclusion of a show. If you've never experienced a curtain call for an inclusive theater production - you're missing out and we recommend adding it to your bucket list immediately.
Individuals with disabilities fight very hard for visibility, equality, and equitable treatment in society. At our inclusive theater performances, our actors have the opportunity to show how truly talented they are as they sing, dance, and perform their hearts out on stage! When our actors come center stage to take their bows, and hear the audience's applause, all for them, the reaction is priceless. In that moment, our actors have been seen, heard, and appreciated for their abilities and work. It is truly a magical moment.
7. Inclusive theater fills the heart.
Our actors spend 7 months in our inclusive theater seasons, working to bring our shows to life.
This means 7 months of:
Trust us... each inclusive theater rehearsal or show will leave your heart filled the brim with hope, love, and inspiration.
So... if these seven reasons why inclusive theater is the best type of theater still haven't convinced you, we invite you to come check out our work for yourself. We have a feeling that if you just come once, you'll be hooked. So what's stopping you? Find out about volunteering opportunities on our website or contact us at info@BarrierFreeMD.com to get started.
“Get those creative juices pumping!” said Lisa Feltz, owner and operator of Meltdown DiY Art Studio, as she welcomed each social clubber into her shop.
Prior to starting her own business, Lisa was a special educator in the school system for many years. And her experience shows! One-by-one she greeted each participant with a smile and engaged in a conversation that was seamless and unique to them—guiding them in choosing the best colors that fit their style.
Then, we stepped right up for a brief introduction to pottery glazing 101! “No lights on darks. Darks on lights.” Got it. “Glaze is not paint. It will dry differently.” Understood.
We were led back to our table and we glazed our bowls, plates, and mugs. Besides Lisa offering her continued expertise and support throughout the glazing process, the best part of the night was simply sitting, painting, and talking.
That is the purpose of social club, right?! Conversations are scary sometimes. What do I say? How do I start? What do we even talk about? Sometimes connections are hard to make. Luckily, activities bring us together and help bridge that gap!
“What are you painting?!”
“Hey! That looks cool!”
“Can I borrow that color?”
“You’re making a superman symbol?! I love superman!”
Social clubs, quite literally, give us something to talk about! From there, we can use these skills and apply them to the real world. Plus, it’s fun!
Before you know it, the room is filled with chatter and laughter—with companionship and
The only sad part of all of this was that it had to end! Plus, we had to practice our patience
waiting to see our finished product after they were heated in the kiln!
All in all, an amazing social club!
Barrier-Free highly recommends Meltdown DiY Art Studio in Eldersburg!
Thank you, Lisa, for a great experience!
What a long, fun-filled day we had at Hershey Park on Saturday! After meeting at the Westminster Community Center, the 20 Barrier-Free social clubbers piled into staff cars and rode to Hershey Park!
The first stop everyone made? The Chocolate World Tour, of course! The groups divided and followed the journey of how Hershey's chocolate is made--from cocoa beans to shipping. The ride included singing cows, talking chocolate, and a small treat at the end! It was a great way to start the day, and gave everyone a chance to see, smell, and learn about the chocolate-making process!
After Chocolate World, we made our way into Hershey Park. There was so much to do and see. Some of our more adventurous friends--led by our adventurous staff member, Britt, went immediately for the big rides! They chose to do the sooperdooperLooper, the first ever looping roller coaster on the East Coast. It’s a 57-foot tall coaster with one big vertical loop, followed by all sorts of dips, drops, and bunny hills. Other social clubbers, who love thrills, but not loops, rode the Wave Swinger, a classic ride that allows riders to fly through the air and see the park. The third group, those of us who aren’t big fans of rides all together, had some lunch while we waited.
Our second stop was Reese’s Cupfusion-- a video game-based ride where gamers are secret agents tasked with protecting the chocolate factory to ensure that the world never goes without the Reese’s Cup. Our agents did exceptionally well, and everyone came out with a smile on their face.
The entire group went together to ride the Monorail. With open windows, we were able to see everything as we rode above Hershey Park, ZooAmerica, and historic downtown Hershey. We even saw the actual Hershey factory! It was a pleasant ride, and a nice midday break before going back to coasters.
The sun started to set when we exited the Monorail, and the holiday lights came on! There were lights everywhere! Santa’s Sleigh could be seen on top of the Comet, being pulled by all his reindeer, and all the trees lit our way as we walked to our next adventure.
Britt led her thrill-seekers to the Sidewinder-- a coaster that goes forwards and backwards, for a total of 6 loops! The rest of us enjoyed Founder’s Way, a section of the park that holds amusement classics such as the Carrousel, the Tilt-a-Whirl, and the Scrambler. Skyview, a ski lift that brings riders over the park, was a fan-favorite. Social clubbers bought keychains, clothing, and candy for souvenirs!
Below is a short video of some of our friends getting ready to ride!
We finished our day back at Hershey’s Chocolate World. Exhausted from such an action-packed day, we found some tables and got some dinner. We exchanged stories and heard all about roller coasters and shopping! A few people asked if we were going to come back. We certainly hope so!
After dinner, we packed up and walked back to our cars. We continued sharing stories from the day, of friendships that were created, and the fun times that were had. We met everyone’s parents/counselors back at the Westminster Community Center and bid them farewell.
We are so happy with how the day went! We were thrilled to see the fun that everyone had. We are approaching the end of the year, and can’t wait for our next social outing in January at Meltdown DiY Art Studio in Eldersburg, Maryland!
About our Blog
The Barrier-Free blog exists as a space to share Barrier-Free news, helpful information, and a creative sharing space.