I begin this post by quoting from an announcement for a new book that contains essays that I co-authored with my excellent colleagues and one piece that I wrote as a sole author.
“Redefine/ABLE: Challenging Inaccessibility aims to inform audiences about disability issues, to share the challenges and success stories of those with disabilities, and to identify ways we can create more accessible, inclusive spaces.”
This book includes content from the Redefine/ABLE exhibition hosted by the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture as well as essays contributed by project collaborators. Instructions to get a copy are at the end of this post.
The Redefine/ABLE exhibition was a collaboration between University of Maryland graphic design students and members of the disability community in Maryland. It was scheduled to open in two physical spaces, the University of Maryland, College Park, and in downtown Baltimore, in mid-March 2020. Like so many events, the physical exhibitions were suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Redefine/ABLE was also scheduled as an online exhibition to open in March 2020, but the pandemic delayed the website launch to July 2020. Between March and July 2020, many of the contributors wrote, or re-wrote their essays in response to the pandemic.
Two essays describe the online exhibition and associated programs that were held in July and August of 2020.
• An Exhibition Redefined by a Pandemic by Audra Buck-Coleman
• Redefining Redefine/ABLE: From Access to Inclusion at the Peale by Nancy Proctor
Content Written Before the Pandemic
The exhibition panels designed by University of Maryland Students present what they learned about accessibility for people with disabilities in a pre-pandemic world (fall 2019 semester through March 2020). The panel titles are:
• Discover/ABLE: What does it mean to be disabled?
• Deny/ABLE: What isn’t accessible?
• Access/ABLE: How are objects and spaces inclusive?
• Confront/ABLE: What does it mean to be ableist?
• Relate/ABLE: What do we have in common?
One essay does not mention the pandemic. It is “Listen Very Carefully” by Ruth Lozner
Content Written During the Pandemic
As we prepared for the website launch in July 2020, we wrote two essays that expanded on the exhibition themes.
“The interconnected-ness of Covid-19 to discrimination against the disabled” gives examples of pandemic responses that had negative effects on people with disabilities. Both Audra Buck-Coleman and I have undergraduate degrees in journalism. Writing this piece on current events drew on that training.
“Bearing witness to the ableism embedded within the pandemic” is a Q&A between Audra, me, and a third colleague, Robin Marquis, offering our personal reflections on this topic.
Contributors discussed how access to museum exhibits changed during the pandemic. I wrote a first draft of my essay “Please Do Touch the Art!” in February 2020. Later, I expanded the essay to incorporate my thoughts about ways museums could continue to display touch objects during the pandemic.
I also recommend the essay by Kevin Bacon and Lara Perry “Technology, Covid-19, and accessibility: Challenges and opportunities for museums”.
Finally, Audra Buck-Coleman, NALIYAH KAYA, and I described “Five Accessibility and Inclusion Insights from Producing an Exhibition During Covid-19”.
How to Get This Book
This book is available as a free download from The Peale Center’s website A pay-for-print version via Blurb.com will be available soon. Check the same link for an order form.