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Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability

About LEAD - What is LEAD?

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A woman in a wheelchair coming down the Grand Foyer in the Kennedy Center.  The Foyer has bright red carpeting, gold and glass chandeliers, and two large banners reading “Opera House” and “Concert Hall” are visible on the left.

In August of 2000, a small group of cultural arts administrators – all of whom were responsible for accessibility at their respective cultural arts organization – gathered at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. to discuss institutional cultural arts and disability issues. While the level of experience among participants ranged from more than 20 years in the field to less than six months on the job, everyone shared one common goal: the desire to create accessible cultural arts programs that are inclusive of people with disabilities and older adults.

That initial group has now grown into a professional network focused on expanding the breadth and scope of accessibility services and programming across the country and around the world. The Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) network:

  • explores practical methods for implementing accessibility in cultural environments;
  • communicates information about arts and accessibility, and;
  • shares resources and knowledge among professionals in the field of accessibility.

LEAD accomplishes its objectives through an annual conference, an active communications network, and resources generated by the LEAD network and maintained by the Kennedy Center.

Annual Conference:

The conference features dozens of educational seminars on topics such as physical and programmatic access; universal and socially sustainable design; employment; legal issues, such as the impact of federal and state legislation, rules, and regulations on cultural arts organizations; marketing strategies; and planning, leadership, and advocacy. Participants exchange ideas, learn best practices and how to develop sound policies, and participate in discussions with leaders in the field. Other highlights of the annual conference include accessible performances, technology demonstrations, and resource rooms.

Click here for information on the 2014 annual conference!



  • An active listserv and email network was established in 2003 to keep LEAD members from coast to coast connected to one another to share ideas, obstacles, and solutions.
  • Phone conference discussions to address topical issues

Founding Organizations:

  • Accessible Arts Inc., represented by Martin English
  • Arena Stage, represented by Jody Barasch
  • Artability, represented by Cindy Brown
  • Arts For All, represented by Wendall Barnes
  • Arvada Center, represented by Mickey McVey
  • Center Stage represented by Michele Baylin and Mike Watson
  • Cultural Access Consortium, represented by Judy Berk
  • ELA Foundation, represented by Deborah Lewis
  • Huntington Theatre, represented by Valerie Ching
  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, represented by Bret Burzio, Michele Listisard, and Betty Siegel
  • The Kentucky Center for the Arts, represented by Deborah Pennell
  • Kravis Center, represented by Meri McGuiness and Vanessa Young
  • Orange County Performing Arts Center, represented by Larry Stotz
  • Oregon Shakespeare Festival, represented by Brian Kinsey
  • Paper Mill Playhouse, represented by Michael Mooney
  • Raleigh Little Theatre, represented by Sarah Corrin
  • Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, represented by Bob Leyes
  • Shakespeare Theatre, represented by Alicia Fansmith

"The opportunity to meet colleagues and share similar challenges provides as much professional development as the sessions themselves."
– Ruth Feldman, Yale Repertory Theatre picture of a linebreak


Contact Us

For additional information, please contact the Kennedy Center Accessibility Office at 202/416-8727 (voice); 202/416-8728 (TTY); 202/416-8802 (fax); or via email at