The Art of Inclusion

Roger Ideishi is a pioneer in the Philadelphia area for transforming public places into welcoming spaces, especially for families of children with disabilities. During the past four years, Ideishi has focused his work of transforming the city’s theatres, museums and concert halls from places where families with special needs children felt isolated and scrutinized, into welcoming havens where no one is judged.

Partnering with local cultural and arts institutions for training and education, Ideishi takes time to meet with the individual institution to make a tailored plan to focus on how best to accommodate the young patrons with special needs. Working with producers, directors and production crews, Ideishi finds out what small tweaks can be made to a performance to make it more accommodating. This can be as simple as informing families of expected loud noises in the program, or asking the sound crew to temper the volume slightly during the most intense pieces. Ideishi’s work is not only confined to Philadelphia, he has also worked with cultural organizations across the U.S. such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum, as well as collaborating with colleagues in Australia and the U.K.

“One of my agendas is that these organizations fundamentally change the way that they view accommodations, the way they view disability, so it becomes an inherent part of everything they do,” says Ideishi. “Not just what’s easiest to do, such as, ‘Let’s put a ramp in at the entryway,’ but to really create ‘ramps’ for every single person, whether they need a cognitive ramp or a sensory ramp or a hearing ramp.” Ideishi says his goal is to maintain the integrity of the performance or exhibit, not to create a special event for those with special needs. “We’re trying to create an inclusive environment that everybody can come to and experience the same thing.”

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