By Kat Allen 

AKRON, OH (Sept. 23, 2021) Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board (Summit DD), Advancing Independence Network, Akron-Summit County Public Library, Direction Home Akron Canton, the City of Akron, and the team behind the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival collaborated to offer a variety of accessibility elements for this summer’s outdoor dance festival.

The partners worked to develop and implement solutions focused on inclusion and accessibility designed to continue the tradition of free public performances that are open to all.

For 47 consecutive years, the City of Akron has presented free professional dance performances in city parks, and this summer marked the 14th annual Heinz Poll Dance Festival.

“Dedicated partners, advocates, and artists working in tandem are proving that together we can work to build a more inclusive community where all people can be acknowledged, welcomed, and respected,” shares Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan. “This is a phenomenal example of our community’s cultural plan in action, and together we can increase opportunities for all residents and visitors to experience vibrant arts and culture.”

“First, we had an opportunity to tour the Heinz Poll sites, meet with incredible people, and through conversation, we began to recognize some things that could enhance experiences. It was so beautiful to see,” shares Lynnette Klejka, senior manager, Community Supports & Development at Summit DD.

“Helping our guests of all ages and abilities feel more included, seen, or welcomed is a critical part of our mission,” says Jane Startzman, director of Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival. “We are so grateful to our community partners for helping us provide these solutions, and we look forward to exploring more ways to work together in the future.”

At the Heinz Poll Dance Festival, guests were offered alternative parking options for those with limited mobility, sensory bags with items like noise-canceling headphones, fidget spinners to help focus, and a visual timer or watch. Representatives from Summit DD also staffed a booth to welcome guests and explain educational resources, accessible porta-potties, and large print programs.

For more information about ArtsNow, please visit artsnow.org.

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company performs at the 2021 Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival. Photo by Dale Dong.

Nicole Mullet, Executive Director

ArtsNow works to leverage the arts and culture in Summit County to support and strengthen the region’s economic and social vibrancy. Learn more at ArtsNow.org

The Akron-Summit County Public Library provides resources for learning and leisure, information services, meeting spaces, and programs for all ages that support, improve, and enrich individual, family, and community life. Learn more at AkronLibrary.org.

Summit DD is a levy-funded agency that supports adults and children with developmental disabilities in Summit County. Learn more SummitDD.org.

Advancing Independence Inc., formerly known as Tri-County Independent Living Center, is a non-residential, non-profit organization whose Board of Directors and staff is comprised of a majority of persons with various disabilities. Learn more at ainohio.org.

Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities provides choices for people to live independently in the place they want to call home. Learn more at dhad.org.

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