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Design and Art Fields Case Study

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Sarah and Artwork: A Case Study in Accommodating Mobility Impairments

Background
My name is Sarah. I am a senior majoring in art history. When I was 18, I was in a car accident which resulted in paralysis on the right half of my body. I wanted to take a weaving class as an elective to learn how to weave on a loom.

Access Issue
I use a wheelchair for mobility and cannot use my right arm or hand. All of the looms were floor looms that required working from the floor. Trying to operate this equipment would create a balancing problem for me.

Solution
I met with my instructor prior to registering for the class and toured the studio with the weaving looms. My instructor was aware of table looms that are wheelchair accessible. Although the art department could have purchased one, the instructor knew of a local weaving group that owned one that could be borrowed. In addition, because warping the loom requires two hands, we decided that I would learn the process, but have another student physically warp the loom and assist with holding the yarn when necessary. With these accommodations in place at the beginning of the semester, I was able to take the class and meet my goals.

Conclusion
This case study illustrates that:

  1. Art equipment can be made accessible to students with disabilities.

  2. Preplanning and site visits are important when special equipment and accommodations are necessary as they take time to obtain and set up.

  3. Creativity, resourcefulness, and networking with community groups can be helpful when locating appropriate artwork accommodations.

  4. Appropriate accommodations need to be provided in all courses, including electives, so that students with disabilities can access the classes.