IBCF Featured in July Issue of Special Needs Living Magazine
By: Seth Johnson
In their July issue, Special Needs Living Magazine published a story spotlighting the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation which specifically highlighted the No Limits Arts Series and its origins. Click here to view the full story.
The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF), in partnership with the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI), was awarded the Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. in December 2018 to create, launch, and sustain the No Limits Arts Series.
A multi-faceted arts initiative, the No Limits Arts Series is centered on strengthening accessibility not only in arts organizations throughout Marion County, but also at ISBVI. As a part of this series, IBCF hosts an annual No Limits Celebration and Kick-Off event every July on the anniversary weekend of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law. Each year, an artist takes the stage at the No Limits Celebration that mirrors the strengths and abilities of the children ISBVI and IBCF serve.
Having hosted artists such as acclaimed jazz pianist Matthew Whitaker and Grammy award-winning bluegrass fiddler Michael Cleveland in recent years, IBCF will welcome esteemed singer-songwriter A.J. Croce to the ISBVI stage on July 22 for the 2023 No Limits Celebration.
“The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation is passionate about bringing high-caliber artists to the ISBVI auditorium stage each year whose career and artistry shine a light on abilities and confront perceived notions surrounding those with vision impairments. A.J. Croce is a multi-talented performer - pianist, singer, and songwriter, who will transform the audience musically and challenge any limiting perceptions,” says IBCF executive director Laura Alvarado.
Reflecting upon inclusiveness at ISBVI, the school auditorium underwent a major transformation in 2018 as part of the grant from Lily Endowment Inc., upgrading all the audio and lighting technology and integrating video and wheelchair seating for the first time. The auditorium now serves as a learning laboratory for artistic classes and endeavors with students, as well as a public space for films and performances, making the campus more of a community gathering space.
In addition to accessible seating, the 2023 No Limits Celebration will also have assistive listening devices, open captioning, ASL interpretation, Braille and large print programs, and audio description available, ensuring the event is accessible to all.
MEET THE NO LIMITS LEADERSHIP CLUB
While welcoming the community onto the campus of ISBVI for accessible arts experiences, the No Limits Arts Series also encompasses another component. Headed up by IBCF executive director Laura Alvarado and ISBVI staff member Tara Abella, the No Limits Leadership Club is an after-school club comprised of ISBVI high school-aged students who are nominated by ISBVI teachers based on their outstanding character in the classroom.
The Leadership Club meets weekly throughout the school year to learn ways to strengthen their voice, increase knowledge surrounding advocacy, develop leadership skills, and connect to their community. Every school year, the No Limits Leadership Club also partners with a local arts organization, helping to address the inequities for access in each arts organization, create and implement solutions together that dissolve physical and social barriers to inclusion, and widen doors for all people with disabilities as increased access evolves in each partner organization and beyond.
Since 2019, the No Limits Leadership Club has partnered with several prominent arts organizations in the Indianapolis area, including ArtMix, Eiteljorg Museum, Heartland Film, Capital City Chorus, Phoenix Theatre, and Dance Kaleidoscope. Most recently, the Leadership Club also teamed up with Conner Prairie in the spring of 2023, advising the Hamilton County living history museum on ways they can be more accessible to all.
After welcoming the Conner Prairie staff to ISBVI and giving them a tour of the school, the No Limits Leadership Club made several visits to Conner Prairie throughout the 2023 spring semester, touring the museum’s indoor space in the winter months before eventually exploring their outdoor space in the spring. As part of these visits, the No Limits Leadership Club students led the Conner Prairie staff in some unique exercises, including one where the staff was able to walk in the students’ shoes.
“When we were at Conner Prairie, we decided to teach some of the staff members on a daily living tool that us blind and visually impaired people use, and that is the white cane,” says No Limits Leadership Club member Dylan, who graduated from ISBVI in May. “We had different sets of goggles to match our vision levels. They used a cane, had the goggles on, and walked with us to get an experience of how we navigate in our daily lives.”
Through taking part in this student-led exercise, the Conner Prairie staff was truly able to understand what improvements need to be made to their museum to make it more accessible to individuals who are blind and visually impaired.
“We noticed that when the staff were wearing the goggles that a lot of them said things that a lot of us related to,” says No Limits Leadership Club member Minnie. “The staff observed some improvements that could be made to the accessibility of the museum, and the only way they would’ve known that they needed to improve on those things was through experiencing our vision.”
After going through her first year in the No Limits Leadership Club, Minnie ultimately appreciates the ways in which it has helped her grow.
“It is a club you have once a week that helps you build your confidence in yourself and the way you present yourself. But also, at the same time, you’re a part of something that’s helping to make other arts organizations more accessible,” Minnie says. “I think it’s a good opportunity to improve your self-confidence, while also helping to make arts organizations more accessible.”