The Drew Performing Arts Access Coordinators (DPAAC), is a student group and newly official club, which spent its pilot year training 25 students in audio description, captioning for pre-scripted performances and accessible audience engagement practices.
As a group dedicated to ensuring accessibility at Theatre and Dance Department performances, DPAAC created Drew’s first ever audio-described production with a pre-show sensory seminar for “The Angry Brigade” in February 2022 and the university’s first open-captioned production during “Working” this past month.
Jen Arias (’25), a member of the captioning team of Working who joined DPAAC as a first-year Action Scholar, said, “Our group has a long way to go but I have a lot of pride in what we’ve been able to do so far.”
DPAAC’s student members accomplished these two goals in its pilot year with the guidance of an advisory group consisting of students and community members who provide insight on how to make productions accessible from their lived experiences of being in the community of people with disabilities.
Arias said her biggest takeaway was how much mutual benefit and enrichment exists when performing spaces are made more accessible. She also said it made her quickly realize how extensive a lack of accessibility is in existing campus spaces. ”
Preethi Rao (‘24) agreed with her. “As members of a community, we should help and support each other, which includes accessibility practices in community areas,” said Rao, who is a member of the executive board. Rao said, “It is very important to provide spaces where people feel genuinely included and incorporate disability justice and access practices through everything, especially productions.”
On April 19, the Club advisor and Chair of the Theatre and Dance Department Lisa Brenner honored DPAAC during the Civic Engagement Awards by presenting the club with a Collaborative Action Award.
“By ensuring that Drew performances are welcoming and accessible to the entire community, DPAAC not only expands the audience; it also increases the awareness, skills, and sensibilities of all Drew students, regardless of ability,” Brenner said. “[DPAAC will be] showing all of us how accessibility can help us be more creative in our approaches and our interactions–in the arts and beyond.”
Next academic year, DPAAC will be audio-describing and captioning multiple pre-scripted productions in both semesters, as well as hosting opportunities to educate student leaders on accessibility practices that are transferable to club life.
Sydney Sieb (’23) said she hopes DPAAC will gain prominence in the Drew community and be incorporated into theater classes. “Then people can really learn about what it means to have accessible shows, and create more accessible shows, not just here but outside of Drew as well.”
DPAAC is recruiting new members for next semester with no prior experience necessary. If you’re interested in learning more about DPAAC, reach out to Abby Kirsopp (‘25) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Maddy Hilferty (’25) at email@example.com.