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Slide 1

Jan - Hello, and thank you for joining us today for the series Express Yourself: Accessing the Visual Arts-Part 1 . My name is Jan Rogers and I am the Program Director of the AT Center at OCALI. OCALI is the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence. We serve families, educators and professionals working with students with low incidence disabilities and autism. Our mission is to build state- and system-wide capacity to improve outcomes through leadership, training and professional development, technical assistance, collaboration and technology.

Mary Jo - And I am Mary Jo Wendling, the Director of the Toy and Technology Library at Nisonger UCEDD and an occupational therapist at Dublin City Schools.  The Toy and Technology Library is a lending library for families of children with disabilities housed at the Nisonger Center on the campus of the Ohio State University. Our mission is to enhance development and play skills of children with special needs, and to provide support and resources regarding computer technology, interactive play and adapted toys. This service is available free to families of children with special needs in Ohio.

Slide 2 - Jan

During this series, we will discuss the reasons why it is important to increase access to the visual arts for students with disabilities through the use of assistive technologies. We will identify and describe the adaptable components of the visual arts, as well as describe various adaptions and modifications for a wide range of disabilities.  Specifically, in part one of the series we will address the following learning objectives:

The participant will be able to:

  1. describe five reasons why it is important to increase access to the visual arts for students with disabilities
  2. identify and describe the four adaptable component of the visual arts
  3. describe three adaptions, modification or assistive technologies for each component

Let’s begin the discussion by talking about our underlying beliefs about individuals with disabilities and participation in the arts.

Slide 3 - Mary Jo

Marcel Proust wrote: "Only through art can we emerge from ourselves and know what another person sees." When we see art as the universal language that has the ability to unite all people, we understand the importance it has in the lives of people with disabilities. For a person who cannot speak, a dance performance may clearly communicate even the most complicated message. For a person with a mental disability who cannot communicate effectively through words, a painting rich with color and life may say more than verbal sentences ever could. And, for a person who has limited mobility, a song sung with emotion and spirit may elicit movement toward a state of clarity and joy. By engaging in the arts, people with disabilities are able to greatly contribute to our workplaces and communities, help extinguish old stereotypes regarding disability, and create a global culture truly representative of all people.

This was taken from the VSA website and highlights our first underlying belief which participation in all areas of the arts is possible for ALL students regardless of disability type or severity.

Slide 4 - Mary Jo

Secondly, we believe that inclusion in the arts does not mean only socialization with peers in an art setting, which is too often the case, but it should be about active participation in the art activities that are typically provided for all students.  This may mean a shift in your views of your students’ abilities. We are going to challenge you to look at each student’s unique strengths and needs and then assume the student will develop competence when they are provided with the correct supports and assistive technologies. This may not always be easy, but we know it is possible.

Slide 5 - Mary Jo

This webinar is specifically about the visual arts. So, how are we defining the visual arts. The visual arts are not just painting or drawing, but also include ceramics, photography, textiles, sculpting, carving, design and print making, just to list a few.

Slide 6  - Mary Jo

There is much research to support the link among the arts, particularly the visual arts in the development of pre-academic skills.  The arts have been linked to enhancing fine motor, visual motor, sequencing, cause and effect, attending, directionality, sensory, visual perceptual, motivation and engagement.  Each of these has been shown to contribute to academic development in the areas noted on the slide.

Slide 7 - Mary Jo

The visual arts also provide the opportunity for a great deal of adaptability, because of the nature of the tasks and activities.  Products can be individualized so that student work can be valued for the aesthetics, rather than in comparison to the work of others.  The process can be individualized so that the path to completion can support the strengths of each student. Time lines can be flexible such that students can complete projects or components of projects at their own pace.  Work can be individual or collaborative, as well as participatory and interactive. Many students find the arts to be highly engaging because of the multimodal interaction.

Slide 8 - Jan

Additionally the arts often provide opportunities for student success for those who may not find success in typical academic areas, as well as an opportunity for creative expression and exploration.  Finally and maybe most importantly participation in the arts can allow students alternate ways to engage with academic content, as well as show what they know through alternate forms of expression.

Slide 9 - Jan

Now we are going to talk about Universal Design for Learning also known as UDL and how the arts and UDL are connected.  UDL is a framework for curriculum development that gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.

UDL assumes that the curriculum is the barrier not the student’s disability

Slide 10 - Jan

The following video demonstrates the key components of UDL (play movie here). As you will saw in the video there are many examples of the visual arts being used within the implementation of a UDL framework. Within this framework students are offered the opportunity to express what they know in different ways, to receive information in many different formats and engage in learning activities and materials that tap into their strengths and interests.

Slide 11 - Jan

The more students with disabilities have access to the visual arts the more potential they have to access information and show what they know in math, language arts, social studies, science, and other academic areas through the UDL framework.

The link on the bottom of the slide is for the Center for Applied Special Technology,  more commonly referred to as CAST.  There is more information for learning about UDL as well as model UDL lesson plans and templates for building your own UDL lesson plans available on this website.

Slide 12 - Mary Jo

The adaptability of the visual arts is related to various components. The components are the tools, medium, surface and process.  Any of these can be easily adapted or modified to meet the needs of your students.  Let’s now look at each of these components separately and talk a little about how they might be easily adapted to meet a variety of student needs.

Slide 13 - Mary Jo

The tool is the implement the artist uses to apply the medium. There can be standard tools that are used by the general population to create the visual arts. You can also custom modify standard tools if the traditional way of using the tool is a barrier to student participation. You might notice the paintbrush that has been mounted on a fireman’s hat so the student can use her head to move the paint brush rather than her hand and arm. Alternate purpose tools are items that may be traditionally used for another purpose, but can instead be used for art activities such as the picture of the toilet bowl brush on the slide. The housewares department of a store is a good place to look for these types of items. You just need a little creativity to think about how the items might be used as art tools rather than for their standard purpose.  Finally there are commercially adapted tools specifically to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities such as the switch adapted camera and tripod by Enabling Devices that is shown on the slide.

Slide 14 - Mary Jo

These are additional examples of custom adapted tools. Often, easily available materials can be used to modify common objects into an art tool or a holder for a marker or a crayon. The examples in this picture are different ways to accommodate grasp and independent movement patterns. You need to be able to observe how your students hold, manipulate and move objects with their hands and then you can look at what you have in the environment to help accommodate for these needs. An occupational or physical therapist can help with the brain storming of ideas.

Slide 15 - Mary Jo

This slide shows a few examples of alternate purpose tools. In the top picture you see several different types of kitchen tools that require different grasping patterns. Matching the handle to the type of grasp is an important aspect to student success. The bottom picture shows different paint tools that are commonly used for home improvements, however these also make nice options for art production.

Slide 16 - Mary Jo

The graphic on this slide shows the continuum of adapted art tools. Typically we start with low-tech tools, as these are often more available and also typically require the least amount of training for use.  Mid-tech tools usually have some type of electronic components and are most often operated with batteries.  They generally require less training than higher-tech solutions, but more than lower-tech solutions.  High-tech tools are usually computer or processor based, and often offer many different features that can be accessed if needed. These tools typically require the most amount of training to use effectively. Also, it is important to note that just as in other areas of curriculum, in art, a student may use many different tools across this continuum, depending on the project needs.

Slide 17 - Jan

Medium is the substance the artist uses to create the art. There is a wide range of mediums that are used within art. Each offers unique features that may be useful in meeting an individual student’s needs. Some provide a resistive quality that provides more feedback for certain students who have limited sensation, such as charcoal on paper. Others glide effortlessly over a surface meeting the needs of students who have limited strength or movement such as watercolor paints and some markers. For some students the feel or smell of the medium can be challenging. For those students the medium may need to be altered to meet their sensory processing needs.

Slide 18 - Jan

The surface is the area where the medium is applied.  Again there is a wide range of surface characteristics and the options that offer an array of ways to meet student needs. Rough surfaces provide more resistance and therefore more feedback to a student and may therefore aid in more engagement in the development of the art product. Surfaces with bright colors may be easier for individuals to see who have low vision challenges. And surfaces that are in a vertical plane such as on easels may provide yet another way to support visual challenges. These are just a couple of examples of how the surface can impact and support art access for those with disabilities.

Slide 19 - Jan

It is important to remember that you should allow yourself to think creatively about how you might use the various materials. The materials do not necessarily fit exclusively and neatly into only one of the categories. This slide shows an example of paper being used as a tool, medium and surface, but under different circumstances and with different types of art projects.  Really the sky is the limit in terms of thinking about how you might use all the various types of materials to create a beautiful product that is both accessible and engaging to a student who might not be able to create something in the usual way.

Slide 20 - Jan

The process is the fourth component. This is the “how” of  the product development.  Modifications may include looking at the position of the student, media or tools, the sequence of steps and number of steps, the type of participation whether alone or with a partner and the process outcome or product. All of these things are fairly easy to adapt with minimal effort.

Slide 21 - Jan

At times you may need to simply modify one of the components shown on the slide for a student to successfully engage in art activities. For example, you may need to just change the angle of the surface by putting the paper on an easel to increase accessibility.  But more often, you will need to adapt several of these components.  For example, a student may need the tool grip enlarged, as well as a modification of the surface and medium to provide less resistance due to a weak grasp.

Slide 22 - Jan

Finally, beyond the specific adaptations to the components (tools, medium, surface and process) during the actual art process, there are also strategies that can be employed to prepare materials, environments, and students to make art experiences more successful.   Many of these strategies would occur prior to the student engaging in the art activity. 

Slide 23 - Mary Jo

Environmental considerations should include taking a good look at the art room or the space where the art process will occur and asking questions such as the following:

Is there ample workspace for each student even those that may have special mobility or seating needs?

Is the level of clutter in the room a reasonable amount for distractible students to remain engaged in the art activities without becoming distracted by all the interesting things to see?

How good is the lighting in the room? Is it possible to offer areas of high intensity lighting for those who may have low vision needs?

Do the desks and chairs fit the students in terms of allowing for functional and supportive seating positions?

These are just a few examples of possible environmental considerations and preparations when working with students with disabilities.

Slide 24 - Mary Jo

Now let’s consider the preparation of materials. You may want to ask yourself questions such as:

Are materials found in consistent locations so that students with cognitive limitations or students who need predictability can locate the materials easily?

Is it clear which materials will be shared and which may be used individually?

Is it easy to determine which materials will be needed for completion of the current art project.

Again these are just a few of the questions that you may want to consider before students even arrive to begin work on art projects

Slide 25 - Mary Jo

Finally, students sometimes need personal preparation to enter into activities that may relate to art experiences. Discussions with students prior to participation in art activities that center around general work expectations, project sequences, time lines, and behavior expectations can all make for improved success in art participation. Most students do not need to know these social and educational rules up-front. They are able to determine the rules and adapt accordingly during day-to-day activities without explicit discussion and training. Some students with disabilities however, find it difficult to determine these rules naturalistically and do in fact need explicit instruction on expectations.

Slide 26 - Jan

Now for a recap of what we learned in this webinar: (CLICK, CLICK) We began with a discussion of our underlying beliefs about art and individuals with disabilities. We hope that you can now see why it is important to carry those beliefs as the basis for your actions. Without those beliefs you may not push your students to their full potential. Not a single one of your students should ever be a passive participant when it comes to art!!! (CLICK, CLICK) We then looked at all the secondary benefits of being an active participant in the visual arts.  There are academic benefits, well-being benefits and the access to the arts can lead to greater participation in all academic areas through UDL.  (CLICK, CLICK) Next came a discussion of the various adaptable components of the arts and we provided you with several examples of adaptions in each area to start your creative thinking about the endless possibilities.  (CLICK, CLICK) Finally we discussed the need to make sure the environment and students are both considered and some of the supports that may be needed to “set the stage” before the student even enters into the actual art experience.  We want you to continue to think about all of these things as they will be the foundation for our discussions in the next webinar when we will delve more deeply into very specific accommodations, modifications and AT solutions for specific types of student needs such as physical disabilities, low vision, communication, cognitive challenges, sensory processing difficulties and others.

Slide 27 - Jan

This concludes part one of the series Express Yourself: Accessing the Visual Arts. Thank you for participating in this webinar. Please plan to join us for part 2 of this series.

Discover the potential for adapting and modifying tools, surfaces, mediums, and processes in visual arts. Case examples are used to guide learners through implementation with learners.

Express Yourself: Accessing the Visual Arts

Next: Express Yourself - Part 2