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Image of Beth Ziebarth in a purple top sitting in front of a brown cupboard.



One of the world’s leading accessibility experts, The Smithsonian Institution’s Director of Accessibility Programs Beth Ziebarth, has been confirmed as the second international keynote speaker at the upcoming Arts Activated 2019 Conference, Australia’s leading disability arts forum.

The Smithsonian is one of the world’s foremost museum complexes and for over 30 years Ms Ziebarth has been working to shape the institution’s approach to making its programs, services and infrastructure more accessible for both visitors and staff with disability.

Ms Ziebarth will be the keynote speaker on the second day of the conference which aims to help fast track the process of making arts, culture and events more accessible for the 20% of Australians who live with a disability or who are Deaf.

Produced by Accessible Arts – NSW’s peak arts and disability organisation – the conference will take place at Sydney’s Waterview centre at Sydney Olympic Park from 22 – 23 August 2019 and will attract up to 200 artists, arts workers, disability advocates, researchers, policymakers and other experts from across the arts, cultural and disability sectors. Find out more at:

In her role at the Smithsonian, Ms Ziebarth develops and implements accessibility policy and guidelines for the Institution’s 19 museums, the National Zoo, and nine research centres, ensuring that the Smithsonian’s 30 million annual visitors experience a welcoming environment that accommodates individuals of all ages and abilities.

Ms Ziebarth’s conference session – Place Settings: Making Cultural Venues Work For Everyone – will focus on how the Smithsonian has developed its approach to accessibility over recent years. She will be joined by artist and Access Smithsonian Project & Community Outreach Coordinator Robin Lynne Marquis who has over 15 years of experience in smaller community focussed organisations in Washington D.C. and Baltimore. They will discuss how the policies and practice of large institutions can be distilled into achievable access outcomes for smaller organisations.

Ms Ziebarth: “Simply put, the visitor who needs accessible services is not the occasional guest at a museum. Every day we will welcome people to our museums who depend upon the Smithsonian to make its facilities, exhibitions, and programs accessible to all. We want to be able to serve people throughout their life spans so that they, like everyone else, have the opportunity to be lifelong learners.”

Ms Ziebarth will join leading UK artist and disability arts advocate Rachel Gadsden as the international keynote speakers at the conference, and they’ll appear alongside over 35 Australian artists, arts workers, policymakers, culture experts and technology gurus who will be speaking and presenting at the conference.

Some of the local artists who’ll be involved include: designer Duncan Meerding; filmmaker and theatremaker Emily Dash; writer Gayle Kennedy; and actor, musician, and writer Glenn McKenzie.

Advocates and policymakers who’ll be speaking include: UNSW Disability Innovation Institute Director and member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rosemary Kayess; NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment Director of Inclusive Infrastructure and Experience Paul Nunnari; and Sydney Inner West Council Access and Inclusion Planning Leader Glenn Redmayne.

Arts and culture experts who’ll be involved include Google’s Creative Lab Team Lead Kristin Sillitoe; Director of Major Performing Arts Projects at the Australia Council for the Arts Morwenna Collett; and Director of Community, Emerging and Experimental Arts at the Australia Council for the Arts Jeremy Smith.

Disability arts experts who’ll be speaking include Arts Access Australia CEO Megan Shand; new General Manager of Bus Stop Films Tracey Corbin-Matchett; new Executive Director of Arts Access Victoria Caroline Bowditch; and DADAA Strategic Projects Manager Jacqueline Homer.

Organisers have now also confirmed the final program for the conference which will include 22 sessions and events will include a range of thought-provoking plenaries, panel discussions, workshops and networking functions.

Some of the topics to be considered include: authentic casting and representation; increasing participation in arts, culture and events by making programming and venues more accessible; boosting mainstream training opportunities for artists and arts workers with disability; reshaping the disability arts narrative; technology and design trends for universal access; and improving mainstream engagement with the work of artists with disability.

The conference is being supported by the NSW Government – via Create NSW and Destination NSW – as well as a range of local government, corporate, community and media partners.

Accessible Arts CEO Kerry Comerford: “Whether you’re an artist or arts worker with disability, or you’re involved in arts administration, programming, infrastructure or policy, Arts Activated is an event that’s not to be missed. Participants will come away informed and connected in new and exciting ways that will help them develop careers, audiences and creative practice.”

To register or find out more, go to:


Images: Arts Activated 2019 Media Images (captions in Comments section of each image file)

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