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As a queer, autistic, trans, and multiply disabled person, I have been regularly told that academic institutions and the wider world of theatre are not places for people like me.

Studying psychology and theater throughout my life, most of my student time has been spent defending my right to be in a space and trying to figure out how to accommodate myself rather than actually learning the content being taught. After being called a burden several times over and told “the theatre isn’t made for people like you”, I decided to combine my skills from six years of teaching and studying psychology with my knowledge of disability, theatre, and education to create an accessible resource guide for all kinds of classrooms. Combining the latest research in accessible education and accessible arts education, I constructed this resource guide as an accessible series of videos on my YouTube channel breaking down the fundamental issues with academia as a whole and how we can, practically, go about changing it. While primarily centered around arts education, it generalizes skills to all other realms of what and how we teach, hoping that it can ensure other people like me will never have to share similar experiences. At the same time, these skills are being put into practice with my staging of the world’s first all-neurodivergent cast and crew production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on Mount Holyoke’s mainstage from April 20-23. We are making theatre by and for people like me, and making some history while we do it to make sure the world pays more attention to the research work that sparked the project to begin with.

I am not the first person to create accessible theatre education, nor is this project fixing many of the problems in the industry, but I have had the privilege of working with many of the current experts in this young field throughout this process and am very privileged to be able to add to the conversation and make an important step with my work.

In my workshop, I will go over the basics of how to make curricula universally accessible, the simple things in teaching that make minority students feel alienated that are hard to pick up on or plan for, and give faculty the opportunity to ask questions about disability in a judgment-free space. Disability activism as we know it today is only about a decade or two old and research into the practicalities of fully inclusive education are not much older. I hope that this will be a solid jumping off point to help professors feel more empowered to make deliberate changes in their classrooms to make life easier both for them and for their minority students.

Presenter: Sydney Zarlengo

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