We believe arts and culture are for everyone.
Our mission is to empower Illinois’ cultural spaces to become more accessible to visitors with disabilities.
Cultural Access Collaborative, formerly Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium, facilitates a dynamic community of cultural administrators and people with disabilities to remove barriers in Illinois’ cultural organizations. We are primarily run by passionate volunteers.
We represent theaters, museums, orchestras, park centers, zoos, and other cultural organizations across the state of Illinois. Cultural Access Collab shares resources, information and support to ensure more accessible and inclusive experiences for guests, collaborators, and employees with disabilities.
Central to our work, we provide the following free opportunities to cultural organizations and visitors with disabilities:
2013: Cultural Access Collaborative begins as a volunteer group known as Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC).
2015: CCAC partners with the ADA 25 Chicago initiative to launch “ADA 25 for 25: Cultural Access Project” to advance accessibility in at least 25 area cultural organizations.
2017: CCAC incorporates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
2020: With funding from Illinois Arts Council, CCAC launches Illinois Cultural Access Network (ICAN).
2023: In celebration of our tenth anniversary, we expand our vision and reach to all of Illinois. Our new name reflects this change: Cultural Access Collaborative.
2016: Lifeline Theatre awards CCAC the Raymond R. Snyder Commitment to the Arts Award.
2015: The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts awards CCAC’s Steering Committee Co-Chairs (Christena Gunther, Evan Hatfield and Lynn Walsh) the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Emerging Leader award.
Cultural accessibility: ensuring that people with disabilities have full access (including physical and content access) to cultural organizations.
Cultural administrators: the paid staff and volunteers who work in cultural organizations.
Cultural organizations: a broad term for any organization that seeks to preserve and advance culture. Includes museums, theaters, zoos, parks, concert venues, historic sites and more.
Disability: Cultural Access Collaborative follows the Social Model of disability – placing emphasis on the institutions and systems to remove barriers. One is more or less disabled depending on their environment.
The Cultural Access Collaborative Steering Committee sets the schedule and coordinates our programs.
Learn more about Steering Committee members and its Co-Chairs:
is Vice President of Digital Experiences at Aspire. She leads Aspire’s DEI Consultation services, which include training and support for businesses and organizations specific to inclusive practices. She also leads the production of Aspire’s free resources for the community to raise awareness, share knowledge and invite advocacy around disability inclusion – including the Amplify Inclusion podcast and The Inclusion Exchange webinar series. Clare also oversees the Virtual Life Coaching team, which includes Life Consultants who provide customized life skills coaching for adults with disabilities. Clare has over a decade of professional experience working with individuals of all ages, families and providers across diverse environments.
Clare joined the Steering Committee in 2019, becoming a Co-Chair in 2021.
Favorite Cultural Memory: My father is a professional artist and I recall my first time seeing his work in a gallery after having witnessed the lengthy artistic process that led to that point. Seeing the artist in action, and then the final result on such pristine display taught me to consider the process as much as the product – to this day, when I walk through a gallery space, I wonder about the idea that sparked each piece and the dynamic journey that brought it to life.
is the Program Manager of Accessibility Services in the Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services at the American Library Association. Previously, Hillary spent 12 years in patron services and operations at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, working directly with companies to ensure front of house needs were met, connecting renters with resources and options for accessible programming, and communicating daily operations in the facility. Hillary is excited to further the accessibility goals of the ALA, as well as learn from and with other professionals from Chicagoland cultural institutions.
Hillary joined the Steering Committee in 2017, becoming a Co-Chair in 2021.
Memorable Cultural Experience: As a vocal performance major at Northwestern, a small volunteer group of singers had the chance to perform comedic opera scenes in English at the Kohl Children’s Museum up in Glenview a few times a year. It was a lot of fun performing opera for these kids in such a nontraditional setting (sometimes they even laughed with us instead of at us!), and it created a unique outreach opportunity for both the university and the museum.
currently serves as the Senior Manager of Learning Experiences for the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo, where he has an active role in children and family programs, nature play programming, professional development, and the access and inclusion strategic initiative: Zoo for All. He has been in the informal education field for 25+ years, and previously volunteered time and energy on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Association of Museums. Dave has an M. Ed in Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) and is currently completing an M.Div from Meadville-Lombard Theological School.
Memorable Cultural Experience: My father was a WWII Veteran, and was a top turret gunner in the Army Air Corp. As a child, we were visiting an air and space museum and there were planes from different time periods including some planes from WWII. My Dad said, ” I fly in that plane”. We thought he meant it was like the planes he flew in, but as we continued to talk, we realized he meant he flew in THAT exact plane.
is the former Administrative Operations Manager at the Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. He began working in museums as a public programs interpreter when he was 16 as a participant in the Nature Museum’s T.E.E.N.S. program. The majority of his 18 years of museum experience has been in various operations roles at Chicago area children, art, history, and science museums. David holds a BA in Museum Operations & Management from DePaul University, and is a current graduate student pursuing his Masters in Public Service Management with a concentration in Emergency Management from DePaul.
David joined the Steering Committee in 2019.
Memorable Cultural Experience: Whether it is in Detroit, Michigan or Bali, Indonesia, if there is a zoo or aquarium I will make a point to visit. Favorite moments include seeing a cheetah run at nearly full speed in San Diego, feeding a basket of apples to a hippo in Budapest, and possibly the most special was the opportunity to watch two rescued Hawaiian Monk Seals, a critically endangered species, swim around their enclosure at the Waikiki Aquarium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
is the Vice President, Finance at the Obama Foundation. Before joining the Foundation in 2018, Jenny was the Vice President, Controller at the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Prior to working at the Aquarium, Jenny spent nine years as an auditor in the not-for-profit industry. Jenny is based in Chicago and has a B.A. from Illinois Wesleyan University; she is a CPA and a member of the AICPA and IL CPA Society.
Jenny joined the Board as treasurer in 2022.
Favorite Cultural Memory: Growing up in Central Illinois, I didn’t have access to a lot of museums. I remember many visits to the Saint Louis Zoo. I’ve always loved animals and try to visit zoos and aquariums when I can. Getting to feed an octopus was one of my favorite memories!
is the Director of Retail and Events at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois where she oversees the Special Events, Facility Rental, Food Service, and Retail departments. She has worked in museums in both Chicago and Washington D.C. since 2006 creating memorable and fun experiences for visitors that connect them to the unique story of the organization.
Anna has been a Steering Committee member since 2015; she served as Co-Chair from 2017-2022. Since 2018 she has served on the Board as Secretary.
Childhood Museum Memory: Growing up in southern California, my mother took my sister and me to the Madonnari festival every year at the Santa Barbara Mission where dozens of artists used nothing but chalk to create truly stunning works of art on the pavement. Their skill fascinated me – especially when I compared their work to my own sidewalk “masterpieces.”
is an educator, artist and lifelong learner who currently manages education and engagement programs for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). Susan’s path along the way weaves in, out and around schools, museums and arts organizations across the globe, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Spain, Ethiopia and LA. In 2018 she initiated the first exploration of the Chicago Cultural Center through touch and sound which inspired the installation of a touch gallery and Learning Lab which celebrates all the senses. She is honored to have contributed to the inspirational book that continues to feed her spirit daily: Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit.
Susan joined the Steering Committee in 2019.
Memorable Museum Memory: I remember falling fast asleep on the cold hard floor of the City Museum of St. Louis after a thrilling day of perusing exhibits that involve crawling, jumping, and sliding down a four-story chute. Thanks to Barb and Tim for hosting the best adult sleepover wedding reception ever!
is the Hart Prins Fund Accessibility & Inclusion Manager at Lincoln Park Zoo. He uses his experience from working in the disability community to foster accessibility and inclusion in all environments where people engage with the zoo. Personal experience also informs Bill’s work. Since birth, he has been low vision. He has also been a lifelong enthusiast of zoos and museums and the diverse ways people interact with these spaces. Bill has consulted with many cultural institution in Chicago, including serving as an inaugural member on The Second City’s Accessibility Board.
Favorite Cultural Memory: My dear late friend, Dr. Elsie Haug, and I made several trips to the Oriental Institute for multi-sensory tours. We shared the sounds, smells, and textures of the ancient world. Into her late nineties and even at age 100, Elsie was the most curious and inquisitive company at any museum.
Bringing Chicago together around the intersection of disability and the arts was Christena’s main aim as she started Cultural Access Collaborative in 2013. Having over a decade of experience in cultural accessibility from a variety of cultural organizations, including the Metropolitan Museum and Lincoln Center, she currently serves as Assistant Director of Disability Services at Adler University. Thanks to her brother who has Down syndrome, cultural accessibility became her passion as they visited museums and attended plays together. Christena speaks internationally about cultural accessibility, especially the importance of establishing a local access knowledge network in one’s own community.
Christena served as a Steering Committee Co-Chair from 2013-2021. Currently she serves as Board President.
Childhood Museum Memory: My fourth grade class studied From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which involves two kids running away from home and living in the Metropolitan Museum. Our class slept over at our city’s art museum (Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum). It was magical to live like the characters in the book for a night!
Accessibility, equity, and inclusion led the nationally acclaimed playwright (Alliance Kendeda Awardee; Vermont Studio Center; Cultural DC/SourceFest; American College Theatre Festival/Kennedy Center) to ADA 25 Advancing Leadership (Disability+Lead) as a Fellow, then an ambassador; and onto Cultural Access Collaborative’s Steering Committee. Hébert’s writing engages diverse communities from page to stage and she considers an inclusive and accessible American cultural landscape essential. The 3Arts Residency Fellow/Bodies of Work, (University of Illinois at Chicago) brought mentor and sculptor Preston Jackson’s work into accessible spaces. She explores Black American Sign Language and communication styles in African American funk music. The cultural architect founded and led Cook County Women Writers Workshop at Cook County jail and served as a former president of the African American Arts Alliance. She sits on Piven Theatre Company’s honorary board and works toward inclusion through projects like Illinois Institute of Technology’s IPRO which inspired dozens of students toward adaptive design and theatre innovations. A principal in Artists Design the Future, a women led company, she develops accessible inclusive work-live spaces for artists and creatives.
Tsehaye joined the Steering Committee in 2019.
Earliest Cultural Memories: Memories of music, singing, and dancing in my family, neighborhood, and school abound. As the opera Aida unfolded in its final dress rehearsal, it galvanized the moment in my history and one whose magic has enthralled ever since.
(/ʒ/ – en) is an audience-focused arts and immersive experience engineer whose work centers on creating more accessible, inclusive and inviting spaces and engagements for communities and individuals. Currently they are the Director of Visitor Experience & Public Engagement with the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, creating and managing engagement spaces in the Chicago Cultural Center, consulting on guest-facing items in Millennium Park and at Taste of Chicago and created an Accessibility Plan for adding access initiatives across all divisions of DCASE. They have over 15 years experience in public programming development, community engagement, production management and design. She holds a CPACC (Certificated Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies) Certification from IAPP (International Association of Accessibility Professionals) and is a member of the Disability Lead Network.
Earliest Cultural Memory: I remember visiting Walt Disney World with my Pa & Patti when I was about 8 years old and being enchanted by the storytelling, simulacra on Main Street, the venue’s ability to transport us into a manufactured ideology with regimented customer service and thoughtfulness of spaces and amenities.
began his career working in Columbus GA at the Springer Opera House, the state theater of Georgia, as a Marketing Assistant. He then moved to the Atlanta area to work for New South Associates, a cultural resource management firm, as their Marketing Coordinator. There he found his passion working with the Society for Georgia Archaeology to run their ArchaeoBus Program. After 3 years running the ArchaeoBus program, Nick moved to Chicago and began a new journey as a Facilitator at the Museum of Science and Industry – Chicago, providing tours and interactive science experiences for guests from around the world. Nick is now an Education Coordinator for MSI’s Student Experiences department, working with students from across the region to create and facilitate fun, unique and engaging science programming.
Favorite Cultural Memory: Visiting the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s CUBA! exhibit in 2019. It was such a beautiful and vibrant immersive exhibit space that helped connect you to the people and culture of Cuba. The exhibit also featured prominent members of the Denver community that were of Cuban decent, which was such a great representation of community and culture.
is a filmmaker and educator with two decades of experience crafting engaging non-fiction content for screens both big and small. As an associate of Kartemquin Films, he has contributed to over a dozen documentaries, many of which have broadcast on PBS. He has also taught in Chicago Public Schools, developed exhibit interactives for Chicago History Museum, and led programs at Arlington Heights Memorial Library as their first Filmmaker in Residence. Matt currently co-directs the biennial ReelAbilities Chicago Disability Film Festival, and in 2020, he founded All Senses Go, which highlights the importance of captions, description, and accessible events for film audiences.
Matt joined the Steering Committee in 2021. He was hired as the Programming and Communications Coordinator in 2022.
Memorable Cultural Experience: I was 9 years old when the Field Museum first unveiled their exhibit, “Inside Ancient Egypt,” and it felt like an actual burial tomb from the past had been dropped into the museum for me to explore. I’ll always remember that feeling of immersive discovery — especially when I peered down a hole in the floor to glimpse a pharaoh’s sarcophagus far below. The memory of descending a spiral staircase down through a 35-foot burial shaft, however, reminds me as an adult how the experience was not accessible to everyone, and sparks a desire to problem solve: how can we get the best of both worlds, immersion and accessibility?
currently works as Senior Director of Planning for Black Ensemble Theater after serving as Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer at Chicago History Museum. Prior to that, as Shedd Aquarium’s Senior Director of Exhibits and Experience Development, she spearheaded the kickoff and development of their award-winning Accessibility program. She is an avid traveler and museum-goer, having visited more than thirty countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and now loves traveling with her husband and two young daughters.
Kris was on the Steering Committee from 2015-2019. She joined the Board in 2019.
Favorite museum memory: was watching my daughters’ joy while they explored the Performing Arts Museum in Stockholm, filled with interactive and creative elements.
Raised in Miami, FL, Lauren Pincus has dedicated her life to the arts. After completing a BA in Theatre from Florida State University in 2017, Lauren worked at the critically acclaimed Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami before moving to Chicago in 2018 to pursue a career in ASL (American Sign Language). In May 2022, Lauren completed a second BA in ASL-English Interpretation from Columbia College Chicago. She has a love for helping others and found her passion for access through her work in the Access Committee at Second City, where she worked part-time in the Box Office while going to school. Lauren currently works at Chicago Humanities Festival as the Audience Accessibility Coordinator.
Memorable Cultural Experience: Seeing Deaf West’s Spring Awakening on Broadway in 2018 was a once in a lifetime experience. At the time, I was learning ASL and about Deaf Culture, so being immersed like that was truly incredible. After the show, I was able to have a conversation with one of the Deaf cast members. It was not easy, because I was still a beginner, but I was hooked! That experience solidified my wanting to move to Chicago and pursue a career in ASL Interpreting.
is a justice advocate who seeks to make change by shifting access to power and influence. As the Director of Civic Engagement and Marketing for Disability Lead, she propels the organization to realize its vision to have people with disabilities lead with power and influence. By identifying and developing strategic partnerships, Risa positions Members to take on leadership roles that advance their careers, civic engagement, and equity for people with disabilities. By integrating this vision into all internal and external communications, she leads Disability Lead’s brand awareness, public and private Member programming, and community engagement and outreach. She is also a Disability Lead Member.
In 2020, she also participated on the Disability Inclusion Fund’s grantmaking committee. Previously, Risa was Program Manager at The Chicago Community Trust where she developed their disability inclusion priorities and practices and managed several disability inclusion initiatives including the Disabilities Fund, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, and ADA 25Chicago. With the Disabilities Fund, Risa supported a rebrand and strategic plan redesign that resulted in a 500% increase in annual grantmaking for which she acted as the program officer. During 2015, ADA 25 Chicago leveraged the25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act to move the spirit of the law forward. This included engaging and supporting over 200 partner organizations’ commitments and events.
She has consulted for organizations to increase their disability inclusion including the University of Indiana Kelley School of Business, Institute for Nonprofit Professionals, and has spoken at conferences including the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability, Unity Summit, and Upswell Conference.
Risa is passionate about the arts and serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium as Treasurer. Risa received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University.
Risa was a Founding Steering Committee Member in 2013 prior to co-leading the Steering Committee as a Co-Chair 2017-2021. Currently, Risa serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors.
Memorable Cultural Experience: I had to be about 7 when my parents took me and my younger brother to Madison Square Garden to see Crosby Still Nash and Young. I remember thinking that it was so cool and weird at the same time watching all these hippies and former hippies rock out all night (way past my bedtime). That didn’t stop me from standing on the chair and rocking out as well – minus the lighter and other hippy equipment, of course.
is the Manager of Community Partnerships and Impact at Shedd Aquarium, working with partner organizations around the Chicagoland area and beyond. Karen is part of Shedd Aquarium’s Access & Inclusion Team, and has spearheaded work to train guides and volunteers in audio description and tactile tour facilitation. Karen has a BA in Geology from Haverford College and a MS in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Northwestern University. Previously, Karen worked in Guest Engagement at Shedd Aquarium, interpretation at Chicago Botanic Garden, researched climate change with Respiratory Health Association, and taught geology.
Karen joined the Steering Committee in 2019.
Favorite Museum Memory: There weren’t a lot of museums in my rural hometown, but as a kid we would visit my grandparents in New York for the holidays. I loved spending Christmas Eve at the American Museum of Natural History. It felt like we had the place entirely to ourselves, and my sisters and I reveled in it. Our favorite thing was to find a 2 foot model of a mosquito, whom we had named Skippy. I visited NYC recently, and I was glad to find Skippy still going strong!
is a House Manager & Accessibility Coordinator at The Goodman Theatre. Prior to his time at Goodman, he worked at the Shedd Aquarium as well as the Museum of Science & Industry. Early in his journey as a trans man, he felt like there was no longer a place for him in theatre, but realized that he could be a part of making the arts more inclusive for a much wider range of people.
Andy joined the Steering Committee in 2019.
Favorite Museum Memory:My favorite memory in a museum is playing peek-a-boo with a beluga named Bella who spit all over me!
Evan Hatfield, Founding Co-Chair (2013-2018) and Steering Committee Member Emeritus
Lynn Walsh, Founding Co-Chair (2013-2017) and Steering Committee Member Emeritus
Arkey Adams (2021-2022)
Rachel Arfa (2013-2020), Founding Steering Committee Member
Bri Beck (2021-2022)
Matthew Bivins (2017-2021)
Yolanda Cesta Cursach (2015-2017)
Chauncey Alexander Davis-Mauney (2017-2018)
Jason Harrington (2013-2017), Founding Steering Committee Member
Robin Jones (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member
Kinneret Kohn (2019-2021)
Lucas Livingston (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member
Emma MacLean (2019-2021)
Christina McGleam (2021-2022)
Theresa Pacione (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member
Casey Peek (2019-2022)
Brittany Pyle (2017-2021)
Jeanna Rathell (2015-2019)
Bonnie Rosenberg (2019-2021)
Mike Shaw (2015-2019)
Jaclyn Wegner (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member
Sandie Yi (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member