About CCAC

We believe everyone deserves access to Chicago's rich arts and culture.

Three panelists talk into microphones

Who We Are

Mission

Our mission is to empower Chicago’s cultural spaces to become more accessible to visitors with disabilities.

What We Do

Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC) facilitates a dynamic community of cultural administrators and people with disabilities to remove barriers in the Chicago region’s cultural organizations. CCAC is entirely run by passionate volunteers.

How We Do It

Central to our work, we provide the following free opportunities to cultural organizations and visitors with disabilities:

  1. Professional Development – ongoing professional development workshops open to all cultural administrators.
  2. Equipment Loan – lending the required equipment and technology to cultural organizations to produce accessible events.
  3. Access Calendar – promotes accessible events and allows visitors to identify accessible events throughout the Chicago region.

“Many staff members have attended CCAC programs that provide both philosophical and practical information to help us transform our museum into a place that welcomes all.”

– Museum Administrator

History

2013: CCAC begins as a volunteer group.

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).

Recognition

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.

Definition of Terms

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: CCAC 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. Learn more about the World Health Organization’s definition of disability.

Steering Committee Co-chairs

The CCAC Steering Committee sets the schedule and coordinates CCAC programs.
Learn more about Steering Committee members and its Co-Chairs:

Anna Cosner

Steering Committee Co-Chair, CCAC Board Secretary

She/her/hers

Anna 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 CCAC Steering Committee member since 2015; she became a Co-Chair in 2017.

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.”

Clare Killy

Steering Committee Co-Chair

she/her/hers

is Director of Inclusive Solutions at Aspire and leads the non-profit’s inclusion consulting services by facilitating community engagements, cultivating relationships with partners and driving the development of high-quality, inclusion-focused resources. Clare is a licensed educator and child development specialist with experience as a teacher, advocate, inclusion consultant and program manager. She serves as an adjunct faculty member at the Erikson Institute. Clare has over a decade of professional experience working with children, 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.

Hillary Pearson

Steering Committee Co-Chair

she/her/hers

is the Senior Manager of Operations and Accessibility Services at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, working directly with companies to ensure front of house needs are met, connecting renters with resources and options for accessible programming,  and communicating daily operations in the facility. Previously at the Harris, Hillary worked on the part-time Audience Service staff which led to the opportunity to become the full-time House Manager for the venue. Hillary is excited to further the accessibility goals of the Harris, as well as learn from and with other professionals from Chicagoland cultural institutions.

Hillary joined the CCAC 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.

Risa Jaz Rifkind

Steering Committee Co-Chair, CCAC Board Treasurer

She/ her/ hers

Risa is a justice advocate who seeks to make change by shifting access to power and influence. As Director of Civic Engagement and Marketing at ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, Risa 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.

Risa was a Founding Steering Committee Member in 2013 prior to co-leading the Steering Committee as a Co-Chair beginning in 2017. 

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.

Steering Committee and Board Members

Arkey Adams

Arkey Adams (she/her)

A dyed in the wool Chicagoan, Arkey was raised and educated on the South side, in Englewood. She has studied anthropology at Loyola University, Northwestern University and York University in Toronto, Canada. While her work at Chicago Culture Lab leverages her professional experience in nonprofit fundraising and museum administration, her work is also very much informed by her lived experience. With keen focus on intersectional frameworks her mission is increasing accessibility in Black and brown communities, while building cultural literacy and equity more broadly. Arkey can be found supporting and partnering with organizations around the world, but her heart belongs to local organizations like Access Living, The Field Museum, The DuSable Museum, The National Museum of Mexican Art, Rootwork Gallery, Lookingglass Theater Company and more. If you see her out and about say hello!

Earliest Cultural Memory: Seeing Ella Jenkins at The Arie Crown Theater when I was in kindergarten, that or learning how pioneers made butter at the old Chicago Historical Society (Chicago History Museum)!

Bri Beck

Bri Beck (she/her)

is an art therapist, artist/designer, and community leader that utilizes her lived experience of disability to progress culture towards more accessibility and inclusivity. Bri considers herself to have a social art practice and combines fine art, design, and her work as a helping professional to change individual and societal insight. Bri currently offers individual art therapy and counseling within private practice, but is also passionate about social justice work in disability rights as she views the process of healing as both individual and systemic. To do some of this work, she volunteers with Bodies of Work and Access Living as an artist in residence where she hosts and participates in Disability art and culture events.

Memorable Cultural Experience: I visited the MCA in 2012 on a college trip several years before I moved to Chicago. At this time, the museum featured colorful large-scale felt installations that guests could climb, lay, or sit on. It was a truly immersive sensory experience! My friends and I had the best time taking photos of one another in the space – and this was before Instagram was a big “thing”! That first visit to the MCA will always stand out to me because it showed me how interactive and uplifting art can be.

Dave Becker

Dave Becker (he/him)

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.

David Carrasquillo

David Carrasquillo (he/him/his)

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 CCAC 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.

Susan A. Friel

Susan A. Friel (she/her/hers)

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 CCAC 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!

Bill Green

Bill Green (he/his)

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.

Christena Gunther

Christena Gunther (She/ her/ hers)

Bringing Chicago together around the intersection of disability and the arts was Christena’s main aim as she started CCAC 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!

Tsehaye G. Hebert

Tsehaye G. Hebert (she/her/hers)

is an award-winning citizen playwright. Passionate about accessibility, equity, and inclusion in the arts led her to ADA 25 Advancing Leadership first as a Fellow, a program committee member and now as an ambassador. The cultural architect is a volunteer artistic associate at eta creative arts foundation, and sits on the honorary board of the Piven Theatre Company. Her writing engages community from page to stage in an American Theatre and within a truly inclusive American cultural landscape. Currently a 2020 3Arts Residency Fellow, University of Illinois at Chicago, she is exploring how Black American Sign Language and non-verbal communication express nuances in African-American popular culture’s funk music.

Tsehaye joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019.

Earliest Cultural Memories: Memories of music, singing, and dancing in my family, neighborhood, and school. Seeing the opera Aida unfold in its final dress rehearsal remains a galvanizing moment in my history and one whose magic has enthralled ever since.

Zhen Heinemann

Zhen Heinemann (she/they)

(/ʒ/ – en) is an audience-focused arts and immersive experience professional 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 with the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events where she creates and manages engagement spaces in the Chicago Cultural Center, oversees guest-facing items in Millennium Park and Taste of Chicago and has 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, and recently received CPACC (Certificated Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies) Certification from IAPP (International Association of Accessibility Professionals). She is grateful for this opportunity to continue learning and increasing guests’ sense of welcome and belonging across cultural spaces and events.

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.

Nick Joseph

Nick Joseph (he/him)

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.

Matt Lauterbach

Matt Lauterbach (he/him/his)

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 CCAC Steering Committee in 2021.

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?

Christina McGleam

Christina McGleam (she/her)

was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) in April 2021 by Commissioner Rachel Arfa. In her role as Deputy Commissioner, she oversees MOPD’s Employment, Training, and Youth Programs aimed at increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and increasing awareness on how to best interact with people with disabilities. Christina also collaborates with Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Diverse Learners and Support Services to provide professional development to transition-aged youth with disabilities. As MOPD’s Access Officer, another leadership role within the department, she serves as the main contact for City of Chicago departments and sister agencies on questions related to communication access. Christina is a graduate of John Carroll University (B.S. Business Administration) and Roosevelt university (M.S. Human Resource Management).

Favorite Cultural Memory: While in college, I had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad in London, England. While there, I explored numerous cultural experiences throughout Europe that expanded my interest and passion for learning and traveling.

Kris Nesbitt

Kris Nesbitt (she/her/hers)

has been Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer at Chicago History Museum since 2019. 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 CCAC Steering Committee from 2015-2019. She joined the CCAC 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.

Casey Peek

Casey Peek (she/her/hers)

is an advocate for inclusion in the arts and the world and believes we can achieve this through conversation and groundwork. The arts in Chicago have provided Casey self-discovery and a family of folks who want to change the world through art and inclusion.

Casey joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019.

Favorite Cultural Memory: As a kid in central Illinois we would take vacations to Chicago. I remember being mesmerized by the Egyptian exhibit at the Field Museum and the beautiful creatures of Shedd Aquarium.

Lauren Pincus

Lauren Pincus (She/her)

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). Lauren is currently completing a second BA in ASL-English Interpretation from Columbia College Chicago and is scheduled to graduate in May 2022. She has a love for helping others and found her passion in access through her work in the Access Committee at Second City while working part-time in the Box Office. Lauren currently is part of the Chicago Humanities Festival team as an Audience Service Representative.

Memorable Cultural Experience: Seeing Deaf West’s Spring Awakening on Broadway 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 tried signing with one of the actresses which was hard since I was still a beginner, but the actress was really sweet, and we were able to have a little conversation. That experience solidified my wanting to move to Chicago and pursue a career in ASL Interpreting!

Karen Tekverk

Karen Tekverk (she/her/hers)

is the Manager of Interpretive Services at Shedd Aquarium where she oversees programming including Behind-the-Scenes Tours and Private Personalized Tours, and works with over 150 interpretive volunteers. 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 she worked in interpretation at Chicago Botanic Garden, researched climate change with Respiratory Health Association, and taught geology.

Karen joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019. 

Favorite Museum Memory: There weren’t a lot of museums in my rural hometown, but we would visit New York each year. 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!

Andy Wilson

Andy Wilson (he/him/his)

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 CCAC 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!

Founding Co-Chairs

Evan Hatfield

Evan Hatfield, Founding Co-Chair (2013-2018) and Steering Committee Member Emeritus

Lynn Walsh

Lynn Walsh, Founding Co-Chair (2013-2017) and Steering Committee Member Emeritus

Emeriti

Rachel Arfa (2013-2020), Founding Steering Committee Member

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)

Theresa Pacione (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member

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