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What is UP?

It is amazing how two simple letters encapsulate so many of the agency's core beliefs around accessibility. The 'U' stands for Universal – universal design resulting in universal places and universal programs. Making arts and culture accessible to more people is not something we are doing for “them.” We are in this together. When a program or building is more accessible to a person with disabilities, it is more accessible to all of us.

The 'P' stands for many things. Programming that’s accessible to all, Placemaking that welcomes everyone, Personnel that are provided with the training and knowledge they need, Participation of the entire organization, Partnerships that develop community engagement, Promoting successful strategies and People first stories, and most importantly, making a commitment, or a Pledge, to make Progress.

The Universal Participation Initiative recognizes that accessibility is and should be a work in progress. UP is a direction, not a destination. UP is about process, not perfection.

Initiative Goals
Through the Innovation and Learning Network and the UP Designation, the goals of the UP Initiative are to support the growth and development of organizations that embrace inclusivity as core to their mission and recognize the power of design to anticipate and accommodate patrons, staff, volunteers, and students. Through the EBT Card to Culture, we begin breaking down fiscal barriers and the Innovation Fund is to spark bold, new ideas. The intent is to enhance the cultural experiences for everyone, build capacity, fuel insight and inspire action. The Mass Cultural Council will also share stories in order to recognize the great work being done in Massachusetts and to inspire organizations to do more.

The Mass Cultural Council aims to foster and recognize organizations that:

  • Provide training for everyone about inclusive culture. The best inclusive design solutions will never succeed without the commitment and engagement of board, staff, volunteers, designers and others taking part in the work of the organization.

  • Engages user/experts to inform and inspire.  A user expert can be anyone with a functional limitation or disability who has developed natural expertise in dealing with the challenges of our physical, information and/or communication environments. Establishing a routine commitment to engaging a variety of user experts who can offer insights into what fails and what works is a reliable means of continuous improvement.

  • Coordinate and integrate a vision of inclusion throughout the entire organization. A shared sense of purpose infects the entire organization and shapes priorities and inclusion is woven into everything the organization does – marketing, planning, budgeting, fundraising and branding.

  • Innovate. Creating great places and experiences that work for everyone is inspired, creative, collegial, satisfying, and fun. Fresh ideas come from fresh insights and a willingness to engage in trial and error.

UP was inspired by conversations with the field and shaped through collaboration with the Institute for Human Centered Design, VSA Massachusetts, and many others. 

UP Organizations

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© Massachusetts Cultural Council 2017