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Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®)

2020 Conference and Training – Raleigh, NC
Capacity Building Workshops: August 3-4
Conference: August 5-7

Join us!

Every year the Kennedy Center's Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®) conference brings experienced and new professionals together to explore practical methods for implementing accessibility in cultural environments. At LEAD® we share resources and knowledge, develop best practices, and experience accessibility in action.

  • Basic to Advanced: No matter what level of experience you have, there's always something to learn. The building blocks will give newcomers the tools and information they need to develop a successful accessibility program while the discussion groups and advanced track address accessibility for the most experienced.
  • Facilities to Programs: Sessions and discussions will cover all aspects of accessibility from the built environment to programs and communication.
  • Legal Obligations & Customer Service: Learn about relevant laws and regulations and explore accessibility from the customer service and business case perspectives.
  • Networking: Engage in conversations with colleagues who are enthusiastic about accessibility and eager to share their insights and learn from others.

Come join the dialogue, share exciting ideas, and to explore new and innovative ways to welcome everyone.

Who Attends?

LEAD® provides professional development for:

  • Accessibility Managers and Coordinators
  • Box Office and House Managers
  • Outreach and Education Coordinators
  • Patrons and Visitor Services Managers
  • Facilities and Operations Managers
  • Exhibition Designers
  • State and Local Government ADA/504 Coordinators
  • Marketing and Audience Development Directors
  • State Arts Commission/Council Accessibility Coordinators

The LEAD® conference does not address professional development for artists with disabilities or arts education. For resources for artists with disabilities, please visit the VSA Programs page. For information on K-12 arts education for educators of students with disabilities, please visit the Intersections Conference page.

Why attend LEAD®?

Here are just a few reasons why LEAD® is a smart choice for professional development for cultural arts administrators.

  • One-of-a-kind professional development. No other conference focuses on accessibility in cultural venues like LEAD®. The conference provides an intimate, rich atmosphere to engage arts professionals of all experience levels.

  • Access to ideas. Tap into the collective “brain trust” of arts managers from museums, theaters, parks, zoos, libraries, and other cultural venues from around the world.

  • Access to experts. The Kennedy Center engages leading thinkers in the field to present at the conference. And after the event, attendees are invited to join an exclusive listserv to continue the conversation and ask questions.

  • Networking opportunities. LEAD® has a number of networking opportunities both during the conference and at evening social events. Meet and mingle colleagues from around the world in an open and safe forum.

  • Practical information. You'll leave with ideas and practices that can be implemented at your organization right away.

  • Something for everyone. LEAD® has sessions and workshops for beginners and the more experienced. It doesn't matter what your background or knowledge level is – we have sessions for you.

  • Experiential opportunities. LEAD® provides the opportunity to experience accessibility services and programs. Through our pre-conference Capacity Building Workshops and optional performances with accessibility services, you can see access in action!

Call For Proposals

The Kennedy Center's Office of Accessibility is seeking proposals for the 2020 LEAD® conference that:

  • approach accessibility from a customer service and civil rights perspective
  • provide practical information addressing current trends and challenges in this field
  • actively engage participants through discussion and/or hands-on activities
  • explore accessibility for a variety of cultural arts organizations, including performing arts centers, museums, theaters, state arts agencies, parks, zoos, and arenas
  • target new, mid-career, and/or seasoned professionals

Session Topic Areas include:

  • Accessibility Services and Programs: Addresses the design and implementation of programs, accommodations, or services.
  • Building Buy-in: Examines methods for cultivating support for accessibility programs and initiatives within an organization, with partners and stakeholders, and/or across a community.
  • Built Environment: Focuses on physical accessibility for renovations, new construction, and retrofits.
  • Customer Service and Staff Training: Examines staff and volunteer education and awareness and managing guest requests, complaints, and concerns.
  • Evaluation and Research: Addresses strategies for evaluating program efficacy and impact, and explores evidence-based practices.
  • Legal Requirements: Addresses laws and regulations applicable to cultural arts environments.
  • Identity, Intersectionality, and Inclusion: Explores cultural competency and responsive, fully inclusive practices and programs to engage diverse stakeholders and communities.
  • Outreach and Community Engagement: Explores meaningful and effective ways to connect with, involve, build relationships with, and welcome the diverse communities of people with disabilities.
  • Planning and Policy: Focuses on planning to identify, prioritize, grow and sustain accessibility efforts, and develop and implement policy.
  • Technology: Discusses digital strategies and devices designed to improve accessibility.
  • Universal Design: Focuses on the implementation of universal design principles in cultural arts settings.

The deadline to apply is February 3, 2020 at 11:59 PM EDT.

Session Types:

  • Capacity Building Workshops: These are in-depth, hands-on professional development workshops addressing a specific topic related to cultural arts access. Capacity building workshops can be 4 hours, 8 hours, or multiple days and will be offered August 3 & 4.
  • Conference Sessions: 80-minute sessions offered concurrently during the conference August 5-7. All sessions must include an interactive component that will engage adult learners and can be offered in several formats:
    • Classroom – These sessions provide practical tips, tools and resources that attendees can use to start or improve initiatives, programs, or services.
    • Panel Discussion – These sessions offer multiple perspectives on or approaches to a single topic.
    • Skill Building - These hands-on sessions are designed to teach participants a tangible skill.
  • Lightning Talks: Lightning Talks are 15-minute focused presentations about a specific topic or a compelling idea. They will be offered during the conference August 5-7. Please note: there is a limit of one presenter per Lightning Talk.

Deadlines and Important Details

Proposals must be submitted online by February 3, 2020 at 11:59 PM EDT. For more information, to request proposal materials in a different format, or to discuss your proposal, please contact the Kennedy Center's Office of Accessibility at 202-416-8727 or

Sessions will be selected by and at the sole discretion of the LEAD® content committee under the supervision of the Kennedy Center. Presenters should be prepared to cover travel and hotel expenses, meal costs, and applicable conference fees. Presenters may submit more than one proposal. Incomplete proposals will not be considered.

The LEAD® conference does not address professional development for artists with disabilities or arts education. For resources for artists with disabilities, please visit the VSA Programs page. For information on K-12 arts education for educators of students with disabilities, please visit the Intersections Conference page.

Registration Eligibility and Rates


Not all registrations will be accepted. Space is limited and preference will be given to paid staff at cultural arts organizations, cultural arts service or government agencies who are directly responsible for making programs and facilities accessible to people with disabilities. The Kennedy Center reserves the right to decline registrations. In the event that registration is declined, the Center will issue a refund for any fees collected.

Registration Rates

Conference: August 5 – 7

Registration Type Individual Rate Team Rate
Arts/Cultural Organization Staff $335.00 $310.00
Federal/State/Local Government Staff $335.00 $310.00
College/University Arts or Arts Administration Staff $335.00 $310.00
Arts Service Agency Staff $335.00 $310.00
Non-Profit Disability Service Organization Staff $775.00 N/A
For-Profit Disability or Arts Service Organization Staff and Consultants $875.00 N/A
Student Scholarships
(Application required. See below for complete details)
$160.00 N/A
Only available to Arts/Cultural Organizations,
Federal/State/Local Governments, College/University Arts,
and Arts Service Agencies.
$200.00 N/A
Presenters $100.00 N/A
Capacity Building Workshops Varies by workshop N/A

***Please note, the presenter rate will apply up to four presenters per presentation or panel.

Scholarships for Students

Applications for the 2020 LEAD® Conference Student Scholarships are now open!

Graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in arts administration/management or museum studies programs can apply for a scholarship to attend the LEAD® Conference at a reduced rate. If accepted, student registration would include access to sessions during the main LEAD® Conference. Additional fees apply for pre-conference and capacity building workshops as well as the Awards Evening and other special events.

If you have questions about the scholarships, please contact the Kennedy Center's Accessibility Office at or 202-416-8727.

The deadline to apply is May 1, 2020 at 11:59 PM EDT.

Apply Now: LEAD Conference Student Scholarships

Team Registration Discounts:

If your organization sends more than one person to the full conference, the registration rate drops to $310 per person! Please Note: The team registration rate is only available to staff members of arts or cultural organizations; arts or cultural service agencies; university or college arts or arts administration program staff; and federal, state or local government employees.

Hotel Accommodations:

The Kennedy Center’s 2020 LEAD® Conference is pleased to offer specially priced room blocks at the Raleigh Marriott City Center. The hotel is located in downtown Raleigh and is a convenient distance to many shops, restaurants, and local attractions.
All full conference sessions (Wednesday, August 5 to Friday, August 7) will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center which is located directly across the street from the conference hotel.

Raleigh Marriott City Center

500 Fayetteville St,
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 833-1120

Regular Single and Double Rooms are $189/ night.

  • Book your hotel room online
  • To book reservations by phone, call: (919) 833-1120 or (888)236-2427
  • If booking by phone, make sure to mention to the agent that you are with the block reserved for the Kennedy Center or LEAD® Conference.
  • Accessible rooms with tubs or roll-in shower are available. We would suggest calling to book at: (919) 833-1120
  • If booking accessible rooms online, please note what type of accessible room you would like under the “Any special requests or needs” section.
  • If you have any concerns about your hotel reservation, please contact the Access Office at 202-416-8727 or

Amenities at the Raleigh Marriott City Center include:

Please note that this special rate is only available before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 10, 2020. Reservations at this rate are limited – we encourage you to book as soon as possible. Some amenities may only be complimentary if booked under our conference block.

Other Opportunities:

From Access to Inclusion 2020 – Dublin, Ireland
Capacity Building Workshops: May 11-12, 2020
Summit: May 13-14, 2020

Arts and Disability Ireland and the Kennedy Center present From Access to Inclusion 2020, and Arts and Culture Summit. This Summit will gather the most thought provoking leaders and advocates in access and inclusion in arts and culture. This will be a unique opportunity to exchange ideas and discover new and innovative ways to create accessible and inclusive experiences.

From Access to Inclusion 2020 will include three strands; Capacity Building Workshops, the From Access to Inclusion Symposium and a program of Evening Cultural Events.

  • Capacity Building Workshops

    Participate in a stimulating range of practical workshops run by internationally acknowledged experts.

    These intimate workshops, held in Dublin’s world famous cultural institutions will offer a real opportunity to participate and learn.  Gain a toolbox of skills which arts and cultural professionals will be able to implement with ease and confidence.

  • From Access to Inclusion 2020 Symposium

    An international gathering of access professionals and advocates exploring how to provide seamless, person-centered experiences in arts and culture, through a dynamic program of keynotes, discussion panels, case studies and demonstrations.  The Symposium offers an unprecedented opportunity to exchange ideas and discover new and innovative ways to include and welcome everyone.

  • Evening Cultural Events

    An exciting program of Evening Cultural Events will take place from May 11 – 13, 2020 at various cultural venues across Dublin featuring access and inclusion in action.

    This Summit will be essential for professionals at all levels in the arts, cultural and tourism sectors such as those working in: venues, festivals, galleries, museums, heritage sites and visitor experiences.  In addition to those who deliver, program or present accessible and inclusive experiences, From Access to Inclusion 2020 is relevant for policy makers, funders and administrators who are committed to embedding a more holistic approach to accessible arts and cultural programming at a local, regional, national and international level.

Want to get involved? Find out more by visiting the Arts and Disability Ireland website.


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