Media Arts & Culture

Photo: A Fierce Kind of Love Workshop, October 2014Guided by the belief that the power and beauty of the arts benefits and lifts us all, the Institute's Media Arts & Culture unit develops new arts initiatives and works collaboratively with university and community-based arts organizations and practitioners to create innovative, fully accessible cultural programming. The work includes oral history, archival preservation, documentary, exhibition and public performance.


Smart Caption Glasses

Smart Caption Glasses allow people who are Deaf or experience hearing loss to view captions at any performance, from any seat in the theater, using Open Access Smart Capture technology. The Institute is collaborating with People's Light theater in Chester County, Pennsylvania and the National Theatre of Great Britain, on a project that will bring this technology, developed by the National Theatre and Professor Andrew Lambourne, to the United States. The Smart Caption Glasses display a synchronized transcript of the play's dialogue and sound from the production directly onto the lenses of the smart glasses (manufactured by Epson).

In Pennsylvania alone, 1.1 million residents experience hearing loss, representing 8.58% of the Commonwealth's population. Most theaters only offer a handful of open captioned performances during the run of any given show.

Smart Caption Glasses make it possible for all performances to be captioned.

Theater goers in the Philadelphia area can experience the smart caption glasses during the 2019/20 season at People's Light, located in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

Smart Caption Glasses will be available to the general public in January, during People's Light production of The Children. They are free to patrons and can be reserved in advance or they may be requested on show day, but are subject to availability.

This video demonstrates the Smart Captioning Glasses at work:

In early October 2019, the Institute along with People's Light theater and the National Theatre, London, introduced Smart Caption Glass, a new technology to aid theater-goers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Philadelphia's local NBC affiliate covered the story in its evening news broadcast.

On October 17, 2019, People Light theater hosted members of the press and select consumers to introduce the Smart Caption Glasses. Here are a few of the stories: ABC 6 - People's Light theater's smart caption glasses allow for enhance experience for people with disabilities | WHYY News - Adapted for the stage: Glasses that stream captions in real time improve access for hearing impaired

The Smart Caption Glasses project is made possible with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Barra Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

About the Partners

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, College of Education
The Institute on Disabilities is one of 67 national University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD). The Institute trains provides technical assistance and engages in inclusionary research for Pennsylvanians with disabilities, their families, professionals and community organizations. The Institute’s Media Arts & Culture Programs create inclusive, welcoming and accessible cultural experiences for people with and without disabilities.

People's Light
People's Light is a nationally acclaimed non-profit professional regional theater in Chester County, Pennsylvania. People's Light is a local leader in producing open captioned, relaxed and sensory friendly performances. With the Smart Caption Glasses project, People's Light deepens its commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.

The National Theatre of Great Britain
The National Theatre's mission is to make world class theatre that's entertaining, challenging and inspiring - and to make it for everyone. It aims to reach the widest possible audience and to be as inclusive, diverse and national as possible with a broad range of productions that play in London, on tour around the UK, on Broadway and across the globe. The National Theatre's extensive UK-wide learning and participation program supports young people and schools through performance and writing program like Connections, New Views and Let's Play. Public Acts creates ambitious new works of participatory theater in sustained partnership with theaters and community organizations around the country. The National Theatre extends its reach through digital programs including NT Live, which broadcasts some of the best of British theater to more than 2,500 venues in 65 countries, and the free streaming service On Demand In Schools. The National Theatre invests in the future of theater by developing talent, creating bold new work and building audiences, partnering with a range of UK theater companies.

Discovering the Selinsgrove Center

The Institute is engaged in a discovery project to illuminate the complex history of institutionalization through the personal experience of those who live it.

Many institutional residents do not communicate in a traditional method and their voices often go unheard. Artists may be uniquely positioned to gather and interpret their stories.

Working with a group of multidisciplinary artists and historians, the Institute will develop an arts-based methodology and artist residency program. During the year-long project, pilot residencies will be established on the grounds of Selinsgrove Center in central Pennsylvania, home to more than 220 people with intellectual disabilities.

Participating artists include oral historical Nicki Pombier Berger, public historian Donna Graves, dancer KC Chun-Manning, and documentary photographer Ruddy Roye. Funded by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

A Fierce Kind of Love

A Fierce Kind of Love, a new play written by Suli Holum, is a collage of stories of Pennsylvania's Intellectual Disability Rights Movement. A Fierce Kind of Love uses word, movement and song to examine this remarkable (and largely untold) history and celebrate the struggle, activism and fierce love that fuels the desire for dignity.

Directed by David Bradley. Performed by a mixed-ability cast - read bios of artists, designers, partners and advisors. Major funding for A Fierce Kind of Love was provided by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Here. Stories from the Selinsgrove Center and KenCrest Services

Here. Stories from the Selinsgrove Center and KenCrest Services introduces 19 people with intellectual disabilities who live and work in segregated settings in Pennsylvania. The settings are a state center and a sheltered workshop. These settings are unknown to many but are a real and often divisive part of our history. Here. provides insight into the lives of these Pennsylvanians through "narrators," 18 interviewers who visited the Selinsgrove Center and KenCrest Services in the spring of 2015. See images and listen to the interviews.

Photographs by JJ Tiziou. Major funding for A Fierce Kind of Love was provided by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Visionaries Are Made

Visionaries Are Made is a series of portraits of mothers and fathers. None would describe themselves as visionaries yet, as parents of a child with a disability, each was transformed from parent to advocate. To parent a child with disabilities means teaching the world to see possibility not limitation and to be a persistent, committed risk taker for a cause they believe in. The parents in these photos prove that visionaries are not born. Visionaries are made.

Photographs by Cecilia and Jacob Lee: Mothers | Fathers

Visionary Voices: Interviews

Interviews with the leaders of Pennsylvania's Intellectual Disability Rights Movement.

A collection of stories from advocates, self-advocates and family members who took great risks to ensure the safety and freedom of people with disabilities in Pennsylvania. From the Right to Education, to the closing of institutions and the move toward self-determination, Pennsylvania has paved the way for national policies that have led to widespread reform.

Watch a short documentary on Visionary Voices or browse the interviews.

Visionary Voices: Archives

Preservation of personal papers collections significant to Pennsylvania's Intellectual Disability Rights Movement. In collaboration with Temple University Urban Archives, the Institute is engaged in the collection and preservation of personal papers collections that enhance our understanding of Pennsylvania's Intellectual Disability Rights Movement.

The Urban Archives is currently home to the personal papers collections of parent-advocates Dennis Haggerty, Leona Fialkowski, Eleanor Elkin and Audrey Coccia. More about the archives.

Lisa Sonneborn
Director, Media Arts & Culture
Voice: 215-204-9542

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service