BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) recently sent a letter to Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl requesting that the agency introduce discounted ticketing for people with disabilities at cultural institutions across the city.
In April, the Queens Tribune published a story after Adrian Edwards—a 57-year-old man who suffers from ataxia, a neurological condition that doesn’t allow his brain to function with his body—said that he had contacted the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside)—who is the chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations—to request the same admission price for the disabled that seniors pay. Edwards said that both the museum and Van Bramer’s office declined his requests.
Van Bramer responded to the claim at the time, stating that he supports Edwards and had submitted a legislative request on the issue.
Following calls and emails to Crowley’s office, Edwards said that he was pleased when Crowley backed his plan for the same discounted rates for disabled persons as seniors in cultural institutions, but also took action by sending a letter to the commissioner.
“While many of the city’s cultural institutions offer discounted tickets for groups such as the elderly and students, few extend any such benefits to people living with disabilities,” the letter read. “This leaves many residents of the city wondering why they are not afforded similar benefits. I strongly believe that allowing people living with disabilities to purchase discounted tickets in the same vein as seniors and students would do a great deal to expand access to these resources to a critically underserved community.”
Crowley said that initiatives to boost participation in the city’s cultural life should be extended to the disabled.
“I am sure that you understand the profound impact that culture and art has on the quality of life of New York City’s residents,” Crowley’s letter read. “Art allows the individual to transcend the barriers of their own personal experiences, to engage with new ideas and perspectives and delight in our shared humanity. It is imperative that we eliminate all barriers to entry that a person living with disabilities might feel precludes them from enjoying this city’s many cultural offerings.”
Edwards said he believed that Crowley’s letter was “crystal clear” and demonstrated his support to the nation’s 57 million federally disabled people.
“Joseph Crowley is personally pointing a finger at all those who are refusing discounted admission to the disabled, and telling them that he personally finds it offensive, and incorrect, and as a Democrat, that is not how to treat those who are federally disabled,” said Edwards.
A spokeswoman for the DCLA said that the agency is dedicated to the inclusion of people with disabilities, and that the agency launched the Disability Forward Fund last month.
The pilot initiative promotes organizations’ new and ongoing program efforts to engage people with disabilities, including artists, cultural workers and audience members.
“While DCLA does not set the admissions policies of private nonprofit organizations, we are always open to working with them on new ways to provide all New Yorkers access to and inclusion in the vibrant cultural life of our city,” said the spokeswoman.
Following Crowley’s letter, Edwards called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to back Crowley and push for discounted prices for disabled persons.
“In 2018, New York City has a duty and an obligation to be pushing society forwards, and not backwards, and inclusion for those who are disabled at a discounted rate is imperative due to financial constraints, and those who are disabled surely must be given the opportunity to fully enjoy the arts, cinema, museums, music, theatre and all the full range of the arts and creativity,” Edwards wrote in an email to the mayor’s office.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400, ext. 144, firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel.