Maryland artists, including some handicapped performers, have scheduled concerts, plays, exhibits and mime and puppet shows in the coming weeks to help further understanding of physical handicaps. The events are part of the observance of the International Year of Disabled Persons.
One group that includes both handicapped and nonhandicapped persons will perform at the Rockville Jewish Community Center. Deaf Dimensions: A Song and Dance Company, will present an original musical program, "On Cue," Saturday. The company is directed by Susan Davidoff -- who is deaf -- and uses nonhearing and hearing performers.
Archaesus, an acting troupe comprising disabled and nondisabled performers, is taking its audience-participation show, "Beginnings," to elementary schools. The troupe uses mime, acrobatics, masks and unusual costumes to present a scientific and mythological look at the creation of the world.
The troupe will perform at Travilah Elementary, Gaithersburg, April 6 and Brookhaven Elementary,
In addition to shows and exhibits, many organizations are creating programs to train teachers and others how to meet the needs of disabled persons and provide funds for these persons to attend special presentations.
For example, one program enables disabled artists to attend free classes at the Glen Echo arts center. Funding from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission also has supported drama programs in Prince George's County in which persons recently discharged from institutions can express their anxieties and emotional problems in a controlled setting that is both therapeutic and artistic.
Arts organizations also are working to make theaters and galleries more accessible to the handicapped.
Some modifications are required by law. Groups receiving National Endowment of the Arts funds must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which states that handicapped persons cannot be excluded from participating in or benefitting from any program or activity simply because they are handicapped.
The Montpelier Cultural Arts Center in Laurel was built to be accessible to the handicapped, and the Publick Playhouse in Cheverly was renovated to provide accessibility. The renovations included the addition of 456 seats designed to accomodate the disabled. In addition, a TTY system was installed at the playhouse. This system comprises telephone/typewriter devices that translate human voices into coded imprints for hearing-impaired persons. The Round House Theater in Silver Spring also has installed a TTY system.
Section 504 requires theaters and art centers to remove two seats along the aisles to provide space for wheelchair users. Most building codes in the state require that two wheelchair spaces be provided for areas that have as many as 50 seats and four spaces for areas with as many as 400 seats, or that at least 1 percent of the total seating must be dovoted to wheelchair spaces.
Arts officials say numerous problems are involved in making arts locations more accessible to the handicapped. Some argue that cost is the major difficulty, but Peggy Hoffman of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission says organizations "can get around costs by thinking positively and being creative about getting around costs."
Many arts administrators also point out that disabled persons are comprising an increasing percentage of their audiences.
More information and materials on federal regulations or other aspects of the arts and the disabled are available by writing Larry Molloy, Maria Melendez or Patti Richardson or the staff at the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts & Special Constituencies Project 1419 27th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20007, OR BY CALLING 333-1712 (TTY 333-1339).
Information also may be obtained by writing to Jodi Greenblatt at the U.S. Council for the International Year of Disabled Persons, 1575 I St. NW, Suite 430,