Students Present on Drew University Organization Advocating for Performing Arts Accessibility

Julia Caldwell C’24, Isabella Robinson C’24, and Alyssa Sileo C’22 founded the Drew Performing Arts Access Coordinators student group

October 2022 – Drew University students Julia Caldwell C’24 and Isabella Robinson C’24 recently presented at the Art-Reach Cultural Accessibility Conference.

The students, along with recent grad Alyssa Sileo C’22, discussed their roles as founding members of the Drew Performing Arts Access Coordinators (DPAAC) student group, which advocates for accessibility in Drew theater/art performances.

Last academic year, DPAAC provided educational opportunities regarding accessibility and created new forms of access, including audio description, captioning, sensory seminars, and assisted listening devices.

“We’ve helped make Drew a pioneer in accessible college performances,” said Robinson, a theater and media and communications double major and applied performance minor.

“Presenting at the conference was an amazing opportunity to teach and learn from others about accessibility,” she added. “It was helpful to reflect on all the amazing work DPAAC has accomplished in the last academic year.”

“Our presentation was unique and explained how college kids can make accessibility a reality in the world around them,” said Caldwell, an English major and theater arts and film double minor.

For the students, their participation in DPAAC has gone beyond the organization itself.

“My experience with DPAAC has given me leadership skills, as I am now one of the trainers for DPAAC and regularly co-lead meetings,” said Caldwell. “This group has allowed me to work on organization and communication skills, sending emails and organizing calendars last semester as part of the captioning team. This group has allowed me to learn and develop a passion for making things more accessible to those who need them. I’m now the chair of our Student Government Accessibility and Student Health Committee because of my involvement in DPAAC.”

Caldwell and Robinson, both Action Scholars, are now members of DPAAC’s executive board that includes five other DPAAC veterans and student leaders, Maddy Hilferty C’25, Abby Kirsopp C’25, Shane Kornecki C’24, Preethi Rao C’24, and Sydney Sieb C’24.

Caldwell’s and Robinson’s mentor and fellow DPAAC cofounder Alyssa Sileo has kept one foot in The Forest since graduating, serving as an AmeriCorps member with Drew’s Center for Civic Engagement.

Caldwell, Robinson, and Sileo co-created their digital presentation over the summer and presented this fall at the online conference.

“It’s not often that juniors present at conferences,” said Sileo.

“How awesome is it that the Drew Action Scholars program brought the three of us together in Julia and Isabella’s first year at Drew, and now they’re both board members of DPAAC! I am grateful for DPAAC’s student leaders, the general members, and the advisory board for their hard work to create the next generation of audio describers and captioners. Watching the executive board lift up this group into a new academic year has been one of my proudest mentoring moments.”

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