an ASL interpreter on stage during a show

Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival: Bridging Communities Through Arts Accessibility

Fri, Jun 7, 2019

Written by: Grace Wong; Photos by Emily o'Donnell and Grace Wong

Vanessa Braun is the Trust’s Director of Accessibility and Manager of Employee Engagement. Braun is a tour-de-force in making sure that the organization continues to expand and innovate in the realm of arts accessibility. “We feel that the arts are something to bring the community together,” states Vanessa Braun, Director of Accessibility and Manager of Employee Engagement for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

That is the basis for how arts accessibility has come to play such a pivotal role for the Trust as well as the greater Pittsburgh arts community.

For the past 18 years, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has been a regional leader in accessibility initiatives for arts and festival programming. This is thanks mostly in part to the Trust’s quality standards towards addressing accessibility on multiple fronts. “It’s the three A’s of accessibility,” explains Braun. “You have the accommodations, the specialized services and programming; the alterations, physical changes in the facilities; and the attitudes of the staff and volunteers.”

For the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival in particular, efforts have been made to improve the visitor experience for the blind, visually impaired, and deaf community. Three major accessibility services will be available for these folks.

Tactile Maps


Vanessa Braun showing tactile map of Point State Park



In 2017, the Trust commissioned artist Fran Flaherty to hand paint and 3D print TRAF’s first series of tactile maps for the blind and visually impaired community, a groundbreaking new advancement that would allow patrons to engage in the beloved outdoor festival.


Braun explains the significance behind tactile maps: “It’s about how you orient yourself and think about the physical space around you. For a lot of us, maps are a way to get from point A to point B, but they can also be seen as a way to orient yourself to a space, and that is what we think our tactile maps were able to achieve.”

For the upcoming festival, three tactile maps will help physically guide patrons to key festival areas: the Cultural District, Point State Park, and the Artist Market. These maps will be available for pick-up at the Festival Information Tent located in Point State Park and Gateway Center.

ASL Interpreters at Main Stage


ASL Interpreter translating during a performance



During the festival at the Dollar Bank Main Stage, ASL interpreters will be present to interpret what is being said, sung or performed on the stage to the audience members. This initiative began in 2015 in an effort to expand accessibility offerings for the Trust’s festivals.


Featured performances with ASL interpretation will be announced in the days to come. For more details, check back here or visit the Information Tent in Gateway Center during the run of the festival.

Large Print Programs


Festival goers looking at guide for the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival



Enlarged print programs will also be provided to visually impaired patrons who may require a more comfortable viewing experience of the TRAF schedule and programming guide. Large-print programs will be available at each Information Tent located in Point State Park and Gateway Center.


The Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival will take place throughout Downtown Pittsburgh from June 7-16.

Learn more about TRAF accessibility offerings.
Learn more about the Trust’s general accessibility services.

  • Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival
  • Accessibility