Leadership / 08.24.22
Dani Rose Blooms as Art-Reach’s Director of Development
Danielle “Dani” Rose’s passion for disability and cultural rights advocacy began years ago when she was working in the call center at Ticket Philadelphia, the customer service arm of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Kimmel Cultural Campus. Management needed someone to focus on accessibility and asked if she would be interested. Having never taken on such a specialized project, Rose jumped at the chance. From there, she found her calling.
Today, Rose is Director of Development at Art-Reach, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization that provides immersive arts programming for people with disabilities. “We learn about how folks with disabilities are interacting with arts, what adaptations they might require, and so forth,” she says. “We then teach what we have learned to the various cultural centers so they can provide that programming as part of their everyday operations. And it’s not only people with disabilities. We focus on people who are experiencing poverty, which is a huge number of individuals here in Philadelphia. We address the barriers to access that exist for them, as well.”
Rose’s main duty these days is fundraising, but she also teaches and trains. She finds the most fulfillment in the latter, explaining: “Working with Art-Reach, when you train every organization — not just one — the entire community of Philadelphia is changed. Also at Art-Reach, we do lots of training at national and international conferences. So, all of those peoples’ communities are changed. Our reach, our impact, has been enormous.”
At the same time, she acknowledges the importance of the fundraising component of her job. And she endeavors every day to get better at it. “This is my first foray into fundraising, but it’s really not that much different than ticketing,” she says. “It’s patron management. The patrons are different, and what you are selling is different. Yes, there are challenges. Donors don’t always love my customer service language. [laughing] After six years working in a customer call center, it’s been really hard to stop using customer service language! But, ultimately, I am engaging with people who are engaging with what they love. So, in that way, it’s not that different at all.”
Along the way, Rose has been able to soak up a lot of good advice and insights from the work experiences she has had and the people she has collaborated with. Consequently, she has developed something of a personal motto: “Pocket change from every conversation! People tell you all sorts of things when they don’t think they’re telling you anything at all. The way people tell you things, the language that they use, even just the things that they’re saying in between the things that they’re saying … I guess I’m talking about reading between the lines of conversations. I’ve liked being an observer, pocketing wisdom and carrying it forward. In the ticketing world, in the call center, I would sometimes speak to 200 people a day. But there was something to learn from each one of those people.”
Her wisdom extends to the many young people just entering the ticketing and live events space. She loves the increasing diversity she is seeing in the field. “I’m not one to play hard on the binary,” she says. “Women, female-presenting individuals, nonbinary individuals, all of us have something to learn about what it is to be a perceived minority even though there is nothing that sets us apart from the perceived majority. The advice I would give to anyone who is a part of that perceived minority is to fearlessly be exactly who you are. Show up as your authentic self, even if the perception of the world is that you should be less or that you should dim your light to make others more comfortable.”
She says, “I think we have moved past that in this world. Never hide your intellect. What makes people listen is coming in with strong ideas and strong solutions while being your full and authentic self. And then you have to allow other people to come to the table as their authentic selves. When we realize all of those social anxieties, we come in with better ideas and we end up working that much smarter together.”
Rose’s penchant for giving excellent counsel was on display back in January at the 43rd Annual INTIX Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida. She delivered a highly informative talk titled, “Service First! Customer Service and Accessibility” in which she discussed the importance of onboarding and training customer service staff and working to improve accessibility at live event venues.
Rose got as much out of the experience as the attendees. She says, “It was amazing to get to talk about a social justice issue that doesn’t get to be talked about, but is so critically important in the ticketing world. When we think about diversity, equity, inclusion and access, we think about those as huge policy and paradigm shifts that happen at the top of our organizations. But in ticketing, we deal with human beings, face to face, every day. We have to make a decision in that moment that has nothing to do with the policy decisions that are being made above our heads. I think I was able to connect with our community in a very beautiful way, because I acknowledged that human-to-human connection they have to deal with every single day and I was able to provide some realistic solutions for how to navigate situations that might be uncomfortable.”
She also remembers INTIX 2022 for another reason: “One thing that came up was an accessibility question I didn’t have an answer to. And I’ve spent every day since January trying to answer this question. One of the things we’re finding in our for-profit venues — our big arenas, our big stages — is folks who are choosing to purchase the accessible seats because they are convenient for other reasons and not because they require them for access. Our friends at Red Rocks in Colorado have an issue because their accessible seats are in the front row. People want front row for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with access, right? Or, let’s say that in a big stadium, your accessible seats are right near the restrooms. People love that! So, people are choosing these seats because they have a preference. Now, the ADA has lots of reasons and regulations that talk about why we can’t walk up to these people and say, ‘You don’t need these seats! Get out!’ Those protections are there for people with disabilities. Let’s say you have MS. Maybe one day, I’m using a cane or a wheelchair. If I’m a season ticket holder and I have season-long accessible seats, there may be times where I am not needing to use my mobility device. So, how do we police these seats without denying the right of people who need it but may only need it sometimes. That’s a big question that was posed. I have been asking everyone, all of the experts I know and have learned from, how to solve this fraudulent use issue. And I haven’t found the answer yet!”
But Rose is optimistic she will find that answer. Overall, she is also feeling positive about live events, in general, and where the world is heading in terms of opening back up and providing equal access to all. In fact, she describes herself as “unreasonably optimistic,” saying, “What I am hoping is that this is — let’s call it — the last ‘weird year.’ We’re seeing people return. They are coming back. We’re seeing a greater need for human connection and community connection. I have a feeling we’re going to see a resurgence in live events that we’ve been waiting for post-pandemic.”
She says, “But what makes me most hopeful is that while we were all sitting at home, the social justice movement of the world kept going. We’re coming back with new ideas and different perspectives and really different priorities. I’ve been working in accessibility now for almost a decade. In the last two years, my trainings have been requested more. We’ve seen greater attendance at our accessibility conferences. We’ve seen greater interest in people wanting to talk about web accessibility. Most of that is being driven by the way we are communicating about inclusion and the way we’re connection on social media platforms that is driving our business and industry to be more inclusive. We have to meet those needs of our community. As we are coming back, we are already having the right conversations. I’m hopeful that’s going to continue.”
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