VSA, the international organization on arts and disability, was founded more than 35 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to provide arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities and increase access to the arts for all.
When founded in 1974, the organization was named the National Committee – Arts for the Handicapped. In 1985 the name changed to Very Special Arts and in 2010 it became VSA. In 2011, VSA merged with the Kennedy Center’s Office on Accessibility to become the Department of VSA and Accessibility at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
With 52 international affiliates and a network of nationwide affiliates, VSA is providing arts and education programming for youth and adults with disabilities around the world. Each year, 7 million people of all ages and abilities participate in VSA programs, in every aspect of the arts – from visual arts, performing arts, to the literary arts.
Four principles guide VSA programs and affiliates:
- Every young person with a disability deserves access to high quality arts learning experiences.
- All artists in schools and art educators should be prepared to include students with disabilities in their instruction.
- All children, youth, and adults with disabilities should have complete access to cultural facilities and activities.
- All individuals with disabilities who aspire to careers in the arts should have the opportunity to develop appropriate skills.