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Benjamin Berry

About Accessible Circus Project

Accessible Circus Project provides free/subsidized accessible movement-based programming and circus props to individuals, families, and organizations that have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This initiative is led by Benjamin Berry in partnership with Accessible Festivals, a non-profit organization committed to making recreation and leisure accessible to all abilities.

Our current campaign: to provide free/subsidized movement sessions and circus props to 500 individuals in one year!

Sessions will be delivered in-person in the WNY area following state-mandated guidelines for physical distancing and mask wearing or virtually through Zoom and similar platforms. Props will be delivered by mail or in-person in the WNY area.

Goals for this project include:

  • To create movement-based recreational and educational opportunities that are thoughtfully designed to be accessible for all ages and levels of ability.

  • To promote wellness by targeting physical/functional, cognitive, emotional, and social capacities tied to circus arts and creative movement, including but not limited to: core strength, grip strength, spatial awareness, range of motion, balance, coordination, focus, appropriate goal setting, self efficacy, stress management, and empathy.

  • To address socioeconomic inequity by providing free and subsidized movement-based programming and circus props to individuals and groups who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; and 

  • To build a diverse and nurturing community centered around the intersections between circus arts, creative movement, accessibility, diversity, and inclusion. 


Social need for this project

Recreation and leisure activities are an essential component of holistic wellness. It is also true that due to loss of income, budget cuts, or limitations placed on in-person gatherings, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the ability of individuals and groups to participate in the activities that normally empower them and provide necessary routine. Further, opportunities for recreation and creative expression that are accessible for all abilities are even more scarce. 


Accessible Circus Project aims to help replenish those sorely missed resources by providing free/subsidized movement-based programming that is intentionally designed to meet the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social needs of participants who have been impacted by the pandemic.


About our approach

The circus props

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Pictured above from left to right: set of three juggling/dance scarves, pair of two fabric poi (spinning prop originating from Māori people of New Zealand), and set of three juggling balls

Historically, the world of circus arts has celebrated diversity and pushed the limits of human potential. Since then, a modern Social Circus movement has emerged that uses circus arts as a medium for social justice and social good.
We take great inspiration from the intentions of this growing worldwide movement.

Our approach is also inspired by three pedagogical pillars:

  • Holistic Circus Therapy, a methodology based on the Canadian model of occupational therapy that uses circus arts to target specific physical, cognitive, emotional, and social capacities. We lean most heavily into prop-based circus arts (pictured to the right) because they are novel, accessible, instantly engaging, and they provide a variety of tactile sensory experiences.

  • Brain-Compatible Dance Education (BCDE), a structured conceptual approach to teaching creative dance that aims to create an ideal learning environment where the brain is ready, willing, and able to learn. BCDE provides us with best teaching practices and a truly effective framework for our lessons. 

  • The CASEL Five Core Competencies, an evidence-based framework that establishes five core competencies of social emotional learning: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

Every Accessible Circus session will include:

  • a full body-brain warm up using the BrainDance, a series of exercises based on developmental movement patterns that help rewire the sensory-motor system

  • creative explorations and games that promote social-emotional learning competencies

  • skill building with one or more circus props (including juggling props, hula hoops, poi, and spinning plate) 

  • a cool-down with reflection

Pictured below from left to right:
spinning plates and hula hoops

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Who is eligible?

Donate and support

Have you, your family, an individual under your care, or your organization been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? If the answer to that question is "yes," then you are eligible to apply for free/subsidized Accessible Circus sessions and/or circus props.

Your contribution to the cost of sessions/props depends entirely on your budget and the amount of funding we are able to allocate based on grant support and individual donations towards this project. If you are able to provide partial payment, more funding will be available for other individuals and organizations who apply as beneficiaries. In this way, payment can be seen as a "sliding scale" that helps spread financial aid to where it is needed most.

Examples of potential beneficiaries of this project include but are not limited to the following:

  • Individuals with autism and/or physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities, and organizations that serve those populations (such as Dayhab programs)

  • Families who have experienced loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Schools whose budgets for recreational, physical education, or arts enrichment programs have been impacted 

  • Senior care facilities with lessened activities budget

To begin the application process, please fill out the form below (or click here to jump to the application).


This project is fiscally sponsored by the 501(3)(c) non-profit organization Accessible Festivals. All donations are tax-deductible with Tax ID: 47-1805055. We are grateful for any and all support! 

Application for Free/Subsidized Instruction and/or Circus Props 
Which movement activities and/or circus props are you most interested in? (you may select multiple)

Thanks for submitting! We will reach out via email soon.

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