Perspectives Access

Access to Inspiration

Hear two sisters who are accessibility advocates describe why seeing and making art is fundamental to more than just creativity.

Mar 30, 2022

Illustrated portrait of Lakshmee and Annie Lachhman-Persad

When spaces are inaccessible, they aren’t inclusive, literally and figuratively, which affects us all. Meet Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad, a digital marketer, and her sister Annie Lachhman, an artist born with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair. Originally from Guyana, they often seek out New York City’s cultural offerings with their multi-generational family. When Lakshmee found there wasn’t much practical information available for planning visits for people with disabilities, she founded Accessible Travel NYC, a website to share stories, photographs, and realistic tips about getting around. Hear how visits to The Met have inspired Annie’s creativity and deepened Lakshmee’s view that disability—whether among artists or the rest of us—is something to be celebrated, not overcome.

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Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad:
We are not a family with a visible disability only, but we’re a brown family. And when you look around you and you don’t see similar people, you often don’t feel as if you fit in. Everyone, you know, has a right to be able to see themselves represented and to know what spaces they’re welcomed in.

Barron B. Bass: 
Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad recorded this from home, but she and her family are really in their element when they’re out exploring New York City, including the city’s museums. Lakshmee and her sister, Annie, run a website called Accessible Travel NYC, where they share stories, photos, and accessibility tips from their outings across the city. 

Annie is an artist who has cerebral palsy. Her speech is impaired and she uses a manual wheelchair. So accessibility at museums is really important for her and her family. 

Welcome to Frame of Mind, a podcast from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, about how art connects with wellness in our everyday lives. This week, you’ll hear from both Lakshmee and Annie and learn how their multi-generational family found a sense of freedom and joy at The Met and how they envisioned museums becoming more welcoming for everyone.

Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad: 
How about the fact that whenever we were going out, that the first question that everybody always asks is “What are we eating? Where are we going?” That’s Annie laughing in the background. My name is Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad.

Annie is my younger sister and we’re partners in crime these days. Content creator’s crime—for representation of people with disabilities and brown people within spaces here in New York City.

Although we’re a family of six, usually museums tend to be a girls’ time out, where we go and enjoy a quieter scene. Me, mom, Annie, and Diya. Diya is my daughter.

We’ve grown into an art family, so to speak.

So you enjoy being out, but do you get anything else? It’s family time.

Annie Lachhman:
It's educational.

Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad:
Annie says it’s educational.

Portrait of two women, Annie and Lakshmee, in the European Painting galleries at The Met 5th Avenue. The women are medium-dark skinned and one of them is a wheelchair user.
Image of Annie and Lakshmee in The Met’s European Paintings Galleries. Courtesy of Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad.

So Annie, as you can tell, her speech isn’t very clear. And so, when she speaks up, she comes out with short sentences and her short sentences can be very snarky at times. It all depends on her mood. Most of the time, she’s in a great mood because you can hear she just laughs a lot all of the time.

And then she just interjects with her own humor. Annie uses a manual wheelchair and every time I go into a new space, you know, I’m always worried: is the weather going to hold up? Is our transportation going to work today? And then when we get there, are people going to be welcoming to us? If I call to ask you if you’re accessible and you say “Yes,” and then I say, “Is there one step up to the restaurant?” And you say “Yes,” then I get really nervous, because not everyone understands what our accessibility needs are. 

You can tell me you’re accessible, but I don’t know when I get there, how I’m going to be treated.

When pop culture and the media celebrate certain types of bodies and certain types of body color, we don’t necessarily fit into that mold that’s constantly being showcased. And most of the photography in marketing, in pop culture reflects people that don’t look like us in color, in culture, and in disability.

And so when you’re out in public spaces, when you look around you and you don’t see similar people, you often don’t feel as if you fit in. And so we’ve only built up our confidence just by slowly building up the momentum of like, “Yes, we belong in these spaces too.”

Do I get disappointed with museums? Oh, of course. I mean, when we went to The Cloisters —as much as I love The Cloisters— they weren’t clear with the information on their website, that if you got there and you’re a wheelchair user, you have to take a minivan to get over to a separate entrance.

I believe they’ve updated their website, but when you have situations like that, that doesn’t make for a great experience already because the anxiety starts to kick in. “Well, am I going to get to see everything I want to see today? And do I need to now finish off seeing everything to make sure I’m back outside to get that wheelchair-accessible van to go to get to my drop-off spot?” And so, when you encounter those types of situations, it causes anxiety. 

And I think this is why, you know, I try to be as honest as possible when I write up the blog post, so that people would know what to expect and how to plan for it.
In my ideal world, we walk into a place. It’s fully accessible. We don’t have to go through a separate entrance. We go through the regular entrance as everybody else, and the staff, they would know what spaces and experiences that’s there that would be welcoming for us.

So Annie says, I like to go out with my family because they are the ones who take me out the most. (To Annie) What about the spaces?

Annie Lachhman: 
The space is nice, too.

Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad:
The space is nice, too.

I’ve been doing a lot of digging into famous artists and their artwork. And I’ve been learning that throughout time, disability has been erased from an artist’s work. So for example, Monet was going blind when he did some of his water lilies work, but that’s not being talked about. 

And it’s the same thing with Van Gogh, who created “Starry Night” obviously our ear has to do a lot with balancing. And I remember seeing that piece of artwork and I thought to myself, well, I have vertigo. This is what my world looks like in the night, when my vertigo is here. Everything spins.

And so just looking at things through a different lens, was then allowing me to understand that artists are able to create from their perspective, with their disability. It’s not overcoming their disabilities. And I think for museums like The Met, I think it’s time to highlight disabilities and how it allowed the artists to create that spectacular piece of work instead of erasing it.

So, it’s something I’ve actually started highlighting in my blog posts. Now, I’m looking to see if the artist has a disability so I can highlight it. Because if we don’t talk about it, then the younger children growing up wouldn’t know how these disabilities inspire the art and it’s the same way Annie’s lens of how she sees and creates her art. It’s through her disabled experiences. 

Annie’s a great artist. She actually sketches on her iPad and then she emails it to the instructor, who also doubles as her apprentice, who she tells exactly how to use the sketches that she’s done. And then they superimpose it with other bits and pieces of art that Annie likes to create some amazing pieces.

Her colors differ for each piece because of the mood. When a piece is done, there is almost a surrealness to them. It just looks as if it’s a little bit from another world. She has been creating bits and pieces of art on disability representation to help raise pride within the disabled community.

When The Met opened up their platform to collect art from people with disabilities in celebration of the American Disabilities Act’s 30th birthday, Annie submitted a piece of work and it’s what they used as the cover image. 

So her piece, it’s the disability pride flag, which it looks like a lightning bolt. And on top of the lightning bolt, it’s a wheelchair user that’s a pictograph in all white. And she actually took the wheelchair user and put a smiley face on the wheelchair user. And that actually is who she is. 

Artwork of the disability pride flag shaped like a lightning bolt and a smiling wheelchair user.Image of Annie’s artwork. Courtesy of Annie Lachhman and Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad.

Her artist statement actually says that creating art gives her the ability to showcase to the world what she cannot communicate in clear speech, what’s in her mind’s eye. There is a sense of pride within all of us in the family because “Yay! We have an artist now who’s been featured on The Met’s website! We have an artist in our family that’s creating work to lift up the disabled community.” So, there is a sense of purpose for Annie and it’s a sense of pride for all of us.

So the last time we went to The Met museum, it was going to be a really hot day. And when it’s a really, really hot day, I mean, you know, I always think it’s really nice to be in a cool spot. So we chose to go to the Museum that day. And I remember, you know, we walked in. It was me, mom, Annie, and Diya. And I remember walking in this Roman hallway. It was early in the morning, so there’s light and shadow within that space. And the beautiful tall ceiling that’s just so well decorated. And then you have all of these naked statues. And Diya was making up all kinds of stories about these naked bodies. And Annie could not help but laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

And then Diya started laughing. And then I remember telling them, if you keep making noise, they’re going to kick us out of here. But they wouldn’t stop laughing. It was nice to hear it, because it sounded off of the high ceiling. And so that laughter just really carried through.

We had a great time. It’s joy in being in spaces, joy of hearing different sounds, joy of going up onto the rooftop, and other people asking us, “Can we take your family photo?” Instead of us trying to struggle with a selfie. It’s not the spatial accessibility, but it’s all of these other smaller elements that create a unique and joyful experience.

Then, when you’re done for the day, there is a sense of belonging, because you fit into a space. And sometimes, you even leave with new energy. Art is the first language we learn. It’s our first language of communication. We would draw stick people, and throughout history, that’s what you find in the caves. And so our museum space has something for everyone, whether you’re going there to look, whether you’re going there to listen. And the quiet spaces are beautiful, too.

So, it’s our first language and everybody has a right to experience these beautiful spaces. Can I just showcase everybody so they can say bye? Do you want to hold the mic?

Annie Lachhman: 

Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad:
And? Anything else?

Annie Lachhman: 
Thank you. 

Barron B. Bass: 
Thank you for listening. This has been Frame of Mind, an art and wellness podcast from The Met. To learn more about Lakshmee and Annie’s family adventures throughout the city and The Met’s access programs tailored to meet the needs of visitors with disabilities, please visit

Frame of Mind is produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Goat Rodeo. At The Met: Head of Content Sofie Andersen, Executive Producer Nina Diamond, Associate Producer Bryan Martin, and Production Coordinators Harrison Furey and Lela Jenkins. At Goat Rodeo: Rebecca Seidel is Lead Producer. Megan Nadolski is Executive Producer. Production Assistance from Char Dreyer, Isabelle Kerby-McGowan, Cara Shillenn, and Max Johnston.

Senior producer is Ian Enright. Story Editing from Morgan Springer. Series Illustration by Sophie Schultz. I’m your host Barron B. Bass. A special thanks to our guests on this episode, Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad and Annie Lachhman. This podcast is made possible by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Dasha Zhukova Niarchos. If you liked this episode, please leave us a rating or review and share it with your friends.

Next time on Frame of Mind

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya: 
My practice is about making the invisible, visible, whether it’s microscopic worlds or the far reaches of outer space or the depth and beauty and complexity of marginalized communities.

Supported by

Bloomberg Philanthropies

and Dasha Zhukova Niarchos.

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About the contributors

Digital Marketer and Founder of Accessible Travel NYC

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Graphic of The Met's Facade in black lines.