AUGUSTA – There is an untapped resource in Maine, a source of great riches, and all we need do is look and see what is there. Artists with disabilities have much to contribute to their community, its culture and the cultural conversation that we enjoy so richly here, yet they are greatly underutilized.

Twenty-two years after the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act, gallery owners, arts presenters, publishers and audiences need to make a new commitment to full inclusion for artists with disabilities. They should be included in our galleries, in our theaters and in our concert halls. We should see them in the workplace designing the things that we use and see their names on our bookshelves.

Imagine for a moment a world that never experienced the works of visual artist Chuck Close, who uses a wheelchair; danced to the music of musicians like Jose Feliciano and Ray Charles; gloried in the symphonies of a deafened Beethoven; cheered the Hallelujah chorus of Handel’s “Messiah” (he had epilepsy), or commiserated with the blind folk musician Doc Watson.

Imagine a host of artists with disabilities erased from our cultural memory. The list is long — classical violinist Itzhak Perlman (polio), actress Marlee Matlin (deaf), photographer Dorothea Lange (polio), visual artists Frida Kahlo (paraplegia) and Leonardo da Vinci (dyslexia and epilepsy), dramatist Tennessee Williams (depression) — and the list keeps going. Such an erasure would be devastating.

Now imagine the riches we may miss if we ignore artists with disabilities in our own state. What visions remain ignored? What sounds and ideas never reach an audience?

These artists offer a different perspective on the world and help us see the world from a vantage point that would otherwise be unavailable to us. In so doing, they offer a greater understanding of the world, its complexity and variety. Can one ever have too much understanding?

Leaving aside the question of disability, like all artists, artists with disabilities serve a great need.

Imagination is an elusive commodity in today’s world. Artists with disabilities add to that supply of imagination. Likewise, they add to the supply of creativity, a quality closely allied with the ability to solve problems, and that is something artists with disabilities practice on a daily basis.

They not only teach us about beauty and raise questions about the nature of our existence, they teach us perseverance, developing their skills through adaptation. Can we have too much imagination and creativity? Can we have too much perseverance?

Like all artists, artists with disabilities strive to inspire their audience. They strive to provoke thought, define and create beauty to wonder at and ask questions. Can we have too much inspiration?

Finally, artists with disabilities play an important role in the creative economy.

They contribute their talents to a marketplace that is strengthened by those talents, and thereby strengthen us all. Pursuing their art as professionals in the marketplace, they pay taxes, buy goods and services and create wealth in the same manner as any other professional.

In the end, the disability is invisible. It simply doesn’t matter.

On Oct. 23 in Freeport, the Maine Arts Commission will team up with Alpha One to host a daylong event to help artists with disabilities acquire the tools they need to pursue their art in the marketplace. These workshops on building a portfolio, preparing an audition and marketing will teach artists all they need to know about the business of art.

Gallery owners, presenters and the public are invited to join in and explore the untapped resource. It is a resource we dare not ignore in today’s economy.

No talent should go to waste. Ideas are too precious to let slip through our fingers. We should see in as many ways as we can employ; hear what cannot be heard and travel to places that teach us understanding. For that we must include artists with disabilities.

Keith Ludden is the accessibility coordinator for the Maine Arts Commission.