kNow Access 2017-2018
Let’s try thinking of accessibility as a creative, long-term process. It’s not just about the built environment, but about ideas of agency and power.
– Carmen Papalia, from An Accessibility Manifesto for the Arts, Canadian Art
Art and Activism
Colten Boushie by Taqralik Partridge, February 14, 2018
Taqralik Partridge is a writer and performance poet originally from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, and currently living in Kautokeino, northern Norway.
Forward from ArtsEverywhere: Colten Boushie was a 22-year-old Indigenous man from Red Pheasant Cree Nation, Treaty Six Territory, in the place we now call Canada. On August 9, 2016, Colten was shot in the back of the head and killed by white farmer Gerald Stanley. On February 9, 2018, an all-white judge and jury acquitted Gerald Stanley of second degree murder in the killing of Colten. The verdict has served to amplify inequities in Canada’s justice system, as well as this nation’s deep-rooted racism against Indigenous people of this land. ArtsEverywhere stands in love and solidarity with everyone across this land feeling pain, rage, sadness, and grief in the shadow of this verdict, in particular Colten’s family, friends, and community.
— BlackLivesMatter TO (@BLM_TO) June 25, 2017
Image Description: A black woman stands in parade holding a sign that reads: “May we never again need to remind you that we, too, are queer. BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
In 2017, access and inclusion were more than just physical barriers, they encompassed the notion of removing all barriers that exist in modern society. Much like the evolution of other social movements to include intersectionality, intersectionality became the forefront of access and inclusion. If your access and inclusion policies weren’t intersectional, they weren’t accessible.
– Kristina McMullin, Communications Coordinator, Tangled Art + Disability
I’ve been thinking about the biggest impact I felt this year and wanted to point to some reading I was catching up on. This quote from Mia Mingus, for me, was the most impactful thing I heard this year:
“Ableism must be included in our analysis of oppression and in our conversations about violence, responses to violence and ending violence. Ableism cuts across all of our movements because ableism dictates how bodies should function against a mythical norm—an able-bodied standard of white supremacy, heterosexism, sexism, economic exploitation, moral/religious beliefs, age and ability. Ableism set the stage for queer and trans people to be institutionalized as mentally disabled; for communities of color to be understood as less capable, smart and intelligent, therefore “naturally” fit for slave labor; for women’s bodies to be used to produce children, when, where and how men needed them; for people with disabilities to be seen as “disposable” in a capitalist and exploitative culture because we are not seen as “productive;” for immigrants to be thought of as a “disease” that we must “cure” because it is “weakening” our country; for violence, cycles of poverty, lack of resources and war to be used as systematic tools to construct disability in communities and entire countries.”
-Sean Lee, Gallery Manager, Tangled Art + Disability
Sylvia Rivera – “Y’all better quiet down: (1973)
Closed captioning available on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QiigzZCEtQ
Aging and Creativity
Image Description: Objects (a clock, a stool, a pair of running shoes and barbells) are displayed randomly on gallery floor and wall.
“Disability studies has done a great job of rethinking how spaces need to be arranged and organized in order to be accessible to different bodies”
– Carla Rice from The Aging/Disability Nexus
I am thinking about the ‘exit plan’ – this was new to me and I was introduced to it at the Time Slips arts workshop by Anne Basting in the session on partnering. The way she described it was poetic and different from just ending something – it was more akin to empowering others to take up a work and take it in new directions, with an expectation that it may live and look differently than when one first enters into a relationship or project or creative work. This came out strongly in the panel and art exhibition, but in the sense of exit plan as an interpretive relation, or mediation – an openness to difference!
– Katie Aubrecht, PhD, CIHR Health System Impact Postdoctoral Fellow, Nova Scotia Health Authority & Nova Scotia Centre on Aging
“We can legislate tolerance and a certain level of respect and dignity for the aging population, but we can’t legislate for true acceptance, caring and kindness to one another.”
Image Description: Artist Lynx Sainte Marie walking down street with their cane and wearing a futuristic plastic suit made of packing tape.
The workshop invited disabled and Mad-identified artists from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to explore their chemical lives in the context of product design and speculation. The team focused on the ways in which our chemical stories can imbue the objects around us in ways that are social, political, cultural and material.
Upon reflection, 2017 awarded me the opportunity to check my own privilege in so many ways. I was able to speak with so many leaders throughout the course of the year, who challenged and expanded my empathy and urged me to contemplate how I can effect change in my artistic practice. I was fortunate to be involved in conversations surrounding physical access, pluralism, Indigenous affairs, our penal system, migration….
Conversations that led me to questions which led to more questions. My quest now is to find ways to open up the dialogue and hold myself, my company, and my community accountable in solidifying positive change.
– Autumn Smith, Education and Audience Development Manager, Canadian Stage
Alex Bulmer, Artist, Producer, Writer
When asked how to make a space accessible I devised an acronym: A.F.F.I.R.M.
A = Ask; what do you and others need from the space in order to thrive?
F – Flexible; be open and flexible to shifts in practice, process, organization
F – Fearless; be fearless about shifting – creative discoveries just might surprise and enhance
I = Include; include everyone in the practice and opportunity to be flexible, adapt and evolve
R = Repeat; repeat all of the above – needs can change as a process unfolds
M = Mean it; if you propose to be accessible, commit to this, ensure it is in your actions as well as your words
I still believe Canada needs a Federal Access to Work policy, similar to European models, in order to pull itself into the 21st century
Aesthetics and Artistic Development
Image Description: Grey strips of textile woven together to form a circular basket shape lying on gallery floor.
Speaking specifically to disability art, ours is a sector that has not been given the critical attention it deserves. We are rarely given the making-space, the funding, the training, the mentorship, the art critiques, the exhibition space, the art reviews, and the exhibition catalogues needed to properly develop our work.”
– Eliza Chandler speaking at launch of Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice
2017 has refined my feeling that the practice of inclusion requires continuous examination of power structures as they operate not just in the world, but in our own lives. My particular piece of learning this year has been about the importance of language, and the conscious attempt to add “native English speaker” to my bundle of existing owned privilege alongside male, white, straight and abled. Concretely, as a developer and designer, I’ve been teaching myself more about internationalization, localization, and translation, in order to more effectively design and work on systems that don’t assume English as the default.
-Alan Harnum, Senior Inclusive Developer, Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University
Image Description: Black and white detailed ink drawing of hand placed on top of a detailed floral pattern.
Before working on the Age and Creativity exhibition, I had thought about access and inclusion in terms of race and sexuality, but not ability. The collaboration was utterly transformational for me and more importantly, for the presentation practices we’ve adopted at Mount Sainte Vincent University Art Gallery. There are too many to list here, so I will concentrate on one: recorded audio description.
With guidance from the website Art Beyond Sight we coached the artists to record descriptions of their works in their own voices. The results were illuminating, personal, intimate, and endorsed by gallery visitors of all abilities. I had previously been opposed to audio tours, thinking they exempted viewers from the effort to look closely. Now, I believe visitors spend more time with the art than they would without the audio aid, and that is a good thing. Our disability-aware gallery attendants, who are adept at verbal description, offered a personalized welcome to everyone entering the gallery. Inclusiveness involves more than removing barriers. The art gallery is a civic space and visitors of all abilities are entitled to make themselves comfortable in it.
Ingrid Jenkner, Director, Mount Sainte Vincent University Art Gallery
This year I began to think about access and inclusion as creativity. Thinking about how to make social media spaces more artful and engaging, I started to rise to the creative challenge of creating something accessible out of something built on principles of exclusion and elitism. This has felt really fun, and radical.
Andrea Lamarre, Social Media Coordinator, Bodies in Translation
The following is a list of compiled resources provided by contributors.
- As a reader of poetry, disabled poet Molly McCully Brown’s Link to The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. was one of my reads of the year.
- As a developer and designer, Ahmed Nefzaoui’s two-part series on Link to “Building right-to-left websites” were informative and expanding introductions to a topic I knew very little about.
- CSS Zen Garden: Link to CSS Zen Garden website
- OCADU Open Course in Accessible Websites: Link to OCADU Open Courses
- Link to Mia Mingus: The Politics of Desirability and the Ugly
- December 18, 2017: Interview on CBC Metro Morning: Link to CBC Metro Morning
A warm thank you to those whose responses, images and artworks contributed this year: Taqralik Partridge, Alex Bulmer, Katie Aubrecht, Ingrid Jenkner, Alan Harnum, IDRC, Andrea Lamarre, Sean Lee, Estée Klar, Carla Rice, Eliza Chandler, Tracy Tidgwell, David Bobier, Deirdre Logue, Sab Meynart, Tangled Art + Disability, Estée Klar, Autumn Smith, Esther Ignagni, Kim Collins, Kirsty Liddiard, Creative Users Projects, Anna Torma, Disability Visibility Project, Michael Fernandes, Kristina McMullin, Black Lives Matter, Carmen Papalia.