Five Things I Learned about Accessibility During the Pandemic: Part One
This blog post has been updated as of December 6, 2021 in response to new learning that came to us through Instagram. We want to lead with the work of Disabled Artists, Curators, Producers, and Consultants who have been part of Luminato’s Access Hub progammes in 2021. The rest of the blog has not been altered, as we want to remain accountable for our actions.
- Natasha “Courage” Bacchus
- Shay Erlich
- Art Gunter
- Jack Hawk
- Sean Lee
- Christine Malec
- Gaitrie Persaud
- Jenna Roy
- Jessica Watkin
Produced by Mari “Dev” Ramsawakh
With Blind/Low Vision and Disabled hosts:
- Christine Malec
- Ramya Amuthan
- Rebecca Singh
Additional Radio LUMI interviews by Jessica Watkin, Jack Hawk.
With contributions from brian solomon.
And music by Teneshia T. Samel, Madam Sad, Robin Jupiter, Mattmac.
Curated by Pree Rehal and Natasha “Courage” Bacchus. Featuring artwork from:
- Winter Plum
- Ruth Marie
- Teneshia T. Samuel
- Ella Josephine
- Ashley T.
- Dolly Roul
- Jasbina Justic
- Robin Gaudreau
Visual Stories created by Heidi Persaud.
“The Future is Accessible.”
This phrase coined by LGBTQ+ Disability activist Annie Sagarra, also known as Annie Elainey, is our call to action. Luminato is committed to building this better future for everyone.
Let’s skip the preamble and pretend you already know who I am: white (via UK, Scottish, Irish heritage), femme-fabulous-she/them, now over 50 with various health stuff but… if choosing to identify between “disabled” and “able-bodied”, I identify as able-bodied… most of the time – (is that another blog post?) – but in this blog post, the first one that I’m writing as Festival & Community Engagement Manager (which yes, is a purposefully vague catchall title) – my job is to respond to this challenge issued to me from the Access Advisory last March. There were many challenges – but THIS challenge was to write a blog about Accessibility that responded to the question, “What have I learned about Accessibility?“
Let’s start with some fun facts: Today, December 3, is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, founded by the United Nations in 1992.
“Today, the world population is over 7 billion people and more than one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability; 80 per cent live in developing countries. Disability inclusion is an essential condition to upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security. It is also central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind. The commitment to realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is not only a matter of justice; it is an investment in a common future.”
Source: United Nations
So, what have I learned that wasn’t already on the internet? In short, “Accessibility” is an endless journey, filled with hard work, wrong directions, new discoveries, and often wonderful outcomes. A lot like an artistic practice.
Let’s break that down.
My consciousness around accessibility started around 2017. Previous to that, my understanding was strictly related to doing Box Office for Toronto Fringe. It didn’t start to feel endless until I got this job in March 2019 and started to take ASL lessons, forging relationships with folks like Lindsay Fisher (who is a much better blogger! Sign up to her Creative Users Project’s newsletter if you haven’t already) and began reaching out to the larger community. But guess what? Relationships take work. I needed to show up, to participate in surveys, symposiums, think tanks and learn what people were thinking and feeling. It’s about resource sharing, and finding time to have conversations.
Things move quickly inside the Disabilities communities, and sometimes in different directions. There is no singular “Disability Community.” There are so many points of intersection, any temptation to generalize must be checked. Which is not to say there aren’t accepted good practices, but these can change quickly, so my first lesson: keep reading (especially work written by people with lived experience!), keep learning, because Accessibility is a journey not a destination.
Subscribe to the Creative Users Newsletter
Creative Users Projects publishes a weekly newsletter with featured accessible events happening across Canada. Check out past issues!
Like anything that is new, cutting-edge, “different” – there is a lot of general resistance. Even people who profess to love the avant-garde, don’t often like new things that don’t align with their idea of what “new” is supposed to look like. This is where Accessibility can really blow people’s minds. So much of the best creativity comes from the margins, from adversity. But to even get to the place where I can see and understand the work, I have to confront my own resistance, let alone push against established ways of working to advocate for change. That takes work. Let’s take the directive “nothing about us without us”, and, as suggested to me, just shorten that to “Nothing without us,” and then do that. Actually, do that. Over and over again. Just like learning the piano, you get better the more you practice.
When I was an independent artist, I liked to take on “challenges.” As producer at Luminato, the best part of the job is to find a way to say “yes” to artists. When it comes to Accessibility, I’m really fortunate because I have more money than most Accessibility Coordinators to “make things accessible.” And this ties back to my purposefully vague job title. I did not want the word “Access” in my job title because I felt strongly that would create limiting bias both inside and outside the company about what I could do. I try to be bold, but also subtle.
This leads to my second lesson: Nothing is impossible. Plant as many seeds as possible, the garden will grow. It may not look like what you thought it would, it might be even better.
Learn about Luminato’s Commitment to Accessibility
Luminato is working hard to bring accessibility into the centre of what we do and we know this is a deep process which requires a long-term commitment. We are looking from every angle, inside and out, at how to change the way we work. Our internal programs include biweekly Lunch & Learn sessions, ASL lessons, as well as regular consultation with our advisory to offer feedback on office design, website functionality, artistic processes, training, and more. We are committed to hiring more Disabled staff and artists. We are committed to creating transparency with Radio LUMI’s behind-the-scenes podcasts and the expanding Access Hub. We are excited to share the work we’re doing and to keep growing in our commitments.
Wrong Directions: Next time, I’ll tell you about this third point, as who doesn’t want to know other peoples’ messy mistakes. For today, I will take a moment to think about how I can do more to make the future accessible – my future! (I’m over 50, right?) If I don’t want to be left behind, I need to keep thinking about what I am doing right now to make sure I’m not leaving someone else behind. I want to think ahead ten years, twenty years, two hundred years, and feel excited about our common future.
- Cathy Gordon
Want to learn more about accessibility in the arts and how accessibility helps everyone? We will be sharing updates in our Access Hub all month long. Sign up our newsletter and follow us on socials to get the latest updates!