Access needs or even just like planning for disability and access is not a one size fits all. It can be really harmful when there’s just a document or a toolkit that’s like ‘here’s access planning 101’. There can be so many conflicting access needs – you can’t anticipate a certain body or a certain kind of disabled person being in this space or participating in this space.Pree Rehal
The fifth episode of Desire Paths, Accessible Futures connects with artist Pree Rehal who guides us through the spaces in the city where they feel safe and cared for. From their home space to Allan Gardens, to the Paperhouse Studio, an experimental art studio and community space, Pree explores how accessibility plays out across the city. Along the journey, Pree is joined by their sibling Harmeet Rehal, and facilitator Cara Eastcott, as they collectively discuss access intimacy, disability and transformative justice, and what it means to honour crip time.
Through Accessible Futures, Pree Rehal asks how can we rethink notions of time and space to design brave places where we can be our authentic selves? What has the pandemic exposed about the everyday challenges of folx with disabilities and how can learnings transform organizational structures? Finally, what do futures of the disability justice movement look like and how can we create more space for intersectionality moving forward?
Pree Rehal (they/them) is an artist-educator currently based in Tkaronto, originally from Tiohtià:ke. They’re a child of immigrant settlers from Punjab. Pree’s work is an ode to their extended youth as a trans and non-binary person, while also painting love letters to their inner child, and affirming their queer, disabled, fat self.
Cara Eastcott is a culture worker based in Toronto, who has been shaping multi-disciplinary arts spaces for the last 15 years. She has done extensive work in creating accessible practices for Deaf and disability arts to thrive.
Hima: [00:00:00] Welcome to Desire Paths, presented by Luminato with Toronto based foresight studio From Later. I’m Hima Batavia, one of the curators of this audio experience. What are desire paths? They’re unpaved passages slowly carved into the terrain of a city, formed by the citizens own walking tracks and guided by their belief in a better way.
[00:00:46] In this six episode series, we are exploring possible futures of Toronto through the imaginations of local artists. Each artist takes us on a fieldtrip. One that weaves histories and futures into a vision of what this city could be. Today, artist Pree Rehal is in conversation with their sibling and artist Harmeet Rehal, and Cara Eastcott, a cultural worker who creates spaces for disability and deaf arts to thrive. Pree explored spaces in the city where they feel safe and cared for as a person with multiple disabilities and intersectional identities.
[00:01:26] They take us inside their home, Allan Gardens, and Paperhouse studio, and explore everything from Crip time to access intimacy, and how the pandemic has exposed how able is our systems, policies and political will are. Use the episode as a meditation to carve your own desire paths for the city in all its beauty, complexity, and contradictions.
[00:02:04] Pree: My name’s Pree. I I usually introduce myself as an artist and educator currently based in Tkaronto Treaty 13. My parents are immigrants, settlers from Punjab, and I am almost three years into my arts practice. That’s still very much learning and finding my ways.
[00:02:27] I dabble in a little bit of everything. And, um, I love finding ways of collaborating with other artists, making art as forms of research and like really, building community in ways that feels good and is nourishing and also making sure that folks are being equitably cared for and resourced for their work.
[00:02:55] Yeah. You can find me online on Instagram as sticky mangoes and on Twitter as Preezilla like Godzilla, but with Pree, um, yeah, and I’m a trans non binary person. I am fat brown, visibly racialized. And, um, I’m, Multiple disabled. I don’t like to get into all the different diagnoses too much, but there’s like, there’s like 30 and I usually move through the world with a mobility device with my cane.
[00:03:25] It’s not very cute. I’m four foot 11. So like I have very limited options. So if you want to make me like a diamond crusted snake cane, let me know, slide into the DM’s. I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 14, but the type of cancer that I had is one that has like a really high survival rate and low recurrence rate.
[00:03:45] And it was found really early. And I was constantly told that I was really lucky that I had the best kind of cancer, the healthcare support that I was receiving. Like it all just kind of echoed that you’re really lucky. You’re doing great kind of narratives and yeah. Between sick kids, my school, my high school, no one really thought to kind of let me know what this really meant for me in terms of like my life or the future in terms of co-morbidities the fact that cancer treatment impacts children very differently than adults.
[00:04:20] The fact that I had an immune compromised immune system, like if somebody would have sat down and talked to me about that, I feel like that would have been really hard. I would constantly just get like throat, nose, ear infections. And, but as I got into my late teens and early twenties, I noticed that I was just like constantly in pain and constantly not able to do things that.
[00:04:39] It wasn’t expected of me and it felt like a guilty secret, but, um, yeah, it wasn’t until, uh, in my mid twenties that I, I kind of like found and learned about disability justice in a, in a more formal way and started to call myself disabled, like, and finding disabled community, uh, and in learning about like what that really means, and that it’s not actually a guilty secret and it is actually a truth and an identity.
[00:05:06] And something that’s valid and it does actually impact your life. Lots of healthcare processes can be very fat phobic. Very ablest very racist, very anti-Black, very transphobic, but I’ve been really fortunate to have received some diagnoses that have answered a lot of questions and made sense of a lot of things that I experienced.
[00:05:25] Yeah. I think for me as someone who has been chronically ill for a very long time and comes from a culture that is very abelist, I would say realizing. That I can just say I am this, or I have this and knowing that I don’t need to provide any further explanation of what’s happening to me or why I can’t do what you’re asking of me.
[00:05:48] It was a very empowering and really helpful for me personally.
[00:06:04] Pree: My sibling, my little sibling, who’s like my kid. One of the programs that they’re in at U of T is Equity Studies. And I know from time to time, we would talk about some of the things that they were reading, including things around disability, justice, and crip time. When I moved back to Toronto, I learned about Bricks and Glitters, which is an alternative pride community organization here in Toronto.
[00:06:26] And one of the workshops that were a part of that program was kind of like a disability one-on-one disability justice workshop facilitated by the two folks who run Cyborg Circus. They both are wheelchair users and dancers and facilitators and artists, a few things that stood out to me from their presentation.
[00:06:47] One was just like, I felt really good. And I was like, okay, this is me, this is truth. And it also got me thinking about how I, as an organizer share access information about spaces. The other thing that stood out to me about their workshop was they mentioned how they as white folks, they are not the authority.
[00:07:05] And they also like can’t facilitate workshops on and they can’t speak to the experiences of like racialized, disabled folks that kind of, I think, bluntness of like what, what you can and cannot do what you should and should not do. It just like, made so much sense to me. And at that same time, I was like, maybe I should be that person then, because I do belong to like that community.
[00:07:25] And I am racialized, but for me, I really identified with Crip because there was a period a couple of years ago where I was just having a lot of falls. Like I was in my twenties and I was just having a lot of falls and I eventually decided to look into getting a cane. And it was, it was such a game changer for me.
[00:07:43] I suddenly had so much more stability. And so much more capacity to be able to walk and get around and do things. It also definitely came with a lot of other unwanted things and unwanted attention and wanted comments from folks with like, why I’m using it or why I’m sitting in the accessibility seats and whatnot.
[00:08:04] For me, it was like, yeah, like not only am I disabled and someone who’s like a spoonie, which is another term for disabled folks, but Crip really feels like. Kind of where I’m at, like that were cometary nature of it feels very political. My sibling in the back is echoing punk.
[00:08:22] Harmeet: Hi everyone. I’m Pree’s younger sibling. I’m eight years younger than them.
[00:08:23] There’s actually five of us, but I’m the youngest and yeah, my name’s Harmeet my pronouns are they / them. I am trans gender nonconforming, disabled, queer. I’m an artist and
I’m just going to leave that thought. I think it just, it just means I do a lot of things, but, um, yeah, that’s me.
[00:08:59] Pree: The Homespace has been like a source of a lot of stress recently, just cause we were in the middle of a move. Uh, we just moved last week or something week and a half ago and finding a place was really difficult and it was just a whole journey. The Homespace represents like a lot of safety for me and in terms of what I need to make it feel like home.
[00:09:20] Is someone that I can be like my authentic self around and somewhere that I can unmask and just like, be kind of like my messy self. What about you hear me? Okay. I think you can
[00:09:32] Harmeet: make home anything and anywhere, as long as it’s like, it’s accessible for you and it’s kind of honoring your needs. I think we don’t always get the opportunity to grow into spaces in a way that like includes how much more disabled we get.
[00:09:44] Oftentimes we get too disabled and then we need to relocate because it’s just like not working.
[00:09:47] Pree: Yeah, it’s really nice that we have a space that can like grow with us as we grow in our disabilities as well.
[00:09:55] Harmeet: Well, like I really want to be able to have a home that’s like open door policy and I think that’s important to like both me and Pree and I think like our home is always something we want, like a lot of our like BIPOC community people to come in and out of and, and create space and share spaces.
[00:10:07] Pree: Yeah. It just like feels uncomfortable to be housed when we have like houses, community members and also not being in a position to be able to like, do something about.
[00:10:19] Harmeet: I think I’m going to like disagree with that, because I think like it’s really important to constantly like center on house folks. And I think.
[00:10:27] Black indigenous and non-indigenous community. And a lot of the work that we do, and a lot of like, just in the everyday. And I think there’s still so much like tangible shit that like you can do and you’re able to do so. Yeah. I think that’s like homeless complicated in that way, but I think over the years, like my muscle memory to feeling safe inside of like a houses is definitely like changing and shifting.
[00:10:47] And so that’s like, I personally like just needed to move in with Pree at the time, because like they said, they were working a lot more and had a lot more access to finance, like money. And I was really, really struggling financially. At that point, it was really, really bad. Like I would go hungry a lot of the time and because I think I was like, I ran away from home.
[00:11:03] I don’t need support from my family. I’m going to figure it out. And I can just like fend for myself, but it just was not happening. And my health was really, really declining. And I think it was time for me to just be like, I actually need just like help from my older siblings to like, Pree is kind of always been a guardian and someone who’s raised me.
[00:11:20] Pree: it just made sense. I think like a lot of queer folks, like a lot of trans folks, like a lot of folks that are socialized as women, eldest children of immigrant families. I want to be the person that I needed when I was younger and being my authentic self. Uh, as I work with youth or with young adults or even other folks, I think it’s really important for me to show folks like this is what non-binary looks like.
[00:11:43] This is what disabled looks. You know, for me as a Punjabi person, like we didn’t talk about sex and sexuality and sexual orientation and gender identity versus gender expression, or even that gender is different from sex. And so my story is really different from my colleagues. I know that one person cannot and should not be a representation of like an entire community, but I just feel like there’s certain takeaways that can be really impactful.
[00:12:08] And so, yeah. So when I’m doing like those kinds of workshops with like adults rather than youth, like, I really want them to know that, like, this is what trans people look like, um, coming into myself as also just like getting through and untangling all of the internalized homophobia and transphobia, because there was a lot of it, there was.
[00:12:24] Years of it to kind of work through. And in some ways I’m still working through it.
[00:12:38] Harmeet: I think being prehab like caused a lot of harm to each other over the years. And I saved like at the end of the day, I think being raised by really, really like violent people who were raised by very violent people like me and Pree
[00:12:48] Harmeet: have to confront a lot of that shit when we’re living together. But I think the carers in that, like we choose every day to like try to be better, right.
[00:12:56] To each other and in our family. And I think building a caring environment for me as well. Practicing transformative justice. Like
[00:13:01] Pree: this is where I can start times with my sibling. If they see that, like maybe I’m not in the best head space or having a hard time or having a really bad mental health day, they’ll like, surprise me with a bubble tea or they’ll just be like, Hey buddy, do you need a hug?
[00:13:19] And they’ll just like, come kind of gently had locked me into like a little cuddle and also just like on a day-to-day basis asking about. How like how’s your gender feeling today? Or like checking in about access needs before.
[00:13:34] Harmeet: I think me and Pree have a lot of like conflicting access needs. I mean, Pree and I are very similar on paper, but we are very fundamentally different people.
[00:13:41] Like, but access system intimacy, I feel like is a lot easier in this place because like having separate rooms, separate bathrooms, actually like separate spaces. Um, when we do share space together, I think it just like is a lot easier in order for us to show up as our full selves in all our relationships and community.
[00:14:00] We need to be able to get our basic needs as disabled folks, which looks like having a space where there’s washrooms that are accessible, that there’s light switches that are accessible. And all of these things, like if those things are met, then we can like show up and continue to create space or do things for community and within community.
[00:14:20] Pree: I think I would want the folks that are planning future spaces and places to know that for disabled folks, we need places to live. We needed places to be able to take a pause. Also, just having like low sensory spaces are really important. Not everything can be a safe space, that things can’t really be safe spaces that it’s more about brave spaces.
[00:14:46] Allan Gardens is one of my favorite places in the city. Like I feel like it really transports you.
[00:14:56] I just feel like no one’s in a rush in there and it’s just so beautiful and calming. And when everyone’s just like, appreciating nature feels very communal, even though everyone’s just like doing their own thing, the closeness for me of like all the plants together and then like me with them, like, it’s all just very still.
[00:15:19] And yet it’s not stagnant. Like everything is like alive. And breathing in its own way. It really resonates with me as a disabled person that like really needs to take their time with my steps. And I really like to take my time when I’m like appreciating things as well. I think there’s something about just like the lushness of the space that inspires like a childlike wonder for me.
[00:15:41] Definitely. I think for other folks as well. Uh, it’s one of the only places that I feel like you’re not bombarded with screens. Advertising or again, it’s the third place where you don’t have to spend money, even though it’s not a disabled space, it really feels like it runs on Crip time.
[00:16:02] Cara: I definitely work better in environments that are slower and having space, having lots of space and time.
[00:16:09] Hey, what’s up. My name is Cara Eastcott, and I’m a Toronto based arts and culture worker. I’ve been producing and curating programming art spaces for the last 12 years. I have an interest in working through embodied accessibility and supporting deaf and disability culture spaces through my work. And I have an interest in preserving local histories and stories, this term of Crip with all of these terms and these labels, my relationship to them, and which ones may be that I might choose to take on really depends on the given context that I am.
[00:17:03] It really does. I don’t have one self identity that I will use everywhere. It really is depending who I’m talking to, what the context is, who’s listening, why I’m sharing this, what the power dynamics and the privileges that are in the room. So with that term Crip, yeah, it’s very, um, situational and, um, that’s goes for all the labels and identities.
[00:17:33] When I learned about Crip time, not as a theory, but really learned it by working in community and trying to practice it and working in a disability led arts organization, we really. Tried to embed and integrate this concept of Krypton as a practice in our work. And I think we were successful in that.
[00:17:58] And so my understanding of my relationship to it started yeah. In that context and what it meant was that every one was tuned into everyone else’s notions of time and their own kind of like natural rhythm, basically. No matter what that comes with or the variables involved and how to support that, how to pick up for others.
[00:18:23] I think sometimes people think Crip time is you’re just throwing out like time altogether. And although it is a different time signature is Carmen Papalia says it doesn’t mean you’re not aware of like timelines. And deadlines and things like that. But I think that it has a lot to do with like having supportive teams around you who are aware of what your personal time signature is and collectively trying to reach a goal.
[00:18:53] So I definitely look at Crip time as this community. Thing to make it work still kind of like exist in a capitalist way of living. And it really made a lot of sense for me personally, because I am a person who needs a lot of downtime after socializing and after working and to me, learning and practicing this concept of Crip time, kind of just like allowed me to tap into my own internal rhythm and to not feel like guilty or bad that I’m not being productive. It’s taken me a really long time to, to come to that and to be unapologetic of, yes, my time might be slower than others. My siblings have a joke that I am like slow and that I speak slow and I take long to come to points and it’s all in good fun.
[00:19:51] They’re not wrong, but I don’t care because I’m like, I understand what I need. It’s so crypt diamonds, like I think it’s an understanding of who you are and what you need and what your own rhythm is. And speaking to the other side of that, like Crip time doesn’t necessarily mean slow. Crip time can mean your super-duper speedy Gonzales.
[00:20:12] Yeah, it’s just about holding your own rhythm and creating constructs around that. That can hold that the crux of actually like building accessible spaces for like the broadest amount of people is like taking this kind of idea of slowness and carefulness and specificity of who you’re dealing with and specificity of the context and all the variables they’re in.
[00:20:37] In translating that to like organizational structures and not-for-profit structures, it becomes like a whole other thing. And beyond just maybe speaking slower in meetings, which all of a sudden changes the pace of things, how you can you slow down a structure. That’s something that I’ve been asking, because I think if we’re ever able to do that, then we can start being able to invite different kinds of people into the spaces.
[00:21:06] Pree: I think the biggest thing for me was learning that this hustle culture and also just like needing things to be done ASAP all the time very quickly is white supremacy. And like that doesn’t just come out of nowhere and that expectation doesn’t belong to our communities. I feel like that’s the place. A lot of that slowness is necessary.
[00:21:31] And I think that the challenge becomes how do we manage that while still getting things done?
[00:21:37] Cara: There’s this performative aspect of work. Right now that people think they should be working and they should be working like this and they should be doing this. And it’s like, oh my God, I’m so stressed. It’s like all this busy-ness it’s these modes that we assume, which is just part of the ablest culture of work.
[00:21:53] Harmeet: I don’t remember the artists of this, but I’m sure if you just look up like sudden is… is it called sedentary?
[00:21:59] Pree: sedentary, yup.
[00:22:00] Harmeet: sedentary. Like fat. Crafts. I’m sure you can find the article online, but it’s, I’m pretty sure it’s, it’s like white fat a writer and they talk about how like, fatness has always been coded as this thing that’s slow.
[00:22:12] And it’s like up in a really violent thing where like fatness is seen as this like slow thing. And then a craftiness is also this slow, but I really love that piece because it does this amazing job of being like fatness and also quickness and craft. Like these things that often times are about slowness.
[00:22:26] And I think our particular. Really intentional processes or, you know, what do you call it talks about craft, but they just say how that’s such an important site of looking at like a response to accelerationist and like really, really fast, like capitalism and how like, those things like symbolize kind of like a fuck you to the type of eater productivity that like capitalism demands from a lot
[00:22:46] Pree: of us, we can’t really reform the nine to five or like the nonprofit industrial complex or the medical industrial complex and the way that it affects disabled.
[00:22:56] This may sound like very radical to some folks that are maybe new to some of these concepts. But I think that we very much need to start from scratch because these systems are in place to make it easier for certain people to go through their lives on a daily basis with like very little barriers. And they’re very much designed in a way so that if you’re already working class, if you’re already disabled, if you’re already on crip time, we don’t have the same 24 hours.
[00:23:20] And I think the same thing goes for capitalism. When you are living and working from home, you are basically working all the time, like you’re living in your workspace, but it also means that like, you basically have no boundaries. And I think that takes a lot of work to get to a point where you’re like, yeah, it’s not like work-life balance.
[00:23:38] It’s like life work balance and prioritizing. Your mental health and sleep hygiene and whatnot. But these days, the expectation is we’re all at home. We’re all working from home. And that, that means that everyone is available all the time. I think that’s just like super able as like, I think that we need to be prioritizing rest because we’re living through something so traumatizing right now.
[00:24:00] And we haven’t had any time to process it because we’re still going through it. It hasn’t stopped. And then that’s just like a million-fold. Community members in kin who are Black and or indigenous, and then folks of color as well on a different level. We’re just like living a different, a very different reality.
[00:24:25] I know that for myself as a disabled person who has a complicated relationship with food, sometimes I’ll go months without being able to cook. And so a lot of times that means like going hungry because I can’t cook. And I also can’t afford to keep ordering like three, four meals a day from Uber eats.
[00:24:40] And so just being able to like share food, hold space, please talk. The way that I have found community is like with other disabled. Racialized to it’s LGBTQ plus folks who just want to like sit and craft.
[00:25:01] Pree: You’ve arrived at Artscape Youngplace, which used to be a high school. They actually filmed parts of Mean Girls there, which is like my favorite fun fact about the space. If you’re like me, then you’re going to take the ramp to the right to get up into the space. Uh, and you might take the elevator to the main floor.
[00:25:18] And when you turn left, you’ll start to see like this orange neon wall installation and the distance. There might be some folks talking and sitting at the tables outside. Uh, there might be some kiddies running around from their preschool or like afterschool programs and yeah, you make it all the way to the end of the hallway and the door is usually a bit ajar.
[00:25:43] There’s no workshops or anything happening, but you’ll see Flora and Emily. Emily’s behind her giant Mac screen. Flora will softly whisper to Emily. Oh, it’s Pree at the door. Hey Pree. How are you? Emily and Flora are the co-owners co-directors of the Paperhouse studio. Emily is someone that has low visibility, I believe is legally blind because Emily can’t see who’s at the door.
[00:26:07] Something that Flora picked up on is just whispering to Emily or like telling Emily, like, who’s that. And Emily never told Flora to do that. It’s just something that she picked up on because she knows that Emily can’t see who’s there. And yeah, it’s just something really sweet. It really beautiful access intimacy.
[00:26:25] That’s come from Flora and Emily’s relationship. The both come up and run up and hug you or say hi, or sometimes it’ll smell like paper in there or some kind of like wet stuff because paper is being made or the beaters on. It’s like the art classroom of your dreams. There’s a pegboard on the other wall with like all the tools.
[00:26:49] They all have their perfect spot. Anything you’d ever need to work on a project like it’s there, there’s just like a very calm and chill vibe. And it feels like a really safe space for me personally,
[00:27:05] Pree: With art, something that a lot of people forget is. There is so much money required to like get started. Sometimes folks can create really amazing things with limited materials, but if you have a risk condition, And you have like maybe low vision, like you need those table lights so that you can like, see what you’re doing properly.
[00:27:24] Better lighting, better pencils, splints.
[00:27:34] Yeah. Crew lab. So as somebody who is like primarily a visual artist and very broke or working class or freelancing. Um, something I do a lot is to keep an eye out for call for artists that are paid. And a lot of times I submit to collaborative zines and something. I also really love about zines is the process of working on collaborative zines together.
[00:27:57] I think it’s such a cool way for folks to do like a small fragment of work and then to have it curated and put together where you can like see all these amazing different perspectives and different art styles, all in one place, different narratives. There are three things being disabled as its widest definition, uh, for folks who are to as LGBTQ plus, and then for folks who are Black, Indigenous and or people of color.
[00:28:22] And so I wanted to create an opportunity that really prioritized us, um, as spokespeople that belong to those three, um, identities or those three groups of identities and not just. If you’re one, then you’re prioritize any of that. Anyways, I really wanted a space for folks to be able to submit their work, use previous work and not having to create new work and then also be able to get paid.
[00:28:46] And so that was the idea behind Crip Collab.
[00:28:57] There’s something about zines that I feel like it can be such an intense, emotional experience packed into like paper and sometimes those intense emotions and those intense narratives can be like really joyful or extremely silly. And sometimes they can come from a place of so much hurt that is just like they’re so weirdly specific they find you.
[00:29:19] And you’re just like, I didn’t know. Anyone else felt like this it’s kind of that experience. And then I think there’s also the element of just like slow art is a form of self-publishing. So like there’s no one telling you what you can and cannot. And there’s no one telling you what is going to sell. And so you just kind of put what you want on it.
[00:29:39] And I think in relation to the value of being able to like, do things, find joy and not having to spend money spaces like Paperhouse are so important. Cause it’s like, it’s not work. It’s not home and it’s not somewhere. You have to go and spend money to like do things or make things or to walk away with things.
[00:29:57] And similar to libraries is the type of third space. Very very important, especially for community members who are like experiencing homelessness or houselessness, you know, when I was going to programming at Paperhouse, like sometimes the meal that I had at zip was like the only meal I had all day. But like I knew if I went to the workshop that day, there was definitely going to be like really delicious food cooked by there’s this collective of, I can’t remember if it was like refugee women or immigrant women.
[00:30:24] I think it’s run through Regent Park and yeah, it’s just these aren’t these who cook food. For like a relatively affordable price and they would do catering. And so oftentimes Flora would get catering from there.
[00:30:43] I’ve learned so much about what not to do, how not to approach things, how important it is to just like, try to communicate more clearly and more effectively, and making sure that folks are really included in like parts of the brain. Yeah. It’s just really lovely to be able to have mentorship in so many different ways in relation to like community relationships and how to be in relation with one another.
[00:31:04] Because so many of us in these like historically oppressed communities, like many of us are traumatized and many of us are like hurt people, accidentally hurting other people. Like I’m the eldest sibling. I’m like the person that people often go to when they have issues. But like when things are on fire for me, like I know that I can go to Flora when I’ve made a mistake or like when something’s just not going.
[00:31:25] That’s why we call Flora mom. Flora’s, like not just the mom friend, but it’s very much like a mom to us as like previous participants of the program. Yeah. Flora’s like such an anchor that.
[00:31:35] Harmeet: A lot of what I learned about crafting is like from my mom. Um, and I think there’s so many like core skills and Crip skills I learned from my mom.
[00:31:41] And like, it’s like, if you want to learn about like, DIY, like asking your aunties, you ask your like working class aunty like, they will literally show you. Yep. Yeah. Like I learned mutually for my work. I learned access intimacy from her. She was a chronically ill person who was like one of the full-time care workers for my very disabled aunt.
[00:31:58] So just like when we think about accessibility for a lot of Crip communities, it has to be so DIY and so low cost. And I think we need to look to those ways. I think it’s just so important to think about like black and brown aunties who practice care and like these intergenerational ways that we learn care from.
[00:32:12] Cara: Even though my mom was raised pretty Anglo-Saxon like the one brown trait, if you could say is like just having open house and taking care of people. And my family has, is like term that we’ve coined, it’s like a spinoff of like fresh off the boat, but we just say Bodhi you’re so Bodhi. And it’s a compliment.
[00:32:34] It’s not like a discriminatory. It’s not like, you know, but it’s like something to be like, proud of. Like it stems from like our grandmother. It’s like a Bodhi thing would be like my grandmother just operating everything in life from like the couch. That’s her like command central station. And on the couch beside the couch would be.
[00:32:53] Like this area that would just have every tool you could need for the day, like a nail filer to like spring the plans, to like snacks, to whatever you need. Like being Bodhi is like the height of resourcefulness and creativity and you know, this kind of non transactional relationship and relationships that are long-term and non extractive.
[00:33:15] And just, that is such a powerful force that can counter all of these other forces of oppression and violence that oppress people are facing. I feel like that’s big missing is this sort of disability history, but racialized disability history, and, um, yeah, that I want to space. All of my work has been influenced and informed and taught by many people before me.
[00:33:42] And I take all of my past teachers and mentors very seriously and hope to embody what has been passed down from their hard work.
[00:33:55] Pree: Access needs, or even just like planning for disability and access. It’s just like, it’s not a one. It can be really harmful when there’s just like a document or a toolkit that’s like here is access planning 101.
[00:34:08] These are the things that you can do because it doesn’t work like that. And there can be so many conflicting access needs and something that I’ve learned from my sibling is just that, like, you can’t anticipate a certain body or a certain kind of disabled person being in this space or participating in this space.
[00:34:23] Cara: We talk about futures of disability, justice, or preferable. States of disability justice and this kind of thing, like I’m yearning for a structure outside of these institutions where this work is happening.
[00:34:38] Pree: Thing that is really important. If you’re someone that’s like learning about disability rights or disability culture or disability theory is knowing the trajectory.
[00:34:50] And I like those histories, cause it really like the disability rights movement was really white and yeah, it didn’t really consider the impact of what it means to be black and disabled or a person of color and disabled or what it means to be Indigenous and disabled and racialized folks were not really part of the conversation or really invited to, you know, really be included or amplified or centered, which is the way that it should be.
[00:35:14] Right. Like the most marginalized. In your community should be the ones that are centered and prioritized because while we clump like BIPOC together, very often, like those experiences are really different. And then yeah, the disability justice movement, as opposed to disability rights was led more so by black and brown, mainly queer gender diverse.
[00:35:37] Yeah. Racialized folks, mainly fem folks who really led a movement to be like, actually, this is really white. It’s not really inclusive. And there’s a lot of folks being left behind and left out reading like the lived life experiences of other disabled, racialized and queer and trans folks is like very helpful, very validating.
[00:35:56] Those are the histories that are worth preserving and should be prioritized right now.
[00:36:17] Cara: In thinking about COVID 19 and how there has been. In the mainstream, this paradigm shift of everyone going online and the area of the web and connecting with people has been, it’s like this revolution in the mainstream, but I was just thinking about like the role of the internet. For folks with disabilities and deaf people, like as a means of connecting and creating networks and building with each other is something that’s been around for a long time.
[00:36:49] And it wasn’t a new thing, like once COVID came and I was just wondering what other observations around COVID-19 have you noticed within kind of disability community and your experience?
[00:37:03] Pree: I have a lot of anger around it because oftentimes I have 20 doctors appointments a month. And if I ever would have asked for those doctor’s appointments to be like over zoom or over the phone that would have been laughed at, and I have commuted like an hour away to go for a follow-up appointment where a doctor was like, yeah, your procedure was all good.
[00:37:20] Just avoid X, Y, Z. And then the doctor walked away and I took the day off school. I took the day off work. I had a friend’s parent drive me and they took the day off. And so now suddenly, because able-bodied people need it, it’s now become accessible. And the same thing goes for remote schooling and remote work.
[00:37:38] It’s really frustrating because it’s so clear that all of these things were very much possible and that people did not care when it was for disabled folks. And the same thing goes for like CERB, CRB funding. Like people on ODSP, peer living off of $700 a month. Meanwhile, people get $2,000 for the basics.
[00:37:57] Make it make sense. Especially when like Toronto rent is like a million dollars.
[00:38:04] Cara: It can be said with the influx of instant, uh, awareness and consciousness of anti-Black racism during not because of COVID, but because of recent events being popularized and not to draw that parallel completely, but there is a similar frustration of like why now?
[00:38:27] And if you listen and are influenced by those who have been. Most impacted by systemic inequality. If you actually valued those populations and built infrastructure and structures to support those communities, that the place would be a more equitable place yet it’s only under kind of able body white capitalistic, patriarchal thought that when those populations come into an awareness of it, then something.
[00:39:01] Begin to at least appear to be addressed. Who knows if they’re actually being addressed on a structural long-term level, like the work that I’m doing with arts organizations and trying to implement like this slow process of understanding all of these power dynamics and privileges that are at play and nuances there.
[00:39:23] I mean, With COVID-19, there’s been this half awareness or this performative awareness of what needs to be addressed. And yet somehow when you give feedback on ways that. These organizations could address that they’re still not ready to actually make the move. And I’m specifically talking about ways of working like in organizations and institutions that are very ablest and that, uh, marginalize people who process information differently, racialized people, poor people.
[00:39:58] So on, even though we’re being forced to work remotely, it has this appearance of things like slowing down. Doing things different. It is the perfect context to actually begin to like maybe stop a little bit slowed down, use this time for like internal reflection and I’m thinking and planning. And yet every day life and programming is being rolled out as like business.
[00:40:28] So as usual
[00:40:29] Pree: for the work that I do, I just think it’s really important for one creating opportunities for the most marginalized within our community. And then to making sure that folks are being paid and have access to like, whether it’s like honorarium in combination with meals, in combination with access to certain programs or platforms or anything just like really incentivizing the opportunities.
[00:40:50] Because I just feel like in the larger picture a lot of organizations or opportunities don’t really care about us. And so just like really sweetening the deal as much as possible, and also making it as easy as possible as barrier free as possible for people to participate.
[00:41:21] Cara: When I’m thinking about preferred futures, I rather kind of just think about the price for present moment and right now, what could we make happen like right now? Like what do we need so that it doesn’t seem like it’s just like this far off thing, but I think trying to figure out ways of how financial structures and markets that are steeped within our own communities, that we are creating through relationship building and network building and how we can integrate markets within that, where we are exchanging like financially.
[00:41:57] Resources among one another to sustain ourselves while having all of these considerations of access and disability, justice, intersectionality, and so on at play at the same time, because we can’t forget, like we are living in this place. We’re living in Toronto. It’s so expensive here. So I really want to crack that.
[00:42:16] I really want to figure that out. So it looks like us collaborating in ways where we’re exchanging in our own markets with one another. So that would be a big element for me. And I think just this kind of space for exchange and collaboration and relationship building.
[00:42:36] I dream to have like many different and like more accessible versions. I would love for them to be like fully screen reader compatible and for there to be just like, I don’t know, different elements of being able to engage with the content and maybe even being able to like, include things that aren’t just static images.
[00:42:52] I want to see be people being able to tell their stories in a way that’s like accessible. It feels good for them.
[00:42:58] Cara: I think that I want to continue using my past experience and knowledge of how to organize and facilitate collaboration among folks using those skills to create a spaces and platforms where racial justice and deaf and disability justice can meet in the center. And that’s how you know that you’ve done a good job at creating as close to an accessible space, as you can is when people feel comfortable enough to tell and share their full and whole selves and their whole stories. I think access is at the center of that and that I wish to.
[00:43:39] Live that and be that. And so all of my work, whether defined as deaf and disability, cultural work or outside of that brings those elements. And that, that I hope is contagious to others that I work with that maybe aren’t as familiar.
[00:43:54] Pree: I want to believe that there will be change. And I think like as with a lot of things, I might have to be the person that makes that possible and I’m not averse to that, but it would be so helpful to have.
[00:44:07] Resources in terms of like organizations money for the time that would go into it to compensate myself. Yeah. It’s really hard to invest time in making change when you’re just trying to survive. Right. I’d really love to see that change.
[00:44:27] Hima: Thank you for listening. If this episode sparks something in, you consider sharing it with a fellow citizen. Don’t forget. We are all imagining possible futures for Toronto into being, find us on Instagram at Luminato festival and watch out for our final episode on the futures of play launching next month.
[00:44:46] This episode of desire paths is produced by Alex Rand and co curated by Alex Rand and myself, Hima Batavia with creative producers, Macy Siu, Jeremy Glenn and Robert Bolton of Toronto based foresight studio From Later.