Accessibility On Stage and Off

We were so grateful to partner with Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba (AANM) and Sick + Twisted Theatre to host “Accessibility On Stage and Off” on Saturday, April 4th. This on-line roundtable discussion featured Debbie Patterson as moderator and panelists Diane Driedger, Ph.D., Hannah Foulger, Joanna K. Hawkins, Hailley Rhoda, and AANM Executive Director Jenel Shaw.

Participants highlighted the fact that it is all about connections and communication – a particularly poignant notion at this time. There is a difference between knowing you are allowed in a space versus being welcome in the space! There is also the need for persistency to build relationships. It is time for us all to walk the walk and not just talk.

A few key take-aways:
– Many people with disabilities require specific seating in a theatre, whether that’s for mobility access, low vision, or proximity to ASL interpreters. Often this means a lack of options in terms of price points, forcing people with disabilities to pay top dollar for their tickets. Similarly, people with disabilities are frequently underemployed or on assistance. Creating accessible seating isn’t just about addressing physical barriers; it’s often about addressing financial barriers.
– Can we create a protocol that protects the rights of the artist with disabilities but also allows for clear communication of an artist’s access needs and what constitutes a barrier to an artist’s participation?
– Companies and employers need to know how to ask questions. They should ask about barriers not symptoms. What in the environment prevents participation?
– Access information needs to be clearly available on an organization’s website.

There were also great resources shared:
– There is a ramp that is free to borrow and can make spaces accessible. To borrow e-mail Eusebio at Video Pool: Eusebio@videopool.org
AANM has an ASL fund.
Sick + Twisted can provide partial subsidies for audio description.
– For the dance perspective check out www.ddsp.ca www.difiedance.org

Moving forward AANM is going to take on creating a centralized calendar of accessible performances. They will also take the lead in creating a committee to build a best practices document.

Trying to be universally accessible is overwhelming; the sense that you must do more and get it right is ableist. Everyone should do their best and accept it will take time!

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