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Artist Accessibility


A lot more goes into creating an accessible work environment for your artists than creating an accessible production and performance space.

Accessibility Self-Assessment

Unsure of whether you need to shift your practice in order to be more inclusive? Ask yourself:

  • How do you find/engage your artists?
  • Does the technology you use prevent certain artists from engaging or participating in your art?
  • Does accessibility currently factor into your budget?
  • Does the way you structure your rehearsals prevent certain artists from engaging or participating in your art?
  • What are your main methods of communication inside and outside of the rehearsal room? Do you communicate with everyone this way?
  • What safety concerns have you (or the artists you've engaged) had in your work? Were those issues addressed? How?

Things to Think About

In addition to the considerations outlined in Audience Accessibility, here are some artist-specific things to think about when you are preparing to engage with your artists:

Posting for Roles/Job

When posting auditions or job offers, language is important. Are you using language that may wittingly or unwittingly discourage people from applying? Have you included accessibility information in the posting? Are you able to accommodate specific access needs during the audition and interview process? Who can the applicant contact about that?

Job Posting Platforms

You may think: I posted the job, but no one applied. It may be that the platforms you are posting on are not accessible. Ask yourself: Are the platforms you are posting on easy to navigate for artists with disabilities? Who uses them? Who “doesn’t”?
If you are looking to engage artists from specific disciplines or groups for the first time, you need to look! Research resources, networks and platforms that cater to those artists. Research previous productions that have featured an inclusive cast and crew. Email artistic directors and agencies.

Consider your intentions when asking artists from marginalized communities to do the work for you. These artists are often asked to provide intellectual and emotional labour for free. Be wary of contacting individual artists for a list of names, unless you are planning on compensating them. The likelihood is they will need to compile a list for you. It is important to recognize that the time, effort and energy this takes has value.

Auditions

If you are inviting artists with specific access needs to audition, make sure you are meeting those needs on the day. Check out ACTRA's Guide for Auditioning Deaf Actors and make sure your venue is accessible by checking out the list of considerations under Audience Accessibility .

Accessible Websites and Documents

When engaging artists with disabilities, you must ensure that all documents, resources and correspondence can be read and reviewed by all people with ease and clarity. Your contract, script, rehearsal schedule etc. should all be formatted in such a way that allows for assistive and interpretive software to translate the information clearly and accurately. More on creating accessible documents and websites here

Contracts

Your contract should be an accessible document that takes into account what you and the artist need to create a safe work environment. If you are engaging an artist with a disability, you may want to have a conversation about what they need, and create this agreement together. It is important to be clear on what you the engaging company are responsible for and what is outside of your responsibilities during the engagement process.

Discussing access needs

What is an Access Need?
what is needed to create an environment where each individual has the needs (resources, practices, information, comfort, etc.) they need to create and be creative safely.

How do you want to discuss access needs with your team? At which point of the process? This is a personal decision and will be based on your values and the values of the company. One way to engage your team early and as a group is to ask the following question at the first production meeting/rehearsal/read-through:
“Does anyone in the room have any access needs they would like to/feel comfortable sharing that will better enable your ability or practice during our time together?”

If artists are not comfortable disclosing this information to the group, you could additionally indicate the possibility to discuss access needs one on one.
Examples of access needs could include (and are by no means limited to), a low or no scent environment (ie. no perfume or cologne), access to ear plugs for noise sensitivity, or space to get up and stretch during rehearsals.

Support Workers/Support Providers

Some artists with disabilities may need a support worker or support provider. If this applies to you, reach out to the Public Funders to get special funding ahead of time. Creative support workers are trained to navigate the rehearsal room. They are there to support the artist so that they can be safe, creative and believable. A support worker will cost the same as the actor, so you will need to make it another line in the budget. Consider how the support worker can be included into the performance in a believable and creative way.

WorkInCulture put together a great resource on the different types of support providers and things to consider when engaging with an artist who may need support.
Some of the potential types of support providers they listed are:

  • ASL (American Sign Language Interpreter)
  • LSQ (Langue des signes du Québec, used in francophone communities)
  • Attendant Care
  • Personal Support Workers
  • Note-takers
  • Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)
  • Active Listener
  • Communication Assistant
  • Learning Assistant
  • Accessibility Team Volunteers


Learn more https://www.workinculture.ca/FYI/WorkInCulture-Connects/August-2019/Working-with-Support-Providers|here].

Budgeting (Money and Time)

Creating an accessible work environment will create added costs. Put them into your budget early! Make finding the money and time to create an accessible work environment a priority. Talk to funders about what resources are available to you, and apply for grants. The Ontario Arts Council has a number of granting programs that were created specifically to meet the needs of artists who are Deaf or have a disability, including Application Support and Project Support.

Some examples of accessibility-related line items are: ASL Interpreters, Support Workers, Transportation. There are standard Fees and Rates for these services, so budget accordingly.

Not everything will be a new line item, so go through your budget and consider the difference in cost between each line item (i.e. cost of non-accessible venue vs. accessible venue).

If you intend on working with ASL interpreters, described audio, support workers or artists with disabilities, you will need to include the time for it your production and rehearsal schedule. Budgeting the time early will make for a healthier and happier working environment for everyone involved. Learn more about Working with Deaf Artists here

Creating an Inclusive Environment in your Artistic Practice

We've heard it before: actions speak louder than words. The most important piece of creating a safe and inclusive work environment is the culture you create. Shifting your behaviour and artistic process to include the needs of others can be as simple as this:

  • Be Direct
  • Communicate Often
  • Communicate Clearly
  • Provide Solutions
  • See Opportunities
  • Be Generous


Another approach is AFFIRM:
Ask what people need
F be Flexible
F be Fearless
Include everybody
Repeat (ask again!)
Mean it

You can share these ideas and approaches with your team. Include everybody! You are creating a culture of inclusion and that requires the involvement of everyone involved.

Tools

Organizations

  • Ontario Arts Council information videos : The Ontario Arts Council has information videos with closed captions and that are translated into ASL about their programs for Deaf Artists and Artists with Disabilities.
  • Tangled Arts and Disability: Tangled Arts and Disability works to enhance opportunities for artists with disabilities.
  • Stage Left: Stage Left Productions is an independent performing arts collective of diverse artists based out of Calgary who create innovative, intercultural fusions of Disability, Feminist & Queer Art.
  • Red dress productions: a Toronto-based, not-for-profit, professional arts company that creates and disseminates interdisciplinary art and performance projects. RDP works with and in communities on community-engaged public artworks.



This page was last updated on August 30 2019