In an effort to better welcome and support artists from underrepresented communities, 303 has been working to improve the accessibility of its services since 2019.
After a few informal conversations with members of the community and an evaluation of the studio’s physical accessibility by Kéroul, we sought financial support from CAM to conduct a consultation to learn about and understand the needs of the Deaf and disabled artists’ community with regards to the professional training available in Montreal and more specifically, at Studio 303. We prioritized our professional workshops rather than taking a generic, global approach.
The consultation took place in the midst of the pandemic and was led by Maxime D.-Pomerleau, artist, cultural worker and consultant to 303.
Following a call for applications, we held focus group discussions with 12 artists with live art practices to discuss their desires, needs and aspirations, as well as their expectations as potential participants in Studio 303 activities. We also interviewed them individually about their preferred resources for training. These artists also individually completed a short questionnaire to share their artistic interests and preferred sources of information for training research.
Individual interviews with four other people, including two teachers, an accessibility researcher and consultant, and an artist with a disability were conducted in parallel to obtain additional information.
We did not conduct scientific research – scientific research on the matter already exists and has inspired us! Here are some of the findings we hope will help our peers and the community at large to move forward in their own accessibility and inclusion efforts. We know that it is difficult to know where to start, especially with the limited resources in our community, and we are not immune to this reality.
The artists consulted told us that their primary motivation for taking a workshop was to deepen an aspect of their practice (50%), followed by stimulating their creativity (37.5%) and networking (12.5%).
> Diverse Needs
There are a multitude of disabilities (physical, visual, hearing, mental health, autism spectrum, intellectual disability). It is important to be informed on these realities in order not to put all the burden of awareness on the artists. The needs of a diverse clientele are divergent and can sometimes be in opposition when they are in the same place or at the same activity. It is the responsibility of cultural institutions to understand this constellation of situations and needs and to be flexible, but also realistic about their ability to respond.
> Communication = Accessibility
Artists need to have all the information to be able to make informed choices about their participation in an activity. Our role is to facilitate access to this information.
Specifically for artists from the Deaf community, interpretation in Langue des Signes Québécoise (LSQ) or American Sign Language (ASL) is sometimes essential to understanding oral instructions as well as written texts.
> Community Spirit
Not surprisingly, one aspect that emerged from the consultation was the lack of community for Deaf and disabled artists. The desire to meet other artists and to exchange with peers around the topic of contemporary creation is clear.
“Deaf people identify as a cultural and linguistic minority community. We will speak more of “deafhood” than of deafness to underline the sense of belonging. We must therefore take the issues and challenges of the community as those experienced by communities in a minority situation, and move away from the medical approach of disability.” Consultation report by Maxime D.-Pomerleau
This consultation was the first phase of Studio 303’s project to improve accessibility and inclusion.
We’ll start by working in these three main areas – we aim to renew our objectives each season:
> Accessibility of professional workshops
> Accessibility of our space
> Accessibility of communications
More specifically, these were our first steps, over the 2021-2022 season:
> 2 accessible (+) workshops including support for accessibility expenses so that artists can participate without having to pay additional costs. This is a pilot project that we are 100% self-funding.
> Expand the workshop bursary (formerly referred to as the BIPOC bursary) to include Deaf and disabled artists.
> Add information about the conditions and accessibility of all our professional workshops by asking teachers for more information and details about the content of their workshop.
> Dedicate a section on our website to accessibility, with new and improved information.
> Add LSQ and ASL videos for the accessible (+) workshops and some other pages on the website.
> Add optional self-identification questions to our workshop registration forms for all participants to better understand and meet our communities needs.
> Create tools for the community (evening classes, renters, or event organizers) to better communicate accessibility-related information about their activities at 303.
> Communicate this accessibility process to the 303 community.
> Carry out minor renovations in the studio to meet certain physical accessibility criteria (changing the door handle, water fountain, etc).
Finally, we have established internal procedures and follow-up processes for these actions and will continue our self-training efforts on accessibility issues as a team. It is important to note that we want to take our time in this project, and that this will be an ongoing learning process in which there will be room for improvement, feedback and most likely mistakes.
Movement in the milieu
Studio 303’s consultation process fits in with the cultural sector’s current reflections on inclusion and diversity in its practices, and is in line with other institutions:
> Charter for an accessible, inclusive and equitable culture project – Exeko
> Deaf and Disability Arts Practices in Canada – Canada Council of the Arts
Documents made by Studio 303
> Teacher’s Guide to workshop accessibility
> Guide to organizing an accessible event at Studio 303
> Web Accessibility Standards (In French only) – Gouvernement du Québec : Secrétariat du Conseil du trésor
> Quelques conseils simples pour rendre un site web plus accessible (In French only) – Laboratoire de promotion de l’accessibilité du web
> How do I add captions to my Page’s video on Facebook? – Facebook
> Translate videos and captions – Add subtitles and captions – Youtube
> Access Activators – Relaxed performance – TANGLED Art + Disability