Accessibility benefits everyone

by Jini Stolk

1.85 million people in Ontario have a disability,

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according to Enabling Nonprofits Ontario. This is a reality very much in our minds as we consider the future of the Sun Life Performing Arts Access Program – a partnership between Creative Trust and Picasso PRO which, thanks to the generous assistance of Sun Life Financial, has allowed us to train 8 audio describers and ASL interpreters and offer described and interpreted performances of four different productions this past season.

The surprisingly large estimate of how many of us are currently living with disabilities includes people with physical, intellectual or mental health disabilities, temporary or permanent. But consider what’s ahead: the number of seniors in Ontario is expected to grow from 1.7 million in 2008 to 4.1 million by 2036 – many of whom will inevitably be dealing with declining physical abilities.

Will they be able to see your performances? Will they be able to hear what’s said on stage? Will they be able to climb the stairs to your theatres? Will they be able to comfortably use your washrooms?

We all know that the answer, sadly, is no.

Over the next few months we will be developing accessibility resources for our member companies and the greater arts community, as well as finding a way to ensure that our audio description equipment and trained personnel continue to be used in an increasing number of performances throughout Toronto. We want to create a complete and handy backstage and front-of-house guide to putting on audio described and ASL interpreted performances, and are hoping to update and expand our workbook on physically accessible spaces.

If you want to be involved, or have information to share, let us know by joining the conversation on Facebook or in the comments area below.

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