Summary of Notes: Roundtable on Accessibility and the Participation of People with Disabilities in Arts, Culture and Sport
The purpose of the summary of notes is to document key takeaways from the accessibility and the participation of people with disabilities in arts, culture and sport roundtable held on October 1, 2020. The sector-specific roundtable was comprised of 15 representatives of major associations and groups with representation from across different disciplines, regions and intersectional identify communities. The goals of the roundtable were to:
- Ensure various stakeholders representing different sectors and industries are heard, having an opportunity to express their thoughts/ideas.
- Understand on-the-ground impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for sectors and organizations.
- Have constructive discussions to help identify potential avenues that could help accelerate recovery.
- Build a common understanding of the kinds of support needed, and the role of government(s) therein.
At the start of the roundtable, the representatives shared their general experience on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted them on advancing equity, particularly as it relates to accessibility and the participation of people with disabilities, in the art/culture/sport sectors. The introduction was then followed by an open discussion which touched on two themes:
- Current Efforts and Barriers; and
- Opportunities for the Sectors.
Current efforts and barriers
To stimulate the discussion in the first segment, the following question was asked: What efforts were you, or are you currently doing to advance equity in the arts/culture/heritage/sport world, and what barriers do you face?
Key ideas and takeaways included:
- COVID-19 has revealed the fragilities of support and funding systems for the arts, culture, heritage and sport sectors, as it relates to disability communities and has amplified the physical barriers and technical challenges already faced by the disabled community.
- There is a misunderstanding among some funders about the work of D/deaf and disabled artists. Disability arts is often seen through the lens of charity rather than as professional artistic practice. This attitude has had a negative impact on D/deaf and disabled artists’ ability to access income-generating and showcasing opportunities and on D/deaf-led and disability-led organizations’ ability to fundraise.
- Government guidance for policy and program decisions does not consistently include accessibility considerations.
- Cultural institutions and sport facilities are not consistently physically accessible, which limits the ability of artists and athletes with disabilities to use them.
- Digital platforms and tools are not always designed inclusively, which has become an even bigger barrier during the pandemic when many activities have moved online.
- COVID-19 prevents athletes with disabilities from participating in sport because transportation and safety services have become less unavailable.
- Rigid structures and application processes prevent equitable access to professional arts training and learning opportunities for D/deaf and disability artists.
- Inequitable distribution of funding prevents persons with disabilities from receiving their fair share.
- Inadequate ASL and LSQ support (e.g. education, training, development) prevents the D/deaf artist community from fully participating in the arts sector.
- Many artists and athletes with disabilities are experiencing severe social isolation, and COVID-19 is creating and/or exacerbating mental health issues.
- In addition to the general existing structural barriers which prevent people from obtaining mental health support, there are additional barriers that make it even more difficult for persons with disabilities.
- Current funding mechanisms are more focused on high performance sport rather than on community sports and recreation, which means that fewer resources are being devoted to the majority of persons with disabilities who wish to participate in sport and recreation.
- D/deaf and disability artists struggle to balance paid artistic work with qualification criteria for provincial benefit programs.
Opportunities for the sectors
To stimulate the discussion in the second segment, the following question was asked: What opportunities can be leveraged from the present circumstances to better support people with disabilities in the arts/culture/heritage/sport sectors, and what role should the Government of Canada play?
Key ideas and takeaways included:
- COVID-19 recovery presents a disruptive opportunity to focus on recovery measures that promote inclusiveness and address accessibility issues to Canadian Heritage funding programs.
- Extend Canadian Heritage’s Emergency Support Fund funding program to 2021-22.
- Ensure that recovery initiatives go beyond a checklist exercise of meeting minimum accessibility compliance standards.
- Ensure that key stakeholders representing different disabilities and cultural communities are consulted and included in broader policy discussions (rather than just at disability-only discussions), and are closely involved in the decision-making process.
- Ensure that policymakers have the knowledge and expertise to properly serve the D/deaf and disability communities (e.g. provide training and development related to accessibility and inclusiveness, hire experts who can assess the social impact of creating or upgrading spaces for different types of disabilities such as physical, hearing loss, vision loss).
- Modernize current funding programs to be more inclusive of underrepresented groups, especially D/deaf and disability artist communities and athletes with disabilities (e.g. include accessibility clauses in funding agreements with the Department of Canadian Heritage, revise program rules and distribute funding more equitably to take into account the communities’ unique needs).
- Create policy, new funding programs or streams, and administrative systems or structures that are inclusive of people with different types of disabilities (e.g. physical, hearing loss, vision loss). Accessibility measures need to serve all types of disabilities defined by the Accessible Canada Act, as disabilities differ from each other.
- Increase funding for specialized individual or personal care/support to assist athletes with complex disabilities.
- Conduct research and collect data to gain a better understanding of current challenges faced by underrepresented and underserved disability communities (e.g. intersectionality review, GBA+ review).
- Adopt best practices from other jurisdictions (e.g. countries, provinces, municipalities) to increase the socio-economic participation of D/deaf and disability artists, athletes with disabilities and cultural consumers with disabilities.
- Accommodate the different needs of the communities in the funding application process (e.g. proactively communicate available funding opportunities, make application materials available in ASL and LSQ, provide more guidance on the application criteria and process or how these funds should be used, give individuals or their personal care/support worker more time to apply).
- Provide national and freely available training and networking opportunities for D/deaf and disability artists (e.g. leadership training, mentorship programs and development opportunities).
- Increase representation of artists and athletes with disabilities in leadership roles at various levels.
- Provide funding to create cooperative initiatives, structures and platforms that allow for co-development of such initiatives.
- Invest in physical and digital infrastructure that is accessible so artists can have a space to showcase and market their work. Government infrastructure investments for the heritage sector should also improve the accessibility of heritage buildings so that disabled people can also visit them.
- Increase in mental health support dedicated to cultural workers and athletes with disabilities.
- Ensure measures are sustainably funded and universally/inclusively designed to address barriers.
- Provide government support that will encourage donors and sponsors to support D/deaf and disability arts organizations because they rely significantly on charitable and sponsorship dollars (e.g. funding program, tax incentive, endowment programs).
- Consider the long-term considerations and implications of the Department’s work for D/deaf and disability artists, athletes with disabilities and cultural consumers with disabilities post-pandemic (e.g. meaning of going back to “normal” post-pandemic).
- Create opportunities to discuss and include sign language in the arts and culture industry (e.g. how to provide adequate ASL/LSQ training, how to include the D/deaf community in ASL/LSQ training).
- Support future partnerships and collaboration with disability arts, culture, sports and community organizations to increase awareness surrounding accessibility challenges.
- Demonstrate leadership in the development of accessible web resources to better connect with the community and provide online resources for networking for deaf and disabled community.
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