Arts in Kingston should be accessible to all

Different levels of accessibility needs should be met in Kingston arts community

Accessibility in art and performance can take different shapes.

Considering it’s 2017 and self driving cars are already a thing, it’s hard to believe how inaccessible things in the world continue to be for people who have a disability like deafness or blindness. 

When we think about accessibility needs, we tend to think of textbooks in braille, wheelchair  accessible entrances and computer screen readers, but where do accessibility needs fit in with art and performance?

Kingston is home to a thriving arts community — ranging from art exhibits at the Agnes to musical performances at The Mansion. There’s almost always something new to see around the city but there are very little options for people with different levels of accessibility needs.

Outside of Kingston,  accessibility accommodation is already becoming present in a range of arts communities.

For example, there continues to be an increasing number of international hip-hop artists using sign language or having interpreters present at their concerts. Recently, a video of a woman doing sign language interpretation for a Snoop Dogg concert went viral. In the video, the woman — Holly Maniatty —  reveals it wasn’t the first time she’s worked with a performer.

Maniatty first did performance sign language at a Beastie Boys concert and since has worked with Wu Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Eminem and more. 

And it’s not just concerts.

As well as extending to performance artists, different programs around Ontario have been working towards having more accessible arts for everyone. 

In a pilot project by the Ontario Nonprofit Network, various plays and performances around the province have been offered for blind/low-vision and deaf/hard of hearing audiences. This is successfully done by having performances accompanied by live “audio described” (AD) headsets or hearing aid plug ins and American sign language (ASL) interpretation.

This pilot project strives to ensure having a disability no longer prevents Ontarians from being able to be involved with the existing arts communities. The same should be true in our community.

Incorporating more accessible art in Kingston could be as simple as making venues like The Mansion and The Brass wheelchair accessible, adding closed captioning to movies at The Screening Room or adding information headsets to art exhibits at the Agnes. 

While being deaf or blind seems to be the cause for people to be excluded from attending performances or art shows, we have the technology, knowledge and ability to offer accessible arts. 

The strides made in hip-hop performances and accessible theatre productions in Ontario prove there’s a demand to open the arts to a wider audience and these efforts must be reproduced in the Queen’s community. 

University isn’t just about grades and schoolwork, it’s about the experiences you choose to have. Accessibility is something that’s often talked about in the Queen’s community — and there are arguments that Queen’s needs to make major improvements in accessibility. It’s not just the university that needs to make those accommodations, it should be adjusted in Kingston as a whole. 

There’s no reason performances or art shows in Kingston can’t make the easy changes necessary to make their event welcoming to as many people possible — including people with accessibility barriers.

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