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December 17, 2021

Open Access: Setting a New Cultural Standard for Accessibility

A workshop led by Carmen Papalia where participants approach accessibility as an ongoing creative process that is guided by community needs.

From the time disabled people were invited into museums, their access was imagined for them by non-disabled decision-makers, a trend that not only continues today but has shaped the access that disabled artists, curators and, cultural workers have within the visual and performing arts. The first museum programs that were meant for disabled visitors, such as the talks that the Metropolitan Museum of Art offered blind schoolchildren in 1913, reflected the patronizing service provision models for care and participation that have created harmful power dynamics between disabled people and their non-disabled counterparts. Like many of the so-called ‘accessible programs’ that followed, they promoted the privileged visual art experience and reinforced the standards that disabled bodies, minds and, behaviours were measured against in medical settings.

In these early examples of public outreach, art and art history was approached in a way that reflected the culture of the time, from a colonial perspective that operated under the premise that white, cis, non-disabled experiences were the norm. These beginnings set a predetermined route for the broader disability community within the field, one where they lacked the agency and decision-making power to self-define and participate on their own terms.

In this workshop about creative and justice-oriented accessibility practices, nonvisual social practice artist Carmen Papalia will introduce participants to his 2015 Open Access manifesto, a conceptual framework for accessibility that moves beyond compliance-level measures with guidelines for mutual care. Papalia will share the ideas that have guided his work and advocacy over the last 10 years, including the principles of Disability Justice and the work of figures in the broader disability movement. Participants will have the opportunity to reconsider how they approach accessibility and public engagement towards the beginnings of a new practice of accessibility that honours disability culture in its wholeness.

This workshop is intended as a point of departure, a context where participants can determine what accessibility means when approached as an ongoing creative process that is guided by community needs.

Note: participants are encouraged to bring examples of creative accessibility that can be shared in a virtual setting.


Auto-captioning, live-captioning, ASL and, graphic recording will be provided during this event. Transcription of the discussion will also be made available one week after the event. If there are other barriers for you to access this event please email sunshine@othersights.ca or call Sunshine 604-362-2484. We will try to assist however we can.