Part 3 - The Inclusive Workplace


Creating an inclusive environment includes welcoming audiences, artists, consultants, volunteers, staff and board members in a way that allows them to participate fully in consulting and decision-making.   As you diversify your programming, hiring and overall strategic direction you will need to engage with new communities. 

This will in turn involve ensuring you are accessible – can people physically access your space?  Are your communications accessible to vision or hearing impaired groups?  Are you aware of cultural barriers, including your own corporate culture, that may be keeping away people who can contribute?  A few things to keep in mind:


  • Be aware of appropriate terminology; show sensitivity to individuals’ preferences.
  • Speak directly to individuals, not to their interpreters or assistant.


  • Do not make assumptions about a particular disability, its limitations or that assistance is needed.
  • At the same time, it is always helpful to have a generic note on policies, job ads and other public documents about whether any special accommodation is required. Individuals may require specific accommodations and some will require more than one.


  • For meetings, ensure accessible parking and transit, as well as access into your building and to your meeting space; arrange for any necessary interpreters; consider longer breaks during meetings to give people the time they need.


  • Get in touch with local disability groups and start a dialogue with them.
  • Make contact with your local disability (or disability arts) organisation and find out how they can they help you and what any cost implications will be
  • Be conscious of communication requirements such as signing. Where extra financial  help is needed, check into college American Sign Language training programs or through arts councils, unions  and municipality programs to see if there’s support.




Dig Deeper

Arts-based resources:

Expanding the Arts: A Guidebook for Working with Artists Who are Deaf or Have Disability - For comprehensive guidelines, an excellent resource is toolkit developed by the Canada Council for the Arts for engaging at an organizational level: terminology, communication, etiquette, typical accommodation requests, etc.

Arts Build Ontario – Explore the opportunities referenced by this arts services organization around  training, guidelines and links to grant opportunities for arts facilities seeking greater accessibility

The Art of Inclusion – the McMichael Canadian Art Collection is sharing guidelines developed to support arts education programs for a wider range of visitors with disabilities within an environment that directly supports their needs
Planning Access – Arts Access Australia, that country’s national body for arts and disability, finds or develops resources and offers tip sheets on topics such as communications, consulting protocols, recruiting/access and programming.

The following Ontario-based arts organizations have done important foundational work for specific communities. Familiarizing yourself with their activities and partnerships will provide an excellent overview of arts-based concerns, possible partnerships, programming and needs in terms of the fullest range of arts and accessibility:

Workman Arts – Has empowered aspiring, emerging and established artists with mental illness and addiction issues to develop and refine their art practice through multifaceted arts training programs and public performance/exhibition opportunities in five disciplines: music, theatre, visual, literary and media arts. Sustaining excellence in programming, research, and partnering with other arts organizations, Workman Arts has entertained audiences and challenged perceptions about mental illness and addiction.

Tangled Arts – Tangled Art + Disability is a not for profit arts organization and forum for creative and artistic excellence, showcasing and promoting artists with disabilities from visual, performing, media arts, film and integrated art forms. It serves as a leader, catalyst and resource for bringing together professional artists, emerging artists and arts and cultural organizations and a diverse public.

Picasso Pro - Picasso PRO was formed originally in 1993 by the Toronto Theatre Alliance (now Toronto Association for the Performing Arts) to facilitate opportunity and integration for artists with disabilities and deaf artists in the performing and media arts. The website remains an important source of information, news, resources such as handbooks and partnerships.

Other Accessibility Resources:

A Place for All - This federal government guidebook outlines the legal obligations and relevant procedures for improving workplace accommodation.

Accessibility Compliance Wizard -  Simple five-minute online quiz that will help you find out what you have to do to comply with Ontario's accessibility law.

Accessibility Ontario – Focused on accessibility issues in the workplace, it offers training and consulting.

EnAbling Nonprofits Ontario – The Ontario Non-Profit Network offers webinars, training and success stories and resources to assist non-profits in becoming accessible.

March of Dimes Canada – With a mandate to support people with disabilities, the March of Dimes Canada is a helpful resource for employers, for hiring, for training and consultation.

How to Run Accessible Meetings – A guide from Ryerson University on planning and running accessible events and meetings.

Disability Etiquette and Communications Guide – From Senseability, a business organization which helps business access the benefits of talented workers with disabilities.