Skip to content

Showing Up, Speaking Out on Shaw Cable

September 24, 2010

Last week, Showing Up, Speaking Out was featured Tracy Koga’s Shaw Cable (Winnipeg) program, Backstage.

We discovered Shaw’s website only allows PC-users to view videos, so we took the liberty of capturing the segment cam-style, hopefully increasing access for people who use other types of computer systems.

Check it out!

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 25, 2010 11:28 am

    What an excellent interview with Susan P. Gibson! I think that Susan managed to articulate the many barriers that exist for artists with disabilities. Of course, many of those barriers are physical, but many of them are a systemic lack of interest in supporting artists with disabilities in the way that they need support rather than in the way that the systems of disability support and support for artists perceive our needs.

    As Susan said, I am so busy trying to create change that my practice is effectively non-existent. My energy goes to picking up or dropping off my children at their school 3 times a day. I requested a railing be installed on the steps outside more than a year ago. I found out a week ago that the Building Department of School Division number 1 had turned down the request as legally a hand rail is not required if there is less than a certain amount of steps (in this case 3 large concrete steps). I was already aware of that particular by-law, but the fact is that a stair is a stair is a stair. If the vice-principal had informed me that the request had been denied last year I would have pursued it further and sooner.

    And so, the vice-principal and I are hoping that the head of the Building Dep’t will meet both of us at the school to explain why a building code with an arbitrary numerical minimum does not meet the needs of those who most need it.

    This week I will be calling the City Planning Department to initiate a handicap parking space in across the street from the front of the school. There have been children with disabilities attending this particular elementary school for decades and yet there had never been an allowance made to provide parking. Perhaps I am the only parent with a physical disability that has needed the school to be accessible…the school division claims to support accessibility for students but has somehow forgotten that parents need access as well.

    One of the mother’s that I met last year told me that a number of years ago the school had told her to use the front of the school to off load her son from her vehicle despite the fact that that part of the street does not permit loading or parking. Her son uses a wheelchair and to park any further would mean pushing him through the snow for a good part of each school year.

    After being yelled at by people driving past her on a number of occasions she gave up and began to park on one of the side streets and push her son through the snow to the front of the school where the ramp was. The school did nothing to offer an appropriate and permanent solution to this accessibility issue. Why? Probably because this woman probably had too much on her plate to go to the administration one more time and ask for something that seemed impossible.

    Last year when I went to an evening meeting to sign up as a parent volunteer I walked down the ramp at the front of the school only to find the door locked. In fact the only doors that were open were up an entire flight of stairs at the front of the school.

    My children attend a school that frequently talks about the importance of community and how the community should support the school and yet from where I stand the school is offering lip-service by appealing to a neighborhood that is known for it’s sense of community involvement. So, while the school appeals for support from parents in the neighborhood the school has done little to support it’s community.

    Two weeks ago I went to the Winnipeg Parking Authority to renew my residential parking permit. While I was at their office I read through a brochure on access and found that had very little helpful information and was in reality more of a promotional piece aimed at stating that there was now areas of downtown with parking spaces dedicated to handicap parking. Most of which are placed in or around the Health Sciences Centre or near other areas of health or social services support.

    What that means is that as a person with a disability I can find parking downtown so long as I am not planning to see an art exhibit or a movie. However, I was also told that even if I couldn’t find a parking space close to a meter that I could drive to another meeting if there was room to park my car, get out, pay at that meter and then get back into my car and drive to the parking space closer to where I need to go. In the meantime what goes through my mind as I am discussing this with someone from the Parking Authority “you mean that I have to get out of my car two times”?

    And if I have my children are in the car am I supposed to unbuckle them so that they aren’t left alone in the vehicle while I am paying for parking? Of course. And then we can walk back to the car, buckle up, drive back to the parking space closest to the building we need to go to and hope to hell that the space is still there.

    Finally, in terms of city parking and the thought that has clearly NOT gone into it, the WPA is located on Portage Avenue and like many areas the curbs are very high (although, again, within legal limits) for someone who has mobility problems. The alternative is to walk on the street, on Portage Avenue, towards oncoming traffic, to the cut-curb which is angled between Portage and Colony Street and hope that one doesn’t get hit by a car while trying to get to a side walk and then to the pay station and then back to the car, walking (or wheeling) on a busy street and hoping that today isn’t the day that you fall down, or get hit by a car. Maybe someone will yell at you to get off the road, but I can live with that.

    And so, where do I find my time for an art practice? I haven’t actually make any art in over six months. I worked from home for almost half of last year to make two pieces for a show in Vancouver. In the final months I was working more than full time hours, I was still also a stay at home mom. After I returned to Winnipeg from the opening of the “HEROES” exhibition in Vancouver I was completely burned out.

    I was so overextended I had no ability to fight off colds, the flu or infections. And then after six years of waiting to get into to see an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist, I finally met with one to address breathing and swallowing problems as well as trying to decrease the scarring on my nose from a mild case of the flesh eating disease. A surgery date was set for May, at which time I was also to have a muscle biopsy taken by another doctor. Numerous appointments later (never once finding a handicap parking space available) I had surgery.

    It was back to business as usual within a week of my surgery, not because I felt particularly well but because for I didn’t have any additional support. Two weeks after my surgery I even managed to attend a meeting with the Canada Council for the Arts (after attending my daughters nursery school open house). It was a meeting I didn’t want to miss. At this point I think that I just wasted my time and energy.

    The Canada Council for the Arts appears to be moving at a snails pace in recognizing artists with disabilities as a diverse minority group. Despite meeting with Susan, myself and one other member from the SPARK Arts and Disability Network to discuss future support from the council (and presumably during their cross Canada tour the representatives of the Canada Council for the Arts would have met with other artists with disabilities) I am left with the feeling that the Canada Council just didn’t get it.

    Although I haven’t made any art since March I did manage to apply for an exhibition with Susan. We were both under a time crunch, and I had to work around the fact that my children were on summer holidays, and that I was driving them to and from the pool for swimming lessons for four weeks, and trying to make sure that we enjoyed our short summer season.

    Susan and I made a proposal called “Counterpose”. Counterpose means taking a negative and creating something positive. We wanted an exhibition of our art, some of which discusses our disabilities, our work to advocate for all artists with disabilities, and some of our work that we had proposed to show was art that had simply never seen the light of day because we didn’t have the opportunity to show our work as often as we would both like to.

    Our proposal was turned down. I suppose that we will never know why. As well, Susan was, as she mentioned turned down for financial support in order to continue her art practice.

    Maybe the Canada Council for the Arts as well as the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council will eventually recognize what they are missing by under-supporting a large but invisible segment of society and culture. The Manitoba Arts Council has a Community Access grant which is available to artist with disabilities to apply for with the rational that like artists living in remote areas of Manitoba, isolation and access is also challenging when an artist simply cannot open the door, get up the stairs that may lead to an elevator so that they can meet with the grants officer to apply for funding or to establish a network of peers within the arts community because again, there may be no way to get to where the action is. I question a Community Access grant which offers a maximum amount of dollars that is still less than the maximum for that of an emerging visual artist grant. What does the difference in financial support suggest to you?

    So, after this rant, I suppose it’s safe to say that I may be biting the hand that feeds me but frankly, I’m tired of working harder for less. I am hoping that the next time funding bodies or government departments suggest a consultation with us (artists with disabilities) or they suggest that we simply keep applying, to not give up, that they are aware that there is only so much time to waste. I don’t need to be given hope, what I need is appropriate supports to level the playing field.

    Yours sincerely,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: