Accessibility for the 2015 Verses Festival

Hello festival goers,

Our next festival is right around the corner and we are incredibly excited to let you in on all of the wonderful things to come in Verses 2015.

One area which has remained a main focus for us, as well as a great learning experience from year to year, is that of accessibility. During last year’s festival we introduced the Talk the Talk series which featured an event focused on listening and sharing ideas around accessibility within our community. This group was well attended and full to bursting with brilliant proposals and revisions on some of the models we had been using in the past.

Some topics that were discussed included ASL interpretation, cultural accessibility, physical accessibility and many others. We look forward to incorporating your suggestions into this upcoming festival and with your help continuing to improve around these critical issues.

In our continued conversations, there were several parties who voiced interest in visibility and maintenance of updated accessibility information for one of our loyal venues, The Rio Theatre. Thanks to the cooperation of both the Radical Access Mapping Project (RAMP) and The Rio Theatre, a recent reassessment has been done. Read RAMP’s updated overview, full audit, and layouts for bathroom improvement options. Our aim is to keep this information as current and as easy to locate as possible at all times. Big thanks to the community (including RAMP and the Rio) for helping to move this crucial work forward.

Another important topic that has continually come up before each festival as well as in our talk, is that of gender and non-binary accessibility in regard to our washroom spaces. As most of our venues have two washrooms, we have struggled from year to year with best practice for labeling them in order to be as inclusive as possible. Drawing from community consultation, we have tested out a few ideas in the past and listened closely to the feedback you have given us.

At last year’s Talk the Talk, one of our participants brought forward a new thought for us to try. This idea was drawn from the work they have done within the community and with the city to update public and government washrooms all over Vancouver.

The suggestion brought forward is that washrooms be labeled either “Men and Trans people welcome”, or “Women and Trans people welcome”. We are happy to receive this idea with hope that it will assist us in providing festival goers of all bodies with a comfortable and inclusive washroom space. As always we will be listening for your feedback.

We will be revisiting our Talk the Talk: Accessibility discussion this coming festival, with renewed excitement and a more detailed focus. We are happy to announce that two of our shows this year will include the support of ASL interpretation (in addition to continued support at both of our Talk the Talk discussions). Tomboy Survival Guide will feature ASL interpreters and at our first ever ASL showcase, interpreters will be translating signed poetry into English! We encourage festival participants to check out these events and if possible, engage in this important conversation. As always, we look forward to hearing your feedback.

With gratitude for all of your contributions to making this community better, safer, stronger and more kind,

Jillian Christmas
Artistic director, Verses Festival of Words.