Success Stories from ABO’s Accessibility Webinar Series

This past year, ArtsBuild Ontario presented six webinars in the Learning Series aimed at supporting creative spaces in understanding and going beyond the Design of Public Spaces Standard as part of the Accessibility for Ontarians Act (AODA).

We are excited to share some success stories from different arts leaders across the province who have applied key learnings from these webinars to their organization or practice!  Have a read through them all below:

Success Story #1: Informing Accessibility Plans

“The [webinar] was presented in a different perspective with more of a real connection to day-to-day ways of interpreting visitor needs.  It was overall, very informative and helpful as we all work toward goals of inclusion and accessibility.

This webinar has created a good way to re-assess our current accessibly plan and is a reminder that we should evaluate the plan on a more regular basis-including input from those whose needs should be met in a public space. As there are people of many different abilities, there always seems to be more to learn in the area of accessibility. Putting that information into the context of creative spaces definitely added to my current level of knowledge and the mindset needed to actually think about and implement solutions”.
– Participant from Webinar: Let’s Talk About Disability and Creative Space

Success Story #2: Deepening Discussions with Clients

As an architect, Sandra Iksandar is more than familiar with building codes and provincial legislation. Participating in the webinar Best Practices for Architects, Designers & Creative Spaces on Accessibility served as a reminder of the value added that comes with going above the legislation to create accessible and inclusive spaces. Demonstrating how accessible buildings can be stylistically creative and visually appealing, speakers provided examples that were transferable to her clients. She was able to bring this information to her clients, and communicate the importance of considering accessibility in the planning phases of a renovation project and specifying accessibility in the Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

Success Story #3: Implementing Accessible Signage

For Lisa Wacheski, this webinar series has had a direct impact on the Canadian Transportation Museum and Heritage Village’s upcoming renovation project. Board approval has recently been given to go forward with a grant application for the replacement of signage in the museum. While they are still in the planning stage, information has been shared with board members on the need to adjust the signage to better reflect those with varying accessibility needs in terms of sight and language. As a result, the creation and installation of new signs will include both English and French, larger font, better lighting and appropriately displayed based on lines of sight, to take into great account the variety in abilities of their visitors.

Success Story #4: Transforming Spaces

From this webinar series, two underlying messages resonated with Michelle Alderson, Production & Event Coordinator at the Al Green Theatre.  Firstly, she appreciated the examples that demonstrated how organizations have implemented creative designs to eliminate barriers in their facilities and remain a thriving community hub. Secondly, she was pleased the webinars highlighted the importance of forward facing customer service, consulting patrons with lived experiences and asking patrons how a space can better suit their needs.

As a member of her facility’s Accessibility Committee, she has shared lessons learned and resources provided with the committee, and will be applying them to an upcoming renovation project at the theatre. Along with plans to lower the information desk, they will soon be transforming the old box office room in their lobby into a designated area to support individuals with visible and invisible disabilities. As a multi-use space, it will be used as a quiet zone for individuals with sensory processing concerns and as a designated space to identify and make requests for access needs. It will also be equipped with assistive devices to help individuals communicate with staff if needed. As individuals of varying demographics and abilities frequent their public lobby, these facility upgrades are intended to insure their space is accommodating and inclusive.

Success Story #5: Improving Experiential Accessibility

In the webinar: Invisible Disabilities and Creative Spaces, presenters Alex Bulmer and Andrew Gurza highlighted practical solutions to empower creative spaces to better welcome and accommodate invisible disabilities. These included processes such as extending the time limits of online ticketing platforms; offering scent free spaces and the importance of making patrons feel comfortable expressing their access needs either in person or through digital platforms.

A participant from the webinar notes “we can update our approach to encourage a better and more inclusive level of customer service through some of the suggested practices mentioned in the webinar. We will update our orientation and training for staff and volunteers to reflect as many of these key points as we can.”

Announcing Accessibility Webinars for Creative Spaces!

ArtsBuild Ontario is excited to announce upcoming accessibility webinars in the Learning Series! These webinars will focus on accessibility and creative spaces based on the Design for Public Spaces Standard, as part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA). The webinars will explain how creative spaces need to meet accessible building standards and explore ways creative spaces can go beyond the standards.

The webinars will be supported by a toolkit for creative spaces around the topic of accessibility, which will be released in Spring 2019.

ABO would like to thank its accessibility advisory committee for informing the webinar topics, speakers and upcoming toolkit for creative spaces in Ontario. This project is supported by the Government of Ontario.

Free Webinar: Let’s Talk About Disability and Creative Spaces
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
Presenters:  Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments and Sage Lovell, Founder of Deaf Spectrum 
Register Here

Free Webinar:  Design for Public Spaces 101: Where do Creative Spaces Start?
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Jay Pitter, Placemaker, Author & City Building, and Yvonne Felix, Senior Manager at CNIB and public/community artist
Register Here

Free Webinar: Design for Public Spaces Advanced: How can Creative Spaces Go Beyond the Standard?
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
 Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: TBD & Lorene Casiez, Accessibility Strategist, Practice Lead with Human Space
Register Here

Free Webinar: Best Practices for Architects, Designers and Creative Spaces on Accessibility
Tuesday, March 26, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Amy Potier, Accessibility and Building Code Specialist with Gensler as well as Corey Timpson, Principal at Corey Timpson Design Inc and former Vice President of Exhibitions at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Register Here 

Free Webinar: Safety, Fire Codes and Accessibility for Creative Spaces
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
Host: Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Martin Day, President of Safety Media Inc. and Marnie Peters, Accessibility Specialist
Register Here

Free Webinar: Invisible Disabilities and Creative Spaces
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
Host: Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Alex Bulmer, Accessibility Consultant & Actor, Writer and Director as well as Andrew Gurza, Disability Awareness Consultant
Register Here

Registration is available through Eventbrite and webinars are delivered through Adobe Connect with closed captioning. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation to register or participate in our webinars, please call 519-880-3670 ext. 101 or email in advance of your participation.

Mapping Northern Creative Spaces

In Fall 2020, ArtsBuild Ontario (ABO) partnered with NORDIK Institute for the Mapping Northern Creative Spaces study. ABO and NORDIK Institute completed detailed case reports on four northern communities – Wawa, Kenora/Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, Sault Ste. Marie, and Timmins. These reports focused on the creative space needs of the communities and identified potential capital projects. The four regions included in this study are a sampling of the vast artistic and cultural potential of northern communities. There is a clear need identified in the reports for more designated space for the continuation of cultural development.

The economy of Northern Ontario has been largely based on resource extraction. This focus on resources like forestry and mining contributed to prosperous economic development. For a long time, other local assets and resources, such as community and cultural development, were not part of community development initiatives. ABO and NORDIK Institute decided to explore the potential of northern areas to better understand what these communities are missing. While each community report is unique, there are several key underlying connections among all four regions. All of the organizations and individuals who participated in the study surveys felt under-resourced, undervalued, underdeveloped and underutilized. All communities also felt isolated as though they are a separate community within the broader whole. Due to a lack of funding, their northern location, and politics, these communities feel that they are unable to fulfill capital projects to develop their creative spaces.

Having a physical space for operations allows for the continuum of creative processes and allows for networks to emerge and grow. The physical space and operationalizing are what drive this sector forward. With these reports, we hope that a framework for developing future capital projects can be considered and used to support the arts and culture sector in Northern Ontario.

We would like to thank our program partners at NORDIK Institute for their collaborative efforts with each community and ABO throughout the project. Thank you to all the communities involved in this project.

This program was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. 


The Beat Goes On!

With the pandemic taking the forefront of our lives and conversations, many of us have felt a loss of inspiration and a fatigue of continually being faced with the unknown.  In order to reinvigorate your creative space energy, ArtsBuild Ontario has created a playlist just for facility managers and your creative workspaces!  If you are looking for 56 minutes of songs about buildings, check out this playlist.

What music have you been listening to for inspiration?


Spotify: Spotify – ArtsBuild Ontario Playlist

Apple Music:

Call for Strategic Planning Consultant

Position: Consultant
Tentative Start Date: September 30, 2021
End Date: January 31, 2022
Location: Ontario
Position Type: Contract $6,500

Deadline to submit proposal: September 17 at 5pm.


ArtsBuild Ontario (ABO) is the only organization in Ontario dedicated to realizing long-term solutions for building, managing and financing the sustainable arts facilities needed in Ontario’s diverse communities. We are a non-profit arts service organization that provides organizations with training, tools and resources that support the development and management of creative spaces such as theatres, galleries, concert halls, museums and other creative spaces.

ABO is seeking proposals from qualified consultants and/or consulting firms to assist in the development of a three-year comprehensive strategic plan that will focus on our network’s needs, our services, our values and our vision for the future.

ABO is an organization that is working to embed the values of individual and group differences within its working environment. We strive to embrace the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives of our staff, members, arts community, and partners. Indigenous peoples, people of colour, and people across the spectrums of gender, sexuality, age, and abilities are encouraged to apply.

Scope of Work

The consultant shall complete the following:

  • Design and execute a strategic visioning and comprehensive planning process including consultations and workshops with Board of Directors, Advisory Committee, Staff, Funders and Key Partners
  • Develop recommendations for a three-year actionable strategic plan

Anticipated Process

ABO seeks the consultant’s recommendations regarding the best process for developing the strategic plan, to be conducted in two parts:

Part 1: Vision, Strategic Directions and Research

  1. Consultations: Develop consultation framework and questions/issues for staff, advisory committee, funders and key partners.
  2. Research: Integrate related data, stakeholder strategic plans and any relevant research and best practices that compliments strategic directions and stakeholder consultations.
  3. Synthesize: Consolidate consultation feedback and research. After consultation with Board of Directors, identify strategic directions and goals.

Part 2: Write the Strategic Plan

Utilizing information from the first stage, the consultation will develop recommendations for a strategic plan. This plan will serve as ArtsBuild Ontario’s guide for the next three years.

Consultant Qualifications

To accomplish the scope requested, the consultant will need to possess the following qualifications:

  • Experience at successfully developing consensus-based strategic plans
  • Knowledgeable of collective impact or collaborative strategic initiatives
  • Strong facilitation skills
  • Knowledgeable of non-profit/charitable sector
  • Experience at creating a neutral environment for, and soliciting input from, individuals from various sectors
  • Experience at gathering and utilizing data to inform the strategic planning process
  • Knowledgeable in marketing, communications, and branding
  • Knowledgeable in resource/program development

Work Plan

The proposal should contain a detailed description of the activities to be conducted by the consultant in order to complete the requested scope of work, including:

  • Specific activities to be conducted at each stage
  • Who will be involved at each stage
  • A timeline for the activities at each stage
  • Milestones and deliverables tied to those activities
  • A proposed payment schedule

Criteria for Evaluating Success of the Project

The Board of Directors will deem this a successful project when they are given a clear report which outlines the strategic directions, areas of improvement and a recommended action plan. Previous strategic and other corporate materials will be provided to the consultant as background information upon request.

Previous Work Product

The proposal should include at least two examples of written work similar to the scope of work requested within this RFP.

Proposed Timeline

  • September 24-30, 2021: Interview process
  • September 30, 2021: Contract issued
  • October 11 – November 15, 2021: Phase One (Board retreat, Consultations and Research)
  • November 15 – December 13, 2021: Phase Two (Provide recommendations for Strategic Plan)

Please forward proposal to Alex Glass, Executive Director


Subject line: Proposal offer: ABO Strategic Planning Consultant

Reflecting and Reopening: Three Arts Spaces on COVID-19 and Step 3

There is no doubt that the COVID 19 has hit the arts and creative businesses hard. The pandemic brought hardship and loss not only in business and revenue, but also in creative production and presentation. As Ontario is in the midst of Step 3 on the Roadmap to Reopening, we decided to catch up with Debajehmujig Theatre, the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (KWAG), Akin Collective to reflect on the past year and see what reopening looks like for them.How has your organization evolved with COVID?

Debajehmujig Theatre:COVID came at a time when we were developing a digital adaptation strategy. As things began to evolve, our operations utilized the hybrid model where we had some in person audience members, and some online. Through the year we had several events. At Easter, there were two festivals over the weekend, at halloween there was a Horror storytelling, and in winter, an online winter cabaret was developed. The team is innovative so we created ways to ensure we remained active, relevant, and responsive to the communities we serve. It was important to us to maintain our core concept of sharing and educating on Indigenous culture. Furthermore, being provocative and courageous in that work.”  

KWAG: “KWAG transitioned to the work-from-home model while delivering activity online. That included developing a new digital tool on our website to host exhibitions, like our annual student exhibition. We also changed the way we used our blog and e-newsletter to provide more story-driven content. We developed more virtual programs for kids and families, developed a Summer Art Camp program based on take-home art kits, created downloadable lesson plans for teachers and schools to replace our in-school programs, and hosted Artist Talks on Zoom. We have been combining on-site exhibitions (even small-group tours) and outdoor programs with virtual offerings ever since. 

Akin: As an organization offering in-person arts programming, and providing workspace to artists in open-concept shared working environments, we had to adapt our services quickly. We launched our Studio Rent Relief Fund at the very beginning of COVID-19 to support artists facing financial hardships with covering their studio rent. Our staff was able to work from home quite readily. We did have to adapt our intake process for new members as we stopped doing on-site in-person tours. We switched to virtual meetings only, increased the frequency of mental-health check-ins and generally practiced more patience and care with each other.  We lost many of our studio members during COVID-19, who chose to work from home exclusively rather than keep a rental studio. While this was the best and safest option for many, we have had to close 5 of our studio locations since early 2020: Akin Lansdowne, Akin X Collision Gallery, Akin River, Akin Sunrise and Akin Lakeshore. Because of our membership loss and studio closures our organization has taken a huge financial hit as a result of  COVID-19 and we are grateful to have been able to continue operating despite that.”


How are operations changing with COVID restrictions beginning to loosen up?

Debajehmujig Theatre:What works for Debajehmujig is the focus on our strategic and operational plans, assessments post event, and building upon consumer confidence and trust being a priority. The creation process will continue to evolve and productions will adapt to the changing times. However the roots will remain the same.”

KWAG:We are allowed to operate Summer Art Camps during this time, but are maintaining the hybrid model we developed over the last year so we have both virtual camps and outdoor-focused camps on-site with a much smaller group of campers. We’ve installed our new summer exhibition, a wave in other words, with a very minimal crew of exclusively KWAG staff.

Akin: “Although the virtual programming did the trick, the in-person element is missing from our community.  Upcoming events include a live Art In The Park session, an outdoor Show & Tell (for members to show new work in a peer-supported environment), and if all goes well a group exhibition opportunity.”


What changes are here to stay?

Debajehmujig Theatre:We made adaptations for hybrid events, contactless payments and bookings, as we developed our production. We will have to adapt for custom sets, which include maintaining and building consumer and operational confidence. Other holistic practices such as wellness check-ins will likely stay, adaptation to work from home at times if required.

KWAG:We’re committed to maintaining a hybrid model of on-site and online programs for the long term, now that we’ve seen the benefits of improved reach and accessibility with our virtual programs. While KWAG is always going to push for in-person engagement, we see great potential in retaining our online audience, especially for folks who tune in for Artist Talks, to create engagement across the country and from the comfort of one’s own home.”

Akin: Virtual meetings and an adapted intake process for new members like sharing studio visuals virtually before scheduling  in-person tours will definitely stay. We will also keep offering the Studio Rent Relief Fund to our members indefinitely as long as our continual fundraising efforts for the fund are successful. We also plan to keep some aspects of our virtual programming to help audience reach”

As we continue to recover from COVID-19, ArtsBuild Ontario has resources, such as upcoming COVID relief funding opportunities, that might be useful for you and your creative space! Check out our website for more information on learning, building, and managing your creative space! 

The quotes in this article have been edited for length. We would like to thank Stephanie Vegh from Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, Lynda Trudeau from Debajehmujig Theatre and Jen Pilles from Akin Collective for their response and contributions to this blog.

Covid19 Relief Funds

Check out these recently released funding opportunities that might benefit you and your creative space! 

Tourism Relief Fund

The Tourism Relief Fund, administered by Canada’s regional development agencies and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), supports tourism businesses and organizations to adapt their operations to meet public health requirements while investing in products and services to facilitate their future growth. With a budget of $500 million over two years (ending March 31, 2023), including $50 million specifically dedicated to Indigenous tourism initiatives and $15 million for national initiatives, this fund will position Canada to be a destination of choice when domestic and international travel is once again safe by:

  • empowering tourism businesses to create new or enhance existing tourism experiences and products to attract more local and domestic visitors
  • helping the sector reposition itself to welcome international visitors by providing the best Canadian tourism experiences we have to offer the world.

Tourism Relief Fund projects will focus on:

  • product development: For example, projects that enhance tourism experiences; help tourism businesses adapt to the “new normal”, to modernize their offerings; and, encourage the adoption of more environmentally sustainable and inclusive practices.
  • destination development: For example, projects that position communities to take advantage of post-pandemic opportunities through strategic planning for medium- to long-term investments, as well as supporting destination development prospects in line with objectives set out in the Federal Tourism Growth Strategy.

Learn More here.

Indigenous People Resilience Fund

The Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund (IPRF) is built upon the resiliency of, and guided by, Indigenous Peoples to support Indigenous communities through this current public health crisis. This fund is different, guided by Indigenous Peoples from the East, South, West and North. The goal is to provide needed resources as you navigate this stage of the pandemic. The Fund is governed by an Indigenous Advisory Council that approves all governance, resilience fund projects, communications and fund‐raising strategies and recommendations related to the work of fulfilling the purpose of the IPRF.

Applicants who are seeking support are asked to reflect back to their customary way of life of living off the land, using the resources provided by taking only what you need, ensuring resources are left for those who follow you. In this period of COVID19, through this fund, support would be provided to assist as many communities as possible. Support ranges from $5,000 to $30,000. 

This fund is available to:

  • any Indigenous-led organization working to foster resilience in Inuit, Metis and First Nations communities anywhere in Canada

Learn more here. 

Ontario Trillium Foundation Resilient Communities Fund

OTF is investing in projects of eligible non-profit organizations to aid their medium to longer-term recovery efforts, help with their stabilization and build their capacity and resiliency in the aftermath of COVID-19.
This fund is providing a flexible range of activities to address the diverse needs of organizations and to support them where they are at in their recovery and rebuilding.Next Deadline:
December 8, 2021 at 5 PM ET

Term Length:
Maximum 12 months

Amount Awarded (per year):
Minimum $5,000
Maximum $150,000

Learn more here.