ASL Transcript
Expanding the Arts II: Deaf and Disability Expression and Engagement Strategy

1.0 Introduction 

This video is for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Artists. The Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) is pleased to share its 2019 Expanding the Arts strategy to support the expression and engagement of Deaf and Disability artists and art organizations across Canada.

This strategy plan takes the vision that…

Deaf and Disability arts is a vibrant field that brings distinct perspectives and ways of being to the mainstream cultural experience. These practices shift the public’s understanding of the human condition and artistic expression.

The CCA believes that a diverse and inclusive arts landscape in Canada needs to include a strong and active Deaf and Disability arts sector. According to the 2011 National Household Survey and Statistics Canada data, 15% of Canadian artists are Deaf or have a disability. 

This sign language video offers a summary of the Canada Council of the Arts’ (CCA) Expanding the Arts II (ETA II) strategy.

The ETA II strategy is an update to the ETA I, the CCA’s original Deaf and Disability arts strategy, which ran from 2012 to 2016.

This video provides a glance at their plan to become a better ally and improve support for artists who are Deaf and/or Disabled and arts organizations. The CCA is looking to support the growth of Deaf and Disability artists’ artistic expression.

2.0 Definitions of fundamental concepts and terminology

The CCA recognizes Deaf and Disability as collective identities rather than medical categories. And that Deaf and Disabled people should have full self-determination as active, contributing citizens living their lives, with goals and dreams.

The CCA recognizes the following artistic communities and practices:

Deaf Arts, created by Deaf people and explore identity, community and relationships both with the dominant hearing culture and within Deaf communities. Express Deaf history and culture through signed languages, which are regionally and culturally specific and distinct from written and spoken languages. In Canada, these include: American Sign Language, langue des signes québécoise, and various Indigenous and regional sign languages. By framing the experience of being Deaf as the norm, Deaf arts play an important role in advancing the vitality and participation of sign language communities in cultural life, defying assumptions and values long held by the hearing population.

Disability Arts, created by people with disabilities who use their disability experiences to inspire artistic expression and creation. Impairments whether learning, physical, psychological, neurological, sensory or intellectual are not framed as limitations, but shape form and aesthetic choices. These works counter and interrogate dominant notions of beauty, autonomy and power, which commonly represent the disabled subject in terms of pity and charity.

Mad Arts, created by people who live with Madness and are an expression of Mad Pride. The term “Mad” has been reclaimed by people who identify as living with mental illness or psychiatric disabilities and symbolizes pride, collective identity, and community building. Within this context, mental illness is not framed as pathology, but rather as integral to identity and experiences shaped by social determinants of health such as income, social status, employment, working conditions, housing, and food security. 

3.0 The CCA’s two main objectives

The CCA’s current two main objectives for the Deaf and Disability arts sector are to enhance EXPRESSION and ENGAGEMENT.

Hence, the title of this document “’Expanding the Arts II: Deaf and Disability Expression and Engagement Strategy.” For each objective, the CCA has developed a vision statement and a list of actions to turn the vision into a reality. Here are the statements for the two major objectives: 


Invest in the creative development of the Deaf and Disability arts sector by supporting artistic autonomy and innovation, ensuring equity in the CCA’s programs and services, and strengthening the organization’s own capacity as an ally to the sector.


Extend and deepen the impact of the Deaf and disability arts sector on audiences at home and abroad. Support Canadian artists and arts organizations to expand their public and communities by forming sustainable (strong, continued, independent) collaborations with the Deaf and disability arts sector and by presenting work which speaks to people on a continuum of ability.

4.0 What the CCA will do to meet its EXPRESSION objective

  • Increase funding support and outreach to Deaf and/or disability identified artists and arts organizations.
  • Continue to monitor application and success rates of Deaf and disability artists and arts organizations. This monitoring of the data enables the CCA to identify and analyze discrepancies in funding.
  • Improve on the accessibility of information.
  • Continue to improve the accessibility of the CCA’s portal, website, printed documents, and in-person communication.
  • Reinforce accommodation policies and equitable practices for internal processes and public events.
  • Recognize and promote the Deaf and Disability arts as its own field of practice.
  • Solicit expertise from the Deaf and Disability arts sector. Host a second meeting with Deaf and Disability artists and arts organizations, among other activities, to continue to collect and distribute knowledge about Deaf and Disability arts. This will help the CCA to stay current in Deaf and Disability arts.
  • Share knowledge with other funders
  • Share knowledge, exchange best practices, and explore partnerships with other arts funding agencies to keep current and relevant in facilitating overall sector development.

5.0 What the CCA will do to meet its ENGAGEMENT objective 

  • Explore ways to increase Deaf and Disability artists’ involvement within the arts sector.


  • Promote initiatives to increase market access for artists and arts professionals across Canada and abroad.
  • Identify, encourage, and support access to the art sector, including the availability and representation of Deaf and Disability artistic content.
  • Support the ongoing efforts to increase capacities for Deaf and Disabled artists to connect to their peers and widen their audience through innovative digital mediums.

6.0 Conclusion

Over the years, the CCA has been active in engaging, funding, recognizing, and supporting Deaf and Disability artists and arts organizations. The CCA has also networked with various professional experts in the arts, hired Deaf and Disability jurors, and connected with the community of Deaf and Disability artists and arts organizations. working to promote change. These collaboration-building processes have enhanced the CCA’s understanding of what it means to become a better ally with the community of Deaf and Disability artists efficiently. 

The CCA strives to foster a diverse and vibrant arts ecology, and to achieve a diverse and inclusive arts landscape by supporting Deaf and Disability artists and arts organizations. The CCA will continue its actions to remove barriers and to encourage their expression and engagement in the arts.

Expanding the Arts II: Deaf and Disability Expression and Engagement Strategy proposes the directions that CCA is going to be taking to support Deaf and Disability artists and arts organizations and to become a better ally to this arts sector to the mutual benefit of the arts at large.

7.0 References

For more information on the Expanding the Arts strategy reports and relevant documents concerning Deaf and Disability, and the CCA’s future direction, please consult

Or search online for: 

  • Expanding the Arts: Deaf and Disability Arts, Access and Equality Strategy
  • Expanding the Arts II: Deaf and Disability Expression and Engagement Strategy
  • Expanding the Arts: A Guidebook for Working with Artists Who Are Deaf or Have Disabilities

Photo Credits

flicker doll, 2016, Persimmon Blackbridge 
Constructed Identities exhibition
Curator: Tangled Art + Disability
Photo: Della McCreary

Demerara 1823 deconstruct
Video performance, installation 
Afuwa (with cultural tattoo practitioner Dion Kaszas, and media artists Tia Taurere-Clearsky and Aerlyn Weissman
Photo: Tia Taurere-Clearsky 

Ultrasound, a play by Adam Pottle, co-production Cahoots Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille, 2016. Featuring: Elizabeth Morris and Christopher Dodd  
Photo: Dahlia Katz Photography 

DysfunctionED tools # 65, sculpture series, Mohsen Khalili2017. Medium bronze

The Walls are Alive with the Sounds of Mad People, directed by Ruth Ruth Stackhouse,
Artistic Director of the Friendly Spike Theatre Band
Photo: Rob Saunders

je ne veux pas marcher seul (performance), 2015. Production: Joe Jack et John
Performers: Étienne Thibeault, Edon Descollines and Francis Ducharme
Photo: Adrienne Surprenant

je ne veux pas marcher seul (performance), 2015. Production: Joe Jack et John
Performer: Edon Descollines
Photo: Adrienne Surprenant

Gabrielle, a film by Louise Archambault, 2013. Featuring: Gabrielle Marion-Rivard and
Alexandre Landry.
Photo: Philippe Bossé, courtesy of micro_scope

Jess Thom, performer and co-founder of Touretteshero
Photo: James Lyndsay