Community Development

Funding level: Up to $50,000


Hand Over Hand Community Organization has partnered with Xenia Concerts Inc. to create accessible musical spaces in our community of the Greater Toronto Area.

Hand Over Hand strives to create safe and accessible spaces in the community for and with people with disabilities. As a result, the organization aims to help the community understand barriers and find solutions through awareness, understanding and mobilization of young people in local spaces, regardless of ability or disability. The mission of Xenia Concerts Inc. is to offer high quality music and arts performances, presentations, and educational programs, in an environment that welcomes those who might not have access to such events and activities due to physical, mental, or financial barriers.

Both organizations want to bring a 2-part music series to the Greater Toronto Area. This series is inclusive of people with and without disabilities, but is designed to show the community how accessible music programming looks and feels like. The goal is to reduce the stigma that surrounds people with disabilities and provide community gatherings with musical performances where everyone feels like they can belong.

A recent survey of families and caregivers who have children with autism spectrum disorder, conducted by Autism Ontario, has identified “things to do together as a family/social opportunities” as being in the top five things that the autism community feels is lacking in Ontario. Families who have children with disabilities routinely find that many activities and social opportunities others take for granted, such as going to the movies or attending a concert, are impossible for them to partake in due to implied social constructs and lack of societal awareness. Concerts of classical or jazz music are a perfect example such events, since at times some behaviours associated with various disabilities may conflict with traditions and social conventions associated with classical and jazz concert-going.

Together, we want to challenge this barrier by creating safe musical spaces in the GTA through two days of accessible performances where people in the community can learn from the lived experiences of people with disabilities.

The music performed includes gems from the standard chamber music and jazz repertoire, including works by Canadian composers. This repertoire is performed by a roster of nationally and internationally acclaimed artists who believe in the same ideals of musical inclusiveness.

Some of the visible and teachable ways in which the Community Music Series will be accessible:
- venue is accessible by wheelchair
- lowered sound volume (due to any auditory sensitivities)
- seating area is flexible, such as places to sit on the floor, stand, and dance, so that audience members can listen as they prefer
- in-advance visitations to the venue to help with transitions
- interactions with the musicians
- programs are an hour long and include "stretch breaks" when audience members can move around and refresh their ears
- fidget toys provided for audience members
- visual schedules and programs
- sign language interpretation
- factsheets made available to other community members who don't have experience with disabilities - on stigma, disability and accessibility

The series creates a space where all people, including those with developmental and physical disabilities, can feel welcome to enjoy brilliant classical and jazz music in any way they desire. It also creates a space where people who don't identify as disabled, can learn about how performances can be made accessible and awareness of barriers to people with disabilities.

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Hand Over Hand Community Organization

Location: Markham