Public Displays of Affection

September 28 (today!)—ongoing
Critical Distance Centre for Curators


Critical Distance is excited to announce Public Displays of Affection (PDA), a new ongoing programming initiative exploring creative possibilities in accessible arts publishing. PDA will work within disability arts communities and beyond, building on Kelly Fritsch’s notion that “to crip is to open up with desire to the ways that disability disrupts.” Over the next several months, PDA will produce a collective learning opportunity that considers the pleasures, desires, and disruptions of making arts publishing initiatives more accessible.

Continuing from our Fall 2019 exhibition Access is Love and Love is Complicated (co-curated by Emily Cook and Sean Lee), we will host conversations, workshops, and case studies on topics such as audio description, plain language, digital platforms, ASL translation, access intimacy and others. Just as the title of Access is Love directly cited disability activist Mia Mingus’ writing on understanding accessibility as an act of love, PDA will continue the conversation, asking: How can crip desire push at the boundaries of how we design, write, and distribute exhibition catalogues and other arts publications? How can we welcome new forms of affection?

All sessions led and coordinated by Emily Cook, Sean Lee, and Daniella Sanader, in partnership with Creative Users Projects.

These events will take place over Zoom. Please register to each event via Eventbrite (links below) to receive the Zoom link closer to the event date. All events will have ASL and captioning. Images will be described and presenters will describe themselves. If you have any other access requests or questions please contact

PDA will run throughout late 2020 and early 2021. Save the date for these initial events in the program, and more events will be announced shortly:

TONIGHT: Monday, September 28th, 5:30pm
Crip Culture and Digital Experiments—Panel Discussion with Jessa Agilo, Aimi Hamraie, and Yo-Yo Lin. Led by Lindsay Fisher, Creative Users Projects.
Free—Click here to register

Artists, activists, and others in disability communities have been adapting online tools and platforms for work and play since well before the pandemic forced able-bodied people online. What creative solutions and experiments in the digital sphere have been happening within disability communities? What have we learned so far from the efforts to come together and adapt tools that were not designed with disability in mind? Join us as we discuss the particular joys and challenges of creative access in an online world, with reflections from Jessa Agilo, Aimi Hamraie, and Yo-Yo Lin. This conversation is moderated by Lindsay Fisher, Founder and Director of Creative Users Projects. Read more here.

Sunday, October 4th, 2:00pm
Case Study: A distinct aggregation / A dynamic equivalent / A generous ethic of invention—Conversation with Aislinn Thomas, Shannon Finnegan, and Ramya Amuthan
Free—Click here to register.

In August 2019, artists Aislinn Thomas and Shannon Finnegan published a broadsheet and accessible PDF for A distinct aggregation / A dynamic equivalent / A generous ethic of invention: Six writers respond to six sculptures through the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre. Also presented as a series of sound works, the project invited writers and poets across Canada to produce creative audio descriptions for a range of public sculptures installed throughout the Banff Centre.

For this case study session, Thomas and Finnegan will be in discussion, reflecting on the project and the challenges and opportunities of creative audio description in both accessible publishing and gallery/museum practices. They will be joined by Ramya Amuthan, host and producer at Accessible Media Inc, for further reflection. Read more here.

Sunday, October 18th, 2:00pm
Alt-Text Time—Led by Aislinn Thomas, Shannon Finnegan, Bojana Coklyat, and Ramya Amuthan
PWYC—Click here to register.

Alt-text and image description are important access measures, especially for blind and low vision communities and others who use screen readers. Alt-text is a written description of an image posted online. It provides access to the image for those who can’t see it. It is not visually displayed on a website or app, so if you aren’t a web developer or a screen reader user, you mostly interact with alt-text by writing it and adding it to your images through designated form fields during the image upload process. Yet so many images are posted and circulated online without accompanying alt-text, leaving many people out of what could be a shared experience.

Bojana Coklyat, Shannon Finnegan, and Aislinn Thomas will lead a group work session to dig into our collective backlog of alt-text writing for websites or social media. We can share what we’re working on, ask questions, and learn from each other in a more intimate way. Together, we’ll collaborate on making the internet a more engaging, fun, and welcoming place. In the spirit of a community quilting bee, we’ll come together to work individually and collectively toward a shared goal. Read more here.

Thursday, November 12, 2:00-5:00pm
Plain Language in Arts Writing—Workshop led by Victoria Anne Warner with Tamyka Bullen
PWYC—Click here to register.

Much has been said about the art world’s reliance on obscure or difficult language. But language complexity also opens up questions of access. This workshop explores the role of plain language in arts writing. Working with plain language creates an opportunity to widen the reach of your writing to include folks whose first language is not English (which includes ASL speakers) and folks with learning disabilities, processing disabilities, and Neurodiverse brains. How can we—as artists, arts writers, and arts publishers—make better use of plain language? What challenges does plain language produce? How can plain language best convey complex thought?

Join Victoria Anne Warner of Tangled Art + Disability and artist/performer Tamyka Bullen in this participatory workshop, introducing plain language strategies for arts writing of all kinds. Read more here.


This program is made possible through the generous support of the Toronto Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Critical Distance is a not-for-profit project space, publisher, and professional network devoted to the support and advancement of curatorial practice and inquiry in Toronto, Canada, and beyond. With a focus on critically engaged, collaborative, and cross-disciplinary practices, underrepresented artists and art forms, and community outreach and education in art and exhibition-making, Critical Distance is an open platform for diverse curatorial perspectives, and a forum for the exchange of ideas on curating and exhibition-making as ways to engage and inform audiences from all walks of life.