Reader letter: Artwork should have been on display at accessible site

As published in the Windsor Star July 23, 2022.

Re: Amherstburg gets a closer look at Group of Seven artwork, by Dave Battagello, July 2

Not everyone will get a closer look.

The exhibition was being hosted in a downtown bookstore owned by Richard Peddie.

Victoria Little, chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Art Windsor-Essex, stated recently, “AWE regrets hosting this exhibition in a space that is not accessible in Amherstburg.”

In her letter, Ms. Little explained: “AWE also undertakes partnerships when our overarching goals for a program align with those of community visionaries, such as Richard Peddie.”

But if the goal was to bring this exhibit to Amherstburg, AWE could have selected accessible locations like the downtown Gibson Gallery or the Libro Centre.

The livability of communities cannot be improved if persons with disabilities continue to experience discrimination because of attitudinal and physical barriers.

AWE needs to adopt an accessibility policy and align its goals with legislation that ensures every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities without discrimination.

Ms. Little asked for my “patience and understanding that the organization operates within the broader systems of obligations that may conflict with our overarching accessible vision.”

I have been more than patient as I have advocated for improved accessibility for over 30 years. There’s the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, the Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, along with the goal of a fully accessible province in 2025.

Yet, a public art organization decided it was okay to exclude persons with disabilities with this recent exhibition. Linda Saxon, Amherstburg

River Bookshop Barriers

Richard Peddie co-owns River Bookshop in Amherstburg, built in 1885 and restored to honour the building’s heritage. Peddie requested and received heritage designation in 2021.

The website states, “Our second-floor event space is a very important part of our ambition to create a powerful and popular “Third Place” in our community. Consistent with our River Bookshop our values are to educate, inspire, engage and entertain.”

Twenty stairs that Peddie says you just walk up poses a barrier to people with disabilities. Shameful. There is also a raised threshold that I got stuck on and issues with the website.

twenty stairs to second floor river bookshop in amherstburg, ontario a barrier to persons with disabilities.

Peddie’s Pop Up – am800 Interview

Dan Macdonald, am800, interviewed Richard Peddie, River Bookshop owner and Jennifer Matotek, Executive Director Art Windsor Essex (AWE), formerly Art Gallery Windsor about the Group of Seven Pop Up Exhibit. Read the article or listen to the interview.

Peddie mentions the event is free and you just walk upstairs because the event is on the second floor, called a hole in the wall. He explains that it’s an 1887 building and they weren’t accessible in those days.

Yes, but it’s 2022.

Meanwhile, Matotek is ‘looping in some’ team members and asking if they can work on some language for the show around access, ‘so we can be transparent with the public about the lack of access for this space.’

Being transparent about a lack of access is not the same as equal access.