Landon is an incredible artist/advocate, and we are lucky to have him in Vancouver. He is the only deaf arts professional in Western Canada, who is bilaterally profoundly Deaf and advocating for a more inclusive arts scene. He currently works as the general manager for Theater Terrific, a group that works towards making theatre more accessible to a larger amount of artists and audiences of different abilities.
He overwhelmed me with new knowledge of the deaf culture in Vancouver. In my ignorance, I didn’t understand the culture that it is, I had an incorrect assumption of it simply being a different language. He also opened my eyes to some of the barriers this community faces in being able to express themselves due to misconceptions such as the ones I had. For example, to participate more freely in discussions at conferences, (usually on the topics of art and accessibility), he requires an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, and currently/ironically that is not accessible to him. Also, ASL is North American, (Canada, US and Mexico), so when he is participating in discussions in with other English speaking communities that do offer sign language (such as the UK), the language is completely different, again creating a barrier. By now the shortage of funding for ASL is pretty evident, which translates as a shortage in funding for someone to learn how to communicate, be understood, and feel heard effectively. This is just the basics. But a person who is unable to express themselves results in higher rates of anxiety and depression, this is two times more likely in the deaf community than in the general population.
Landon emphasized the importance of having characters be portrayed by actors who are more authentic. In this political climate of being culturally appropriate on screen, I thought I understood what he meant. After meeting with him a few months ago, I had the opportunity to see one of his productions, “Hello, I’m Arthur Miller’s Unknown Child.” It was a powerful and eye-opening experience for me, as it drove home what he meant. During the play, I realized I had never actually witnessed an actor with Down Syndrome play a character in the same situation. Watching the play made me appreciate the work being done by Landon and Theatre Terrific even more, as they push against acceptable theatre practices and instead takes the individual into account and makes them shine as themselves.
Currently, Landon is doing what he can to help develop and contribute to making the arts more accessible and inclusive, but it’s hard to work tirelessly on the West Coast when on the East Coast, particularly in Toronto he says people get it and support his work. Eventually, he would like to see the Canada Council for the Arts have a Deaf Arts Program, as well as produce a sensory show that engages all the senses, making the performance accessible to an audience that may not usually get the opportunity to experience theatre as it is traditionally presented.
“Inclusion is the meat at a BBQ and accessibility is the seasoning that adds the flavour to inclusion.