Working in Culture: Accessibility and Employment in Arts and Culture - An Interview with Sage Lovell

Posted: 2016-05-05 10:52:15 AM by work in culture editor | with 0 comments

Vlog Transcript
0:00 Tell us about your story as an artist/creator/community leader.
0:12 When I was young, I used to say, “I want to become famous (as an actor/writer) so I can become rich so I can help people.”
0:19 Of course, as a kid, you think money cures all the problems.
0:24 Theatre and writing are two great ways to connect with hearing audiences.
0:30 Hearing people have come up to me and told me that I inspired them to learn sign language because the story behind my performance is so deep and so true.
0:42 As an artist, I have gained some recognition in a few communities here in Toronto.
0:54 Fortunately, with a little recognition, I had this access to a certain level of attention where people are willing to listen to me.
1:00 I recognize that this is a privilege.
1:06 The important thing is how you use privilege.
1:10 I used this privilege to educate hearing people about the Deaf community struggles.
1:22 Tell us about the accomplishment you consider to be the most important in your career.
1:30 Founding Deaf Spectrum.
1:35 Actually, the ideas were brewing in my head for a couple of years before I actually founded it.
1:46 The idea of Deaf Spectrum actually came up to me when I worked for Deaf Outreach Program,
1:53 where I would constantly make different sign language videos because it was more accessible for our audience.
1:59 At that point, I realized how much information was lacking
2:09 and how accessible it would be to simply make vlogs and post it online.
2:18 There’s so much potential of information becoming more accessible and circulated among the Deaf community through the means of vlogging.
2:22 At one point, I was watching a couple of my Deaf friends who were fluent in American Sign Language
2:29 and not so fluent in English –
2:31 I would notice that they would look at the sign language videos instead of text.
2:40 I explained this to hearing people and it is clear that there is a gap in communication
2:49 between the Deaf community and the Hearing world because of language.
2:57 I didn’t know how I would start doing sign language videos.
3:01 I didn’t know when.
3:02 Then one organization asked me to do a promotion video.
3:05 I was more than happy to produce one.
3:08 Then they paid me.
3:10 I thought I could try to make a career out of it.
3:14 Then the next thing I knew, I made more than sixty-five vlogs in a year.
3:21 And through that experience, I was able to hire other Deaf people to work with me.
3:26 We shared our knowledge and resources with each other.
3:29 Now, I’m witnessing them using these resources and knowledge –
3:33 going down on their own paths
3:38 because they gained that level of confidence,
3:40 especially since they had training in their own language.
3:43 I think it’s so relevant.
3:45 Hearing people don’t give us enough chances.
3:51 Hearing people don’t have enough faith in us.
3:56 Well, that needs to change.
3:57 Change is possible
3:59 Hopefully, (Deaf) arts can inspire people to seek deep within.
4:04 What have you had to do differently than others working in the arts and culture sector?
4:11 What are the barriers you've had to face and how have you overcome them?
4:18 Living at Gallaudet, it’s almost like a Deaf Utopia
4:25 for those who use American Sign Language,
4:27 you have access to your language everywhere and it’s so much more accessible.
4:31 When I came back to Canada,
4:32 I faced many barriers.
4:34 I realized that we didn’t have to struggle so much living in Canada –
4:41 it was possible to make things much more accessible.
4:46 That’s when it clicked.
4:49 I look over to the hearing world; they will always outnumber us.
4:52 The Deaf community will always be a minority.
4:56 We are not loud enough for the hearing world to hear us
5:03 unless we build relationships with the hearing world.
5:09 Hearing people continue to make decisions for us because they think they know what’s the best for us.
5:15 Instead, it’s harming us.
5:19 We are currently experiencing a cultural genocide.
5:24 Deaf schools are at risk of closing.
5:29 Deaf babies are threatened with being surgically implanted with cochlear implants.
5:33 Deaf babies are not being taught sign language.
5:38 There’s no funding for accessibility.
5:42 For the Deaf community, they struggle to gain the resources and knowledge
5:49 that they need because it is not available in their language – American Sign Language.
5:54 The way I face barriers
5:58 – is by telling them about their privilege and how their attitudes can be audist (through art).
6:11 What are the opportunities in the sector you see from where you are today?
6:20 #DeafTalent movement is becoming viral in the media.
6:28 Marlee Matlin.
6:31 Switched at Birth.
6:34 Spring Awakening on Broadway.
6:39 America’s Next Top Model’s Nyle Dimarco.
6:43 The Daily Moth.
6:43 It’s a start, but still not enough.
6:50 I believe that the #DeafTalent movement is just the beginning.
6:56 I have a strong faith that it will reach to Canada in a few years
7:00 and that Deaf Canadian Artists will become more recognized during this time.
7:08 Also, Canada just announced that Video Relay Services
7:10 – where you can make phone calls to hearing people using sign language interpreters
7:14 – will be available this upcoming fall.
7:17 CONVO – a Deaf-run company is going to be the primary provider
7:24 In the United States, CONVO developed a Deaf ecosystem
7:30 where there would be a network of Deaf businesses and organizations in one directory.
7:37 If this concept was re-introduced in Canada,
7:42 I believe this will really strength and empower the Deaf community.
7:49 Also, CONVO has featured different Deaf artists, innovators, and people who contribute to the Deaf community.
7:59 I love CONVO's vision.


Sage Lovell is a twenty-something deaf queer multidisciplinary artist who likes to work their magic. In their written work, Sage reflects about their lived experiences of struggling in an ablest, sexist, capitalist and oppressive society that only welcomes those who fit their standard set of expectations and norms. Through sharing stories and lived experiences, Sage discovered a beautiful loving supportive community full of folks of all identities, inspiring them to follow their passions and chase after their dreams.

Deaf Spectrum aims to create greater accessibility for local Deaf communities in the Greater Toronto Area by providing services in American Sign Language. More information and examples of their services can be found on their YouTube Channel