What is MacLaren Access Art?

MacLaren Access Art is the name of a pilot project which began in September 2020 and concluded in December 2021. Funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation through a Seed Grant, it focused on enhancing access to exhibitions and arts-based learning opportunities for those living with disabilities, building on the MacLaren’s commitment to inclusivity.

To achieve the goals of this project, we reached out to 10 regional organizations who provide services to people living with disabilities and their families. With their expert advice and feedback helping to shape the direction and outcomes of MacLaren Access Art, we hope to meaningfully engage more regional residents who are living with disabilities.

Guiding Principles

  • Reducing Barriers to Access: offer alternative ways of experiencing art exhibitions and related programming that respond to the needs of people living with disabilities.
  • Community Focus: engage with and learn from our regional communities of people living with disabilities to better understand what barriers to access exist and what supports would be most helpful.
  • Flexibility and Growth: these documents, recommendations, and the programs they inspire, should be living things – able to shift to accommodate differing individual needs, conflicting needs and new standards for accessibility.

The program included:

  • Researching what other galleries are doing to reduce barriers to access in their exhibition spaces.
  • Making partnerships with local organizations that work with, care for, and provide services to people living with disabilities and their families.
  • Conduct a series of consultations with local partner organizations, where a research and planning feedback loop was initiated to determine best practices for accessible exhibitions, interpretive tools, and related art programs in the Gallery; Input, feedback, and recommendations for positive change from disability experts were sought regularly after each component of the project was completed.
  • Learning about some of the physical, intellectual, emotional, and environmental barriers to access at the MacLaren. Specific attention was placed on addressing barriers to access for guests who are deaf or have reduced hearing, guests who are blind or have limited vision, and guests with physical and intellectual disabilities.
  • Learning about the impact these new programs could have for visitors.
  • Hiring accessibility professionals to work with curators and artists, to collaboratively provide alternative ways to access exhibitions, individual artworks, or to complete visual arts programs.
  • Developing exhibition-specific technologies that provide alternative ways to engage with the artwork on view.
  • Building a list of arts-related accessibility resources from trusted sources
  • Implementing accessible exhibition and program recommendations into a major MacLaren exhibition and devising ways to continually implement accessible features into future exhibition seasons.

The Artist

About Erika DeFreitas

Erika DeFreitas is a Scarborough-based artist whose practice includes the use of performance, photography, video, installation, textiles, works on paper, and writing. Placing an emphasis on process, gesture, the body, documentation, and paranormal phenomena, she works through attempts to understand concepts of loss, post-memory, inheritance, and objecthood. DeFreitas’ work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. She was the recipient of the TFVA 2016 Finalist Artist Prize, the 2016 John Hartman Award, and longlisted for the 2017 Sobey Art Award. DeFreitas holds a Master of Visual Studies from the University of Toronto.

Accessible Art Exhibition

Tour of the Exhibition video with Emily McKibbon

App – coming soon!

Mobile App coming soon!

Accessible Art Programs

Coming Soon

Collage 1

Coming Soon

Collage 1

Coming Soon

Collage 1


Access a full report on MacLaren Access Art, detailing research, feedback from contributing partner organizations, helpful resources and more.

Access Art Partners