Artwork: Valentin Brown-Unidentified Remains

Photo by: Rezvan Boostani

Access Visual Art (AVA)

Initiated by Akimbo Art Promotions & AccessTO


As part of my internship and my contract with Akimbo Art Promotions as a Design Researcher I worked on Access Visual Art (AVA) project. AVA is an online information resource on accessibility of art venues. This solution is in a form of a landing page and a widget within AccessTO platform.

My Role

Design Researcher & Outreach Manager


5 members- project director & founder, visual designer, inclusive designer, project manager, and developer



May-Oct 2017 as an intern

July-Oct 2018 as a contractor

I ran focus groups, events, site audits and redesigned a survey. I reached out to art venues to expand the project's network. I synthesized data from both qualitative and quantitative research and created a digital database as well as early prototypes for the landing page and widget. I documented the process and developed a report and an accessibility Resource guide to share with diverse stakeholders and promote the project.


There is no information about accessibility of art venues for individuals who are using mobility assistive devices and want to engage with art and cultural works. People using assistive mobility devices such as wheelchairs must rely on word of a mouth and search engines to see if they can find any relevant information.


We found it necessary to use mixed- methods approach to first gather information on accessibility of as many art venues as possible. In the next step it was essential to gather diverse stakeholders to select the necessary information to be presented as part of the solution.


Secondary Research & Observation

Review of existing and emerging services/ products


717 public and commercial art venues-administrators of creative spaces 


Focus Group

6 participants- AVA collective, project director, project manager, accessibility leader, volunteers, & advocates of accessibility in art and culture

Site Visits/Audits

50 art venues


Feedback loops

research team, design team, and technical team and AccessTO leaders

Iterative Design Cycle

research team, design team



Empathize & Define

In discovery I used the research that was done by the Akimbo art promotion and insights from a team member who is a wheelchair user to define needs, barriers, and goals. I also reviewed the existing platforms and services to identify gaps. Additionally, I visited several art venues to see what the barriers are. 

Review of Existing Services


There is one other platform called AccessNOW that utilizes Crowdsourcing.

The main issue is that the information on this platform necessarily is not reliable due to the Crowdsourcing as well as vague information it provides.

The platform has three main categories including Accessible, Partially Accessible, and Not Accessible. However, There is no detail information on what each category includes.

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Based on the secondary research and observation 3 main user personas were identified. These user stories highlight their frustrations and needs to support ideation of new services.

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"I need to go to events and panel discussions in different art galleries. However, I can't find information about the accessibility of the venues. I need to make calls to ask if theses venues are accessible. Sometimes they say it is accessible, but I go there, and I can't get in."



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"I need to visit different art venues to complete my project and get inspiration. I usually search online to see if there is any information about venue accessibility. It is very frustrating when I go there and I can't enter the space, although the information on their website indicates that the venue is accessible. "



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"As a wheelchair user I really like to work with venues to support them to be more accessible. It is frustrating that I can't find information on the level of accessibility of these venues to be able to work with them. "




Journey Mapping

After the initial research on the existing services and based on the insights from users of assistive devices, it was helpful to map the journey to the art venues. Journey map is based on the most common challenges that different users of assistive devices highlighted. 

I used painpoints and challenges that users are facing to start ideation on services that can address theses challenges. 


Our survey was sent out to 717 public and commercial galleries with detailed questions about their venue accessibility features. The following are the survey results.

Survey Results 

Site Visits/Audits

Site visits were used as a complementary method to expand the database information. Survey results informed the planning for site visits. Since most respondent venues were in Toronto, we planned to visit venues that did not respond to surveys and were outside of Toronto within the Great Toronto Area. The database was updated with site visits' information. Both Survey data and site visit data informed the early prototypes of the AVA landing page.

Survey Design

To gather detailed information on accessibility of venues and to ensure reliability of the data provided on the AVA landing page, we redesigned an existing survey. 

The survey was designed to:

  • Determine how many art venues in Ontario have physical accessibility features,

  • better understand capability of the art venues to become more accessible

Surveys were completed by creative spaces' administrators and I created a database of the results. The database was a foundation for the online information platform.

This is a link to the AVA survey.

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We started ideation phase by early prototypes based on the user needs and existing gaps. 


Focus Group

We ran focus groups for ideation and selection of ideas to see what needs to be included on the online platform and how. There were 6 participants, including 2 participants from AVA collective, an accessibility specialist, 1 advocate and 2 wheelchair users.

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Focus Group


Focus group participants found it crucial to have option to categorize information on accessibility of venues in four categories including

  1. level entrance/ramp access,

  2. accessible washroom

  3. parking nearby, & 

  4. automatic doors.


They also wanted to be able to quickly locate this information. 

Level Entrance
Accessible Washroom
Parking Nearby
Automatic Doors

Icons from: &

Emerged Themes from Focus Group
Access Designations

With focus group we also ideated on access designations and how these designations should appear on the AVA landing page. Participants highlighted while they are interested to see the details they want to be able to identify the level of accessibility of venues quickly. To achieve that, we used colour coded icons to show the level of accessibility instantly. Participants also selected what detail information they want to see about venues and what each category of accessibility should include. The following shows the colour coded icons as well as detail information that each category should include.

  • A level entrance or ramp access to enter

  • An accessible washroom

  • Wide and unobstructed pathways within the interior

  • An elevator to access every level

  • And may be missing

  • Automatic doors at the entrance

  • Accessible parking nearby

Partially Accessible
  • A level entrance or ramp to access

And may be missing

  • An accessible washroom

  • Wide and unobstructed pathways within the interior

  • An elevator to access every level

  • Automatic doors at the entrance

  • Accessible parking nearby

Not Accessible
Does not include
  • A level entrance or ramp access to enter


And may not include

  • An accessible washroom

  • Wide and unobstructed pathways within the interior

  • An elevator to access every level

  • Automatic doors at the entrance

  • Accessible parking nearby



Test & Implementation

Wireframe prototypes were refined based on the feedback from the focus group and the refined prototypes were translated to final design solution.

Screen Design

Landing Page on AccessTO platform
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Four filters are added based on the four main categories defined by users and focus group as the most important area that they find information on. This is to allow users quickly find about accessibility features in these areas.


Color coded access designation icon, in addition to text to quickly show accessibility level


View both icon and text of a filter category beside each venue to easily locate the information


Access to the full report and detailed venue information

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Users can check the detail information about art venues on the widget and don't need to check venues' websites


Photos of venues entrance, door, washroom to add clarity in terms of accessibility features

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Detailed report on different accessibility features based on the users needs, including door width measurements, hallways measurements, etc. 





Category of areas with detail information and measurements to give users quickly clarity what information is available on the widget. In case they were interested they can click on the plus sign to read the full details.








Map to see the location and see nearby places.





  • Created a digital database about Information on accessibility of art venues 

  • Landing page and widget to make the database accessible to everyone were designed and published successfully within the projected timeline

  • Network of the project was expanded by 300%

This a link to Access Visual Art landing page on AccessTO platform.

I found it crucial for the project continuation and maintaining relationship with the venues and funding partners to develop an accessibility resource guide. While it was not part of my work, I proposed it to the AVA executives and they agreed. I developed an accessibility resource guide for creative spaces that include lists of accessibility toolkits, guides and services for their physical spaces, digital platforms, artworks presentations and social media presence to move forward in becoming more accessible places. In developing the resource guide, I found it essential to include different options of toolkits and services from open source/free to paid services to include all the venues with different budgets. The Accessibility Resource Guide was shared with AVA network and gained attention by ArtsBuild Ontario and was shared on their platform as a resource with the creative spaces. It also opened new opportunities for more funding.


This is a link to the Accessibility Resource Guide in Creative Spaces on ArtsBuild Ontario Platform. 

We ran a  promotional event after AVA project completion. 


Roll-A-Thon Event

I as AVA's outreach manager volunteered to work collaboratively with five other institution partners, including Art Spin, Tangled Art + Disability, Creative Users Projects, Akimbo Art Promotions, and Bodies in Translation to organize and plan a promotional event. Roll-A-Thon was the AVA's first event which guided tours for people using mobility devices. It took place in the “Holding patterns” exhibition of site-specific artworks in storage lockers at Planet Storage in Toronto. The exhibition is curated by Art spin.

This is a link to a video about Roll-A-Thon event.

This is a link to more information about Roll-A-Thon event.


Next Steps

I also mapped the future paths for the AVA project. The following is a brief about the possible paths the AVA could take:

One-three years ahead 

  • Move forward in partnership with art venues

  • Develop Up-to-Date Accessibility Guides for Creative Spaces

  • Accessible Digital Information Strategy for Creative Spaces

  • Co-Creating Inclusive Exhibition Tours 

Three to five years ahead

  • Developing/Prototyping Technological Tools to Support Better Exhibition Experiences for Users of Assistive devices