About Us

Our Story

ReelAbilities Toronto was the first international city to host a ReelAbilities Film Festival in 2016 – we are proud to showcase Canadian and International shorts, features, and documentaries about Deaf and disability cultures and by filmmakers and actors with disabilities and/or who are Deaf.

2017 Jury

Esther Arbeid

Esther Arbeid

Esther Arbeid has been working at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (MNjcc) in downtown Toronto for 14 years. She brings a background in theatre to all that she does. Her department includes theatre skill workshops and the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition, which partners with other cultural institutions across Canada. Esther heads the Toronto Jewish Film Society, a year-round subscription series of films and noted guest speakers with over 300 subscribers. Esther also manages the MNjcc Pottery department, including co-ops and classes for all ages. Esther could not do what she does were it not for a vast network of volunteers as well as partners who work in the professional arts community in Toronto. They bring passion and expertise to the cultural arts programs of the JCC. She is the mother of two children and is married to children’s author, Andrew Larsen.

Eliza Chandler

Eliza Chandler

Earning her PhD from the Social Justice and Education department at OISE/UT in 2014, Eliza Chandler is an Assistant Professor in the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University. From 2014-2016, Chandler was the Artistic Director at Tangled Art + Disability and founding Artistic Director of Tangled Art Gallery. She is also co-director of the disability arts community group Project Creative Users, and is a practicing disability artist and curator. Chandler is the co-director of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-funded partnership project, Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology, and Access to Life. This seven-year, multi-partnered research project considers the close relationship between art, accessibility, and social change. Chandler also is the past-president of the Canadian Disability Studies Association and serves on the Ontario Art Council’s Deaf and Disability Arts committee.

Michael McNeely

Michael McNeely

Michael McNeely is a disability advocate, film critic, teacher, actor, director and aspiring law student. In his free time, he wonders why film festivals are not more accessible and why more films aren’t captioned.

Liv Mendelsohn

Liviya Mendelsohn

Liv is Artistic Director of the ReelAbilities Toronto Film Festival and producer of the ReelAccess/CinemAccessible Guide. Liv is passionate about the power of arts and culture to create new opportunities and spaces open to everyone.  At the Miles Nadal JCC, Liv is the Manager of Accessibility and Inclusion, and facilitates an ongoing initiative to assess and improve the accessibility of facilities, programs and services at the J, guided by community advisory committees and a robust staff accessibility committee. The MNjcc has emerged as a hub of inclusive arts and culture: dance, film, animation, storytelling, theatre, media arts, photography and more. The MNjcc has been recognized as by the Ontario Non-Profit Network as a provincial accessibility best practice case study organization.  Liv is also the Inclusion Specialist at the UJA Federation of Toronto and coordinates its Inclusive Synagogues Working Group of 23 synagogues working towards removing barriers and promoting full participation in Jewish life for people with disabilities and their families.

Syrus Marcus Ware

Syrus Marcus Ware

Syrus is a Vanier Scholar, visual artist, activist, curator and educator. Syrus uses painting, installation and performance to explore social justice frameworks and black activist culture. His work has been shown widely, including at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Art Gallery of York University and The Gladstone Hotel. His performance works have been part of festivals across Canada, including at Cripping The Stage (Harbourfront Centre, 2016), Complex Social Change (University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, 2015) and Decolonizing and Decriminalizing Trans Genres (University of Winnipeg, 2015). He is part of the PDA (Performance Disability Art) Collective and co-programmed Crip Your World: An Intergalactic Queer/POC Sick and Disabled Extravaganza as part of Mayworks 2014. More recently, Ware and long-time collaborator, Elizabeth Sweeney founded the Black Triangle Arts Collective, a disabled-led curatorial collective that works collaboratively to explore the experiences of Black, Indigenous, Mad, sick, Deaf and disabled people of colour. Syrus’ recent curatorial projects include That’s So Gay: On the Edge, TSG: Fall to Pieces, TSG: Come Together (Gladstone Hotel, 2016, 2015 & 2014), Re:Purpose (Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2014) and The Church Street Mural Project (Church-Wellesley Village, 2013). Syrus is also co-curator of The Cycle, a two-year disability arts performance initiative of the National Arts Centre.

Ware’s writings on trans health, disability studies and activism are part of curricula at City University of New York, York, and Ryerson. He is a facilitator/designer at The Banff Centre, and for 12 years was the Coordinator of the Art Gallery of Ontario Youth Program. Syrus is the inaugural Daniel’s Spectrum Artist-in- Residence (2016/17). Syrus is a core-team member of Black Lives Matter- Toronto. Syrus is also part of Blackness Yes!/Blockorama. Syrus was voted “Best Queer Activist” by NOW Magazine (2005) and was awarded the Steinert and Ferreiro Award for LGBT community leadership and activism (2012).

He is a facilitator/designer at The Banff Centre, and for 12 years was the Coordinator of the Art Gallery of Ontario Youth Program. Syrus is the inaugural Daniel’s Spectrum Artist-in- Residence (2016/17). Syrus is a core-team member of Black Lives Matter- Toronto. Syrus is also part of Blackness Yes!/Blockorama. Syrus was voted “Best Queer Activist” by NOW Magazine (2005) and was awarded the Steinert and Ferreiro Award for LGBT community leadership and activism (2012). Syrus is working on a PhD at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

Clayton Lee photo

Clayton Lee, Inside Out Film Festival

Clayton Lee is a Toronto-based performance artist. His publication Brandy, the Virgin Slayer – Missed Connections appears as part of the BOOK MACHINE Project at Centre Pompidou in Paris, now part of its permanent Kandinsky Collection. His performance work has been exhibited at the SummerWorks Performance Festival, Buddies in Bad Times’ Rhubarb Festival and Katzman Contemporary’s Duration & Dialogue II. Upcoming performances: Chapter’s EXPERIMENTICA in Cardiff.


Catherine McKinnon

Festival Director, Toronto International Deaf Film and Arts Festival


Fran Odette

Fran Odette was previously the Program Manager of the Women with Disabilities and Deaf Women’s Program at Springtide Resources, formerly Education Wife Assault, since 2003.
Fran has been an advocate, activist and trainer on issues related to gender and disability for approximately 20 years. Fran comes to this work from her own lived experience and as someone who is committed to advocating that people with disabilities live their lives with self-determination and agency. Fran has been an instructor at George Brown College since 2008, and currently co-developed and co-teaches the first college course on critical disability issues. Fran has been a Board member of Tangled Arts and Disability since 2013. Finally, she co-authored a book with Cory Silverberg and Miriam Kaufman entitled The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability, Cleis Press, 2003.

Ing Wong-Ward photo

Ing Wong-Ward

Ing Wong-Ward is the Associate Director for the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) a resource information and referral community agency run by people with disabilities for people with disabilities to achieve social and economic equality.

Prior to joining CILT in January, 2016, Ing worked as a broadcaster for CBC Radio and Television for 22 years. She began her career shortly after graduating from Ryerson University’s Journalism program… as a clerk in CBC Human Resources’ staffing unit. In short time, she did land a job in journalism. as a producer-trainee with the program “The Disability Network”. There, she learned to host, report and produce.

She then branched out to other CBC Television programs, first as a researcher and eventually, as a producer. She produced stories for “Midday”, “The National” and a number of CBC News Network current affairs programs.

After a decade in television, she joined CBC Radio and spent the last half of her career as a story producer with “Metro Morning” and “Here and Now. She spent her days connecting to Torontonians with a variety of perspectives, to share their stories about life in the city. She was also acting senior producer of both programs, along with the weekend morning show, “Fresh Air”. Under her leadership, each show saw an increase in listeners. In fact, she was the first producer to land “Metro Morning” a number one spot, in Toronto’s competitive morning market, a distinction it maintains to this day.

Outside of working as a journalist, Ing was active in her union, The Canadian Media Guild. She was former chair of the Human Rights Committee and was the inaugural Member, Human Rights and Equity with the CWA/SCA Canada, the Media Guild’s parent union.

She is a sought-after speaker, speaking to various groups including university students, bankers , lawyers and designers on issues related to disability and media. She is also the winner of the 2004 City of Toronto, Human Rights Access Award, and a recipient of a Gabriel Award.

Ing considers herself a committed urbanite and spends her free time exploring the city’s cultural and culinary scene with her husband and daughter.

ReelAbilities, presented by JCC Manhattan, in partnership with Ladd Inc. National sponsors: Jason's Connection , Saul Schottenstein Foundation B.

ReelAbilities: Toronto

750 Spadina Ave.
416-924-6211, ext. 330


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