Photo of Ebony Gooden
Ebony Gooden | Photo by Mike Lee

Ebony Gooden

By Meghan Power

Ebony Gooden, a Black Deaf digital media artist and consultant first moved to Calgary in 2016 from Washington, D.C., USA, “There was such a diversity of culture and people within that geographic region and then I came to Calgary, and I lost all of that. I was the only Black Deaf artist, here, in the city and that really forced me to shift from being an artist to also being an advocate.

I’ve had to do more in the way of educating the Black community about deafness and being disabled and educating the Deaf community about racism and making it a safe space for any BIPOC artist and anyone in the BIPOC community.


When Covid hit, it was already a very difficult year. There was all the trauma surrounding Black communities, with the murder of George Floyd, coming to the surface. And then, amidst all that, was this scramble for many businesses to shift online and that’s when people finally realized—wow! There’s a big gap here. The accessibility had been seriously lacking and now, they needed to fill in the gaps, on the fly, and figure out what to do about accessibility.


In 2021, Ebony received a CADA individual artist grant for Professional Development, to update her website and better reflect the work she was doing as a consultant and accessibility advocate: “We often take it for granted that Deaf people may not be completely fluent in English, in the same way that someone who has learned the language through hearing and speaking, is fluent in English. ASL is a completely different language with its own syntax and grammar. So having both options increases accessibility and helps to remove those barriers. I worked with web developer Shannon Rusnak, a local Deaf web developer and digital media artist. I focused on accessibility for Deaf and DeafBlind users and making my website an example that clients could reference to see the different kinds of ways to offer accessibility. The new website has ASL for any English content, closed captioning, transcript, voice over and image description. You can’t just have one and assume it is accessible.”


“One of my favourite experiences of this website project was filming my vlog, Deafinitely Digital. I wanted voice over interpretation done by a Black interpreter, along with written transcripts. While, interpreters are trained to be ethical and to suit individual needs, culturally there is that lived experience that can’t be learned. Working with a Black interpreter, to have my stories represented by a voice that matched how I was signing was—wow! I mean, just that experience alone was awesome! Without the CADA funding, I wouldn’t have been able to hire a Black interpreter, because there are none in Alberta. If I, or any Black, Deaf person, wants to hire one, we must cover their travel costs, and most budgets can’t accommodate that cost.”


Ebony explains that while funding bodies, like CADA, have support for Deaf artists, there’s often not enough funds to support the accessibility needs, connected to those artists: “We have grants for Deaf (and disabled) artists to support our work, but it’s still missing the funding for the artists’ accessibility needs.”