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Past INTERSECTIONS FESTIVAL / Perspective: Talli Osborne

Perspective: Talli Osborne

Revisionist Toronto, our 2019 exhibition, revisits and re-imagines the dominant narratives that shape our understanding of the city through a festival of collaborative exhibits and events. This exhibition will explore lost or hidden Toronto stories that have been paved over and forgotten, and how we can reclaim those histories.

My name is Talli Osborne and I am an inspirational speaker, singer, advocate and punk rock optimist! I believe each one of us is different from each other and that’s what makes the world beautiful.

What makes me different? I was born without arms, femurs and knees, standing at 3’5”. I learned at a young age that this world was not built for me, and I’d have to carve my way through.

When I first moved to downtown Toronto in 1999, I didn’t have much confidence. Straight out of high school, I felt awkward, wearing prosthetic limbs to try and fit in. I was just starting to discover who I was, and this was the city where I found my people. The people who were weird in the same ways I was. Toronto is so special because it’s a place where people from all walks of life come, people of different nationalities, abilities, shapes and sizes. Not one person looks like another. And this gave me the confidence to eventually truly love myself and let my differences sparkle!

Tangled Art + Disability’s Outliers on Tour is disrupting the dominant narratives of who is invited to define the city through a reflection of their Tangled on Tour program (March 8-31).

When I wasn’t going to school, I was checking out the city’s arts and music scene, eating out at different restaurants every night and meeting friends for brunch. I took in everything the city had to offer.

Sounds like the average life of a Torontonian, right? Well, not quite. Imagine not knowing if you’ll be able to get into that restaurant, venue or store. Imagine you have plans for dinner, are relieved you can get in the door only to see you can’t access the washroom. Imagine taking the subway to meet a friend and already having to get off two stops earlier then the meeting place because it’s an accessible station only to see the dreaded Out of Service sign taped to the elevator.

These are obstacles I deal with everyday. Toronto, compared to a lot of other cities, has made large strides in being accessible, but it has a long way to go, and as it being my city, I expect more.

I can’t tell you how many times I still can’t get into buildings, because, even if it has an accessible door, the button is in the most inconvenient spot, or the automatic door opens outwards, hits my scooter, then closes again. These are obstacles I deal with everyday. Toronto, compared to a lot of other cities, has made large strides in being accessible, but it has a long way to go, and as it being my city, I expect more.

When I am faced with an inaccessible entrance, or, an accessible feature that is not accessible, I always wonder who’s idea was this and how did they miss the mark? Unfortunately, the answer is able-bodied people, people who can check off their list that they did what the law required. But, the only people who really know what works and what doesn’t are the people actually living with a disability and having to go out and navigate the city every day. Which is why I’d love to get a committee of people together with all types of disabilities and form an accessibility consulting firm. Hire us to share experiences, give ideas and feedback on ways to make the city truly accessible. What makes a city world class is not just about preserving heritage buildings, or getting world renowned architects to build. It isn’t just about high speed transit, car-free streets and Michelin- starred restaurants. A city can’t seriously be considered world class until it’s built to be fully inclusive for everyone who lives in it.

Portrait of Anshuman Iddamsetty


Talli Osborne is a Toronto-based inspirational speaker who was born missing her arms and some of the bones in her legs. By the age of two Talli had undergone surgeries and hundreds of hours of physical therapy. Raised with the belief that she could do anything she set her mind to, Talli approaches life with a determined attitude and sees every moment as an experience, and every experience as an opportunity to learn and be inspired. This attitude and approach, along with her passion for changing perceptions and attitudes, is why being an inspiration speaker is not just something Talli does, but something she was born to do.

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