Deaf, Performing Arts, Philosophy, Professional Development

Disabled and Deaf leaders in arts generally

I attended the Leadership and Disability Forum that was presented by Jo Verrent tonight at QPAC in Brisbane. I really enjoyed the presentation as Jo Verrent used metaphors and I can relate to those metaphors very well.  Jo Verrent ( is part of the team leading the Unlimited Commission and previously ran the leadership development program called Sync Leadership focusing on the interface between disability and leadership (

It was quite interesting as yesterday during the workshop at Vulcana Women’s Circus, I talked about how people put others in a box, in a box. Today, Jo mentioned that as well due to people having an established mindset and always making such assumptions about the other person without breaking the ice and getting to know the person.

A very classic example in the Deaf community and this is not to offend anyone.   When people ask me if I am deaf or hard of hearing? I always responses, I am Deaf. How the other person portrays me … “Deaf and oral”. This is putting me in a box, in a box … I first stated that I am Deaf (first box), then the other person stating that I am Deaf and oral (second box) and further perpetrates the box into third box, a fourth box so forth … WAIT! STOP! Why not accept the person as another person? I am Racheal and I am just Deaf. There is no need to further redefine the person to suit your own mindset, your own consciousness. We all deaf people have varying needs, as we are not just the same person with the same needs.

It is quite interesting that we only have 5 seconds to make the other person comfortable about your disability or your deafness to eliminate the 5 reactions – stop breathing, starting to panic, becoming passive, being fearful and backing away.   We only have 5 seconds to make the other person comfortable assuring them not to go into the mindset they have. That is astonishing!

As Jo stated, everyone needs access weather they are disabled, deaf or not. Everyone needs access. Rather having a person making the other person as second-class citizen in the society, why not treat everyone equally? It will be a hard job to do and we have people today making as much change as they can to shift or even crack the cultural perspectives.

I really like the use of the flying geese as a metaphor that 71% of the time, the team worked together to last the distance. There isn’t one geese leading the flocks, actually, each geese takes over when the leading geese gets tired and the geese go to the back of the flock (as shown in the picture). The geese at the back of the flock actually honk the encouragement to the geese in the front part of the flock. (

In reality, we don’t often get encouragement from the people that we work with, when we should be because we are pouring our energy into arts whether it is an arts project or arts management position. It would be nice to have encouragement and empowerment to make the change through arts project and arts management for artists/arts worker that are deaf or disabled. If you are lucky to work with arts organizations that are investing their energy to ensure they are inclusive, they are willing to encourage and empower you.

It is a lonely journey for an artist based in Australia to portray their arts work and yet we continue to lead the journey to pave the pathways for others to follow. For example, I go to class at Vulcana Women’s Circus because I enjoy learning the aerials however it is a very lonely learning the aerials as not many people who are deaf or disabled are doing this arts. I continued to do it so one day I hope that I will have few more deaf and disabled artists following my step.  It is a passion worth fighting for and I am still continuing to keep the candle burning.

To end on a positive note, an inspiring disabled artists who only have enough energy to create an art, Susan Austin, who is now attempting to fly in her wheelchair: ( and

For other cities, I recommend that you attend the Leadership and Disability Forum:

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