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Even before I arrived at the Arts Access Aotearoa workshop I was a bundle of nerves - what the hell was a ‘mummy blogger’ from the Kapiti Coast doing here? What could I possibly contribute to a symposium on Advocacy and Accessibility to the arts in NZ? This was as far out of my comfort zone as I could imagine, which filled me with anxiety and the want/need to run home and hide under my duvet.

I recognised some of the faces, names and twitter handles from the disability community and felt instantly intimidated. My half-arsed blogs just weren’t at the same level of quality or academic content to be relevant, surely.

Fighting the fight

Up until now I chose to advocate for warm fuzzy causes like acceptance and awareness. I hide behind this fact, and my laptop for that matter! Coming face to face with people who are already fighting the fight for the rest of us passive protesters is daunting. I don’t want to show myself up or insult anyone with any disability related faux pas (do I look at the interpreter or the deaf presenter when I’m asking a question? Am I purposely talking loud/slow to a blind person for no reason?! Should I open the door for them or is that condescending?)

As time passed, my anxiety disappeared. I listened, I smiled, I made notes - slowly but surely piecing together all the thoughts and experiences that initially seemed so different to my own and realising that they were somehow similar to mine.

We are all just people living our lives the best way we can, right?

Devoid of sound, with captions

We all watched a deaf short movie, completely devoid of sound, with captions. For me it was alien, awkward and completely discombobulating. At one point I even felt dizzy! With a foreign subtitle film you can get a sense of what is being said by the tone they speak in or a change in pace of the background music. I was struggling to juggle the captions with the visual storyline, and the complete lack of sound was off-putting. I really wanted to enjoy the movie, but I couldn’t. ‘This isn’t fair,“ I thought. Then an interpreter began to read the captions for the sight impaired participants and I was able to enjoy the remainder of the film.

For a moment maybe I felt what it was like to be excluded from an experience because of something I couldn’t control. I felt cheated, and annoyed. How unfair. It shouldn’t be this way for anyone.

To be included in a group or community is so important. It gives us strength, direction and support. It also makes us feel valued and free to be ourselves.

I entered this workshop not sure where I would fit in, if at all. My ideologies and senses were challenged and I left with a sense of community, belonging, and a strong grounding in who I am and where I am heading … Forward!

To be continued …

The importance of inclusion


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