Disability Advocacy

Article: Actors Equity Magazine 

 

I have had the privilege of working as an actor since 1977, and have been a member of Actors Equity since that time. I have performed in theatre, musical theatre, television, film, radio and have written and directed.

In 2002, I was diagnosed with a neurological disease, HSP (Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia). Over a decade, I went from walking unsteadily to being a full-time wheelchair user.

 

My experience of being disabled and an actor is that there is a blank space around me – I am largely invisible in my everyday life, and also, unfortunately, within my chosen profession.

 

The stories that are told on our screens and stages rarely include people with disability - and when those characters are seen, invariably they are played by an able-bodied actor. Because our stories are not being written, there is no need to train actors with disability or include them in the auditioning processes of theatre companies, castings for film, or auditions for television.

 

It is a misconception that if a person is disabled, they have less intelligence, talent or desire to participate meaningfully in the acting profession. Talent and dedication do not discriminate.

 

But Australia is at a turning point. At last, there is a conversation happening about disability in the arts. At last, Equity has formed a committee devoted to diversity. And the achievements within the Australian disability/arts community are being acclaimed, in the case of Back to Back Theatre and the Other Film Festival, internationally.

 

Given that 20% of Australians have some form of disability, it seems logical to me that we should be represented 20% of the time. I also think it is a given that actors with disability should have the opportunity to play themselves.

 

I look forward to the day when disability is seen as nothing more than human variation – and auditioning for roles alongside my able-bodied colleagues.

  • Actors' Equity Diversity Committee - Deputy Chair

  • Performers with Disabilities Sub-Committee - Founder and Co-Chair

  • Arts Access Victoria – Board Member, and presenter on the invisibility of disabled performers

  • Keynote Speaker - International Arts and Disability Conference Singapore (ADIC)

  • Panelist SAMAG

  • Presenter Footscay Community Arts Centre WOW Festival

  • Writer Equity Magazine

  • Safe Theatres - contributor

  • Women with Disabilities Victoria – Policy Officer on Violence against Women with Disabilities

  • WIRE – counsellor

  • Domestic Violence Resource Centre – Presenter on disability

  • Women with Disabilities Vic – Teacher, Presenting skills

  • Mt Alexander Shire Council – Presenter on disability

  • Mt Alexander Shire Council – Presenter on violence against women with disabilities for White Ribbon Day

  • Centre for Non-Violence, Bendigo – Teacher, Presenting skills

  • Mt Alexander Shire Council – Advocate on Disability Action Plan Advisory Group (DAPAG)


 

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