From 22nd to 23rd March 2018, Singapore hosted the ASEAN region’s first Arts & Disability International Conference (ADIC) 2018 at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre as well as the Enabling Village. The inaugural conference has a focus on innovative approaches taken in The Arts to promote inclusivity and move forward in terms of accessibility for disabled persons.

Organised by the National Arts Council and Very Special Arts Singapore (VSA), this conference is a gathering of professionals from various sectors such as education and performance, to share and discuss industry practices alongside what more can be done. ADIC is part of the True Colours Festival – the very first Asia Pacific Celebration of Artistes with Disabilities.

Generally the conference is split into two days. The first day offering key note speeches and break out sessions that feature panel discussions of various topics. The second day featured three different types of workshops that participants could have signed up for in advance or one could attend the lecture series that happens concurrently.

Day One

It is eye-opening that the first keynote speaker Ms Kate Hood, Artistic Director of Raspberry Ripple Productions in Australia started by saying we have to focus on the cultural rights and life of persons with disabilities. Instead of the constant focus on medical and physiological aspects, the world has to move towards focusing on other aspirations and to give a more wholesome perspective. It is not simply about “dealing” with the lack – for there is no lack – but just accepting the difference as it is and embracing it.

Then Ms Kris Yoshie, director of SLOW LABEL in Japan, went on to speak about the value of diversity when coupled with co-creation. By appreciating everyone for who they are, disregarding labels and the neat boxes we tend to place ourselves in, the exploration of ideas flow more organically – bringing about surprises and a sense of accomplishment for everyone involved.

She also rightfully pointed out how social media is non-inclusive and challenged everyone in the room to think about how we can ensure social media will be made inclusive, non-discriminatory towards one’s abilities.

During the break out sessions, which I had to choose two between four, I attended Advancing Inclusion in The Arts as well as Role(s) of The Arts in Special Education. Both reinforce the role of creativity and the act of creation as a form of expression. It has the inherent ability to connect and bridge gaps between people; raising the quality of life.

Day Two

Day Two’s programme is a slight shift from Day One. Instead of discussing what can be done, the lecture focuses on what has already been done and showed us the breakthroughs with the help of technology and sheer determination to make life better. Violinist Mr Adrian Anantawan, Mr Yoshihiro Kaiya, President of Japan Barrier-Free Association, and Ms Hood  share about the power of adaptation and being able to head this evolution for change in their own individual ways. Waiting around simply isn’t an option.

It struck me how positive all of them are in their outlook on life, and this positivity goes on to inform their work – motivating them to keep doing more for this cause they are all fighting for.

However, what did they have to conquer prior to gaining this positivity that fuels them? That question would remain unanswered.

Conclusion 

The conference has given me, a non-disabled individual, much to think about. Be it how this entire is shaped to disregard what others need and how I have gotten so used to this world, that I do not even recognise my privilege as a fully-abled person. It has been an experience that left me much to ponder upon, as I notice the sounds made at some traffic junctions when the light turns green and where there are ramps or not. However, it would have been great to have other groups of disability represented and be heard, besides the physical ones.

Then I am sure the sharing field will be made more equal, and everyone has the chance to demand that we listen. And do something about it.


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Thank you to Ogilvy and the organising partners of ADIC 2018 for the kind invitation. 

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