For many people, hobbies and creative pursuits provide a source of joy, fulfilment, and personal growth. Whether it’s painting, dancing, writing, or cooking, these activities offer a way to express oneself, explore new interests, and connect with others.
However, for individuals living with disability, these activities may seem out of reach or require adaptations to make them accessible. Yet, the benefits of engaging in hobbies and creative pursuits are just as profound for people living with disability, offering a way to build self-confidence, connect with others, and celebrate one’s unique talents and interests.
We hear from individuals living well with disability who have found joy and fulfilment through their hobbies and creative pursuits, to inspire others, and cultivate a culture that celebrates a diversity of human interests and talents.
Living well through artistic expression: Ly the chemistry artist
Meet Ly, an artist from Western Australia who has been passionate about art from a very young age.
“If I see a piece of art and it captures my imagination long enough, I ask myself: can I be this good?” Ly said.
“Although I love art, I love science more, so I became a chemistry artist. I think I have the head of a chemist and the heart of an artist.”
Ly’s love for art was put to the test when he developed a glaucoma-related condition shortly after graduating from university, resulting in a loss of vision. But he refused to let his passion for art fade away.
“My eye surgeon referred me to VisAbility, which used to be called the WA Association for the Blind,” Ly recalled.
“To begin with, I refused to participate because I didn’t want to accept the fact that I was blind, and I still grieve over it. It even took a few years for me to venture outside of my house.”
Eventually, Ly decided to give VisAbility a try, and he found an art therapist who ignited his passion for art and made him believe in himself more.
“I then painted my second painting and auctioned it off to raise money for charity,” Ly said.
“And now I draw with a greater sense of urgency than before. Before I was blind, I used to wait for the right time to get back into an inspired state, but a moment of inspiration cannot be found; that time must be created by yourself, not waiting for it to come.”
Through his work, Ly has found a new outlook on life and a way to share his unique perspective with the world.
Rocca’s Dance N Roll
Originally from Colombia, Rocca has always had a passion for dance. Growing up, she was surrounded by music and dance and was a part of her school’s dance group. However, in 2001, she was left in a wheelchair after an accident, which prevented her from expressing herself through dance. It wasn’t until 2018 when she stumbled upon the World Dance Championship in Melbourne, which featured wheelchair dancing, that Rocca discovered a new possibility for herself.
After realising there were no accessible dance classes available in Victoria, she decided to create the first wheelchair dance group, Dance N Roll, to encourage people with physical disabilities to enjoy dancing and socialising.
“It was a matter of passion, but I was also lucky to have the support of people who are like little angels, and that was the beginning of Dance N Roll,” Rocca said.
Through virtual and in-person classes, the group enjoys the grace and joy of music and dance, as well as the physical benefits of Zumba.
“The advantage of the online group is that we now have members from all over Australia,” she explained.
Rocca’s efforts have been recognised with the Victorian Disability Award 2021 and she is an ambassador for This Girl Can Victoria. Her Speak My Language interviews capture what it means to live well and highlight unique activities and passions that enhance her well-being.
Wheelchair hockey, business, and advocacy
Santiago Martinez is not just a successful business owner, but also a passionate advocate for people with disabilities. His involvement in sports and life coaching has significantly improved his well-being and mental health, and ever since discovering his love for wheelchair hockey through the Western Electric Sporting Association, he has never looked back.
“What is it like to play a sport in a wheelchair? I never imagined it until one day I went to do a trial and I got in a chair and started practising hockey and the truth is, all the doubts I had about participating in a wheelchair sport completely disappeared,” Mr Martinez said.
“It was super fun, it was very fast, so I loved it,” he said.
Santiago believes that sports can be a game-changer for people living with disability, allowing them to focus on other things beyond their limitations.
“Let’s start with entertainment, because when you play a sport, you entertain yourself and enjoy pleasant moments; you change your environment; you create new relationships with new people, generating a more meaningful life, which in the long run is what people are looking for,” Mr Martinez explained.
Santiago is determined to normalise accessible sports and wants people to realise that living with a disability should not stop them from pursuing their ambitions.
Discover the inspiring stories of talented individuals who are living well with disability. Speak My Language celebrates diversity and is breaking down barriers by sharing information in up to 24 languages, making contemporary multicultural Australia a more inclusive place. To get inspired, find resources, and connect with your community, visit the Speak My Language website.
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