'Love and accept': Program paving the way for inclusivity

·Features and Health Editor
·4-min read

Sydney's DirtyFeet has been pioneering inclusivity for almost a decade and for the people that have a disability, the opportunity has been life-changing.

Sue Jo Wright, a deaf artist who is also a board member with DirtyFeet, has opened up about how she hopes the program will inspire more 'love' and 'acceptance', whether that is by others or by participants for themselves.

Dirty Feet dancers in the right foot program
DirtyFeet runs The Right Foot program. Photo: Supplied/Dirty Feet

"I joined DirtyFeet because they wanted to give people with disabilities the same opportunities as anyone else," Sue tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

"The stigma put on people with a disability is limiting and we need to change people’s attitudes."

The not-for-profit dance company was first launched in 2007 with the mantra to ‘cultivate creativity among emerging contemporary dance artists with and without disability’ and it has now been seven years since the company introduced ‘The Right Foot’ program, with the help of Artistic director of Murmuration Sarah-Vyne Vassallo.

Part of Sue's role is to focus on accessibility for the company and ensure dancers and workers have access to what they need - such as making sure videos have captions, for example.

"People with a disability have faced barriers for so many years, but DirtyFeet opens the door for them, to give them an opportunity to explore a passion they may have, to show them that they are not alone," Sue tells us.

"If I was younger, I would have loved to join this program. I think if I had something like this in my younger years, I would have accepted and learnt to love my disability a lot sooner. Now my dream is to see someone from the Deaf community join 'The Right Foot' program."

Sue Wright
Sue Wright is a Deaf artist and a member of the DirtyFeet board.Photo: Supplied

Sue hopes other business will adopt a similar mantra, as she explains the only way to change the stigma people with a disability face is through advocacy and education.

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"As well as showing examples of people with disabilities who have broken the stereotype. It won’t be a quick journey, but we all need to strive together to make the change for future generations," she says, adding one of the barriers is the fact many companies see organising accessibility as time consuming and expensive.

"But honestly, accessibility is the most important thing you need. It’s not only beneficial to a person with a permanent disability, it can help someone with a temporary disability, family members, friends, new mothers, anyone. And having people's accessibility needs met also improves people’s mental health."

Chris Bunton is an actor, gymnast, and dancer who has certainly never let the fact that he happens to have Down Syndrome stop him for following his passion.

He has been dancing with DirtyFeet for eight years and participated in 'The Right Foot' program almost every year since it started.

"It is important to have inclusion in business and programs," Chris tells Yahoo Lifestyle, echoing Sue's thoughts after his own experiences.

"It helps office workers and program facilitators have an open mind about inclusive culture in the workplace. It also boosts productivity and wellbeing, as the individual learns new skills, whilst the organisation learns about ways to nurture capabilities."

Chris Bunton performs for DirtyFeet
Chris Bunton has been with DirtyFeet for 8 years. Photo: Supplied/Natalia Cartney for Rolling Media

Chris, who has also acted in three feature films, Down Under, Little Monsters and Kairos, and had roles in TV, starring on Doctor Doctor and The Other Guy, says he has gained so much from being involved with DirtyFeet.

Besides improving his dance skills and techniques, Chris says the program helped him improve his skills in making friends, decision making, and problem solving.

"I have a lot great memories with DirtyFeet, but my favourite memory was the creative development of Sarah-Vyne Vassallo’s project ‘In Transit’," he recalls.

"This was my first time being a part of a creative process. It was fun as our group explored the concept of the ways we journey and travel through life, literally and metaphorically. Using our ideas and life experiences, we explored what the notion of ‘transit’ means to all of us."

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