Bridging the gap between arts and disability

Singapore-born, Scotland-based actor Ramesh Meyyappan only reveals that he is deaf after a performance so that the audience focuses on the quality of his art first and his disability second. He shared this at a panel discussion at the third Arts and
Singapore-born, Scotland-based actor Ramesh Meyyappan only reveals that he is deaf after a performance so that the audience focuses on the quality of his art first and his disability second. He shared this at a panel discussion at the third Arts and Disability Forum yesterday.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

When members of the audience meet actor Ramesh Meyyappan after his theatre performance, they are usually surprised to discover that he is deaf.

Communicating through sign language during a panel discussion yesterday at the Arts and Disability Forum (ADF), the Singapore-born, Scotland-based artist explained that he wants people to focus on the quality of his art first, and recognise him as a person with disability second.

So Mr Ramesh, 43, who also develops theatre productions, only reveals his disability afterwards.

Now in its third year, ADF is back with a focus on creating greater social inclusivity through the arts. The two-day forum, which started yesterday at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru, explores the theme of Shaping Perspectives and Enabling Opportunities.

It includes panel discussions and interactive workshops carried out by industry experts, such as Ms Myra Tam, executive director of Arts with the Disabled Association (Hong Kong), and Dr Alice Fox, deputy head of the School of Art at the University of Brighton, Britain.

"This forum has the potential to remove barriers (that may limit persons with disabilities' participation in arts)," said Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, during her welcome address.

She added: "The conversations over these two days will be valuable in establishing partnerships and networks that can advance the arts and disability sector."

Advancement is becoming tangible, Ms Fu pointed out. The National Gallery Singapore now offers Singapore Sign Language Interpretation tours and National Arts Council gives funding to companies with a vision in creating inclusive arts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2017, with the headline 'Bridging the gap between arts and disability'. Print Edition | Subscribe