Sharon’s Story – the early 2000s
In the last five years the program has been taken to over 1000 schools, preschools and childcare centres and we have spoken to hundreds of children and adults. Some of our most amazing results come from preschools and childcare centres. Children are so open and honest.
More recently the work with teachers and educators, in Professional Development experiential workshops designed to create understanding of disability and difference and in creating solutions for inclusive classrooms, has been one of the most impacting and rewarding and life changing areas of the current work I do. It has also led to my doctoral research work at the University of Queensland. I won the Australian Human Rights Award for Individuals for the program and that has lead to many exciting networks and introduced me and my work to many exciting people who I hope one day to work with on future projects.
I have also begun to speak at various events across Australia. I tell my life story but I intertwine it with the many stories of others I have met along the way. It is the sharing of these experiences that helps create meaning to my world.
Art has given me the chance to explore my creative side and to do something totally independently. I have been painting since I was 12 and as my body has changed so too has my art. I am always experimenting with new techniques and ideas. I love exploring colour and texture and I like layering colours, combining materials and mixing media. Art gives me the freedom to be myself. My painting is a celebration of the ideals of inclusion and each painting symbolises this. Some have a strong message and others are subtler. The link with the viewer is part of this process. The paintings aim to draw the audience in and involve them.
Before my spinal surgery I really began enjoying my painting and was happy with my work. Afterwards I experimented more and I even tried things like wheelchair painting. You can check this out at my website www.discoveringdisability.com.au. I have exhibited my work in galleries. My recent exhibition ‘Celebrating Inclusion’ was a culmination of my experiences, reflecting difference not deficiency and celebrating the gift of my life. It is part of a continual journey.
As well as work and art I am the chair of the Regional Disability Council in the Darling Downs and South West region. I am also part of the Disability Council of Queensland. The opportunity to have a voice about disability and help with the shaping of community needs and government policy is very enjoyable and rewarding.
In the past couple of years we have taken the Discovering DisAbility & Diversity program to many different communities and travelled many kilometres to bring the message of equality to over 500 new schools, branching into New South Wales and I even had the chance to deliver a keynote address in New Zealand via satellite. So many teachers and students have been shown these inclusive practices that it seems whenever I go out now I see someone I have spoken to with the program.
I have been busy promoting and selling my children’s book. Sales are going well as it is one of the very few books written about disability in the family. Recently I launched a new disability educational resource kit, Another Day in the Life of Sharon Boyce–a Person with a Physical Disability. This is a first of its kind resource that combines a DVD, still pictures and a book to help the community across all age levels understand about physical disability.
I also designed, produced and developed a DVD of a day in the life of a person with a physical disability. This is a teacher resource kit for early childhood and primary schools and for general libraries. Another teacher resource book I’m working on is about dyslexia. I hope to launch that in June.
So many opportunities have come my way: taking part in a Commonwealth Games Baton Relay; being on Toowoomba City Council’s Access Committee; training taxi drivers on how to operate with a diverse community; and advising the transport department on its wheelchair accessible buses and ways to make travel easier for people with disabilities.
Amidst all the other things I do I still work at USQ online running two courses in the Faculty of Education in inclusive education and early childhood art education. I really love working with the students and have a good working relationship with everyone at USQ. I have also been working across the three USQ campuses in Toowoomba, Fraser Coast and Springfield in running staff workshops on inclusive assessment practices and also access and inclusion.
I have also started doing motivational speaking. I enjoy sharing my story and along the way hearing those of other people.