For the past 15 years, the first week of December has meant one thing to ECSC: GroovABILITY! Originally known as ‘CreateABILITY’ and then ‘SportABILITY’, GroovABILITY is an annual festival celebrating the International Day of People with Disability. In 2005, ECSC first collaborated with local businesses, not-for-profits, artists and musicians to host a festival that was all about celebration. Each year since, we have continued to play a lead role in leveraging local talent and resources to create remarkable events attracting hundreds of people. Each festival has showcased the talents and abilities of musicians, artists and entertainers with disability, while bringing together people with and without disability to enjoy music, dancing and food.
This year, despite the incredible challenges facing us all, GroovABILITY went ahead online. People gathered in groups to watch the webcast hosted by Diana Khoury. Live music, interviews and dancing could not be held back by COVID-19! Perhaps even more than in other years, we needed to gather together (even virtually), to celebrate our diverse identities and contributions, and share our stories.
People with disability have been adversely affected by COVID-19 to a greater degree than others, due to a complex mix of factors such as lower rates of access to health care and public health information, social and economic exclusion, and higher rates of underlying health conditions. Many of these issues are further exacerbated for people from CALD backgrounds. But while statistics give us a big picture understanding of the problem, the solutions are often more personal. This is reflected in the theme for this year’s GroovABILITY festival: “This Is Me”. Two aspects of this personal response are sustaining connection and appreciating diversity.
Firstly, sustaining connection. Here at ECSC, it has been our ongoing connection with people with disability and their families that has made all the difference during the pandemic and beyond. We have continued to maintain contact via phone and Zoom with participants who have been unable to resume face-to-face supports with us. By listening and understanding the challenges faced at the personal level, as well as the personal goals and aspirations of the people with whom we work, we have been able to respond with supports and initiatives that have built resilience, community, and well-being.
Secondly, diversity. While the GroovABILITY festival shone the spotlight on people’s stories at the local level, the ABC’s national campaign for International Day of People with Disability heard from more than 1,300 Australians with disability who shared their stories. A key theme to emerge was the diversity of experience and the uniqueness of each person: “While every story has its own message, perhaps one to take away from the 1,300 submitted stories is to never, ever make assumptions about another human being.”
As we move into the end of the year, each of us faces challenges, as our usual travel plans and celebrations will inevitably be marked by the continuing impacts of COVID-19. Yet, our experience of GroovABILITY this year has reinforced for us the importance of finding ways to celebrate together, of staying connected, and of appreciating the unique perspectives we each bring to our shared experience. From the ECSC family to yours, we wish you a peaceful and restorative holiday season, and look forward to working together with you to ‘build back better’ in 2021.