It must be said, UTS’s newest Equity and Diversity Officer (Disability) Sarah Houbolt is a bit of a gun on the trapeze.
She also competed at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games in swimming, is an accomplished international circus and physical theatre performer and specialises in aerials, acrobatics and hula hoops. Houbolt’s even worked with Cirque du Soleil. Feeling like an underachiever yet?
We have a critical mass of people with disability out there doing exciting things in every single industry in Australia
“Creativity is super-important and without it we don’t have resilience and diversity within our communities,” affirms Houbolt. “The arts have a lot to give.”
Houbolt, who is partially sighted, is an advocate for challenging ideas around the capabilities of people with disability. Despite the fact, she admits, “I never wanted to be part of the circus; it freaked me out,” Houbolt joined a women’s circus and fell in love with trapeze. “Circus was a place to belong and connect with my own body; to use my sports physicality in a cooperative, creative way.”
She honed her skills over many years before literally running away with the circus and moving to New Zealand in 2009 to join a circus theatre company.
Sarah Houbolt performing
“When you’ve come from a place of people not appreciating your potential, I think something like circus reminds you of your own capacity, of your own body, and that’s really exciting and thrilling.
“Circus brings a sense of positive risk taking, which means you can push your body forward to the most extreme and most capable. You can really see, through a physical art form, what potential humans have.”
Potential is something Houbolt has also focused on throughout her extensive work in disability advocacy and community cultural development.
“My first job was with Queenslanders with Disability Network, a state-wide organisation run by and for people with disability. It set the benchmark for me, working in an organisation where the people in power were all people with disability,” she says.
Houbolt then worked in a local council, at arts venues, as a freelance performer and a consultant before moving to Sydney for a role with Accessible Arts, the peak body for arts and disability in NSW.
Says Houbolt, “We have a critical mass of people with disability out there doing exciting things in every single industry in Australia; we just need employers to say, ‘Yes, that person with a disability brings such insight and innovation that we can hire them regardless’.
“It’s a very savvy thing to employ people with access requirements, as everyone benefits.”
Following last year’s revision of the UTS Access and Inclusion Plan, Houbolt is now set on helping UTS meet best practice standards when it comes to workplace systems and procedures.
“It’s the lining of the steps, frosting of the glass and ensuring online digital platforms actually work for my screen reader. These are the top three points of accessibility for me in any workplace so that I can do my job effectively.”
You can register now for the April or November 2017 Ability Awareness Training. Visit uts.ac/2kkT5ms