As someone with hearing loss, you may sometimes find yourself dealing with feelings of isolation. This can commonly occur when you face barriers to participate in social, work-related and academic pursuits. However, the good news is that more and more learning institutions are operating courses tailored to the needs of the hard of hearing. We’ve rounded up some of Australia’s best courses for the hard of hearing so you can explore a whole new range of opportunities, skills and social groups.
Named after Australia’s most famous opera diva, the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre has operated as both a performance and teaching venue since it opened its doors in 1990. Located in Penrith, one of the performing arts courses available is Studio Q’s Access Ensemble course. Providing training in acting, music and movement for people with a range of abilities, including those with hearing loss, the course is taught by professional teaching artists who tailor each course around the participants. Student-focussed, everyone gets the most out of the training based on their individual needs. The course culminates with a live performance in front of a public audience in a state-of-the-art theatre.
‘Our participants gain and develop theatre skills and experience in a professional theatre environment,’ explain the teachers at The Joan. Gaining and developing theatre skills can help you gain confidence in the ways in which you express yourself. It also offers the opportunity to form new friendships with people who share the same interests as you. The end-of-year performance offers the chance to engage with the wider community and overcome any shyness!
Sydney Film School was established over a decade ago. It is now recognised as one of the top film schools in the world. It offers two one-year courses: a Diploma and an Advanced Diploma in Screen and Media, taught in a purpose-built facility with world-class equipment. All aspects of filmmaking are covered, including writing, pitching, visual and audio recording and editing. Case-by-case support can be provided for students with specific needs, including those with hearing loss.
‘Our model is one that encourages creative expression and gives you real filmmaking experience,’ say the film experts. ‘The school is set up as a working film production house that makes around 180 short films a year.’
Filmmaking is a team pursuit and all students learn to integrate and collaborate with each other. Communication barriers are overcome as you learn to work together, with your shared love of filmmaking strengthening the bonds between you. The course encourages creative expression and gives you the practical experience and teamworking skills needed for a career in the film industry.
If you have hearing loss and live in the Melbourne Metropolitan Area, AAA Play – Access for All Abilities offers the chance to get involved with sports. It is a free information service funded by the Victorian State Government, which links people of all abilities to sport and recreation programs. One of the organisations they work closely with is Deaf Sports Victoria, which offers 14 different sports to people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Sports include volleyball, basketball, cricket, cycling, football, golf, netball, rugby, soccer and tennis.
‘Sport and recreation has huge benefits for everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing, and forms part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle,’ says AAA Play. It can also be a great confidence boost if you are hard of hearing, as you get to achieve personal goals at the same time as meeting new people and being part of a team. Sport is highly interactive and collaborative, and can also be a very social pursuit, giving you the chance to be part of a team or club.
CERES is a community business based in Brunswick East, Victoria, which runs environmental education programs and teaches a variety of sustainable skills, including horticulture, gardening, cooking, beekeeping, natural dyeing and basket weaving. CERES also offers demonstrations of green technology and runs several social enterprises including a market, grocery, cafe, community kitchen, organic online supermarket and bushfood nursery. The courses are designed to be accessible to all, including (but not limited to) new migrants, youth at risk and people of all abilities. Previous participants include students from the Victorian College of the Deaf.
As well as increasing your environmental knowledge and learning new sustainable skills that you can integrate into your everyday life, course participants gain confidence and create new friendships and networks. ‘Many of our "alumni" have created friendships and networks that are ongoing after the courses are complete,’ explains CERES. As CERES is a community environment park, you will also have plenty of opportunities to get involved with volunteering and a wide variety of community events.
‘Our mission is to provide leadership in arts and disability through information, advocacy and the facilitation of excellence in professional arts practice,’ Accessible Arts told us.
Based in New South Wales, Accessible Arts provides a range of programs and activities to support both artists and audiences with disabilities. Some of these projects are specifically targeted towards people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These include Deaf Arts NSW (DAN) which provides access to arts events such as art galleries, theatre performances and festivals. It also promotes the work of deaf or hard of hearing emerging or professional artists to assist them in furthering their careers. Current projects run by the organisation include theatre workshops for young deaf or hard of hearing people aged 10-16 and an artist residency based at Bundanon (Arthur Boyd) for deaf or hard of hearing artists.
Accessible Arts aims to provide people who are deaf and hard of hearing with greater opportunities both professionally and personally. Through mentoring and networking, you can have your artistic work introduced to the wider community as well as having excellent opportunities for meeting new people in the creative field.
Restless Dance Theatre, located in Adelaide, is Australia’s leading dance theatre company working with young people of all abilities. Led by one of Australia’s top dance artists, Michelle Ryan, the company works together collaboratively to create outstanding and inclusive dance theatre pieces informed by disability. The dance sequences are created by giving participants a series of creative challenges and asking them to respond in movement. ‘This produces unique, distinctive and very striking dance through a process that nurtures the creative voices of the performers, artists and participants,’ explains Restless Dance Theatre.
Restless Dance Theatre also caters for audience members with hearing loss – at least one performance each year is Audio Described, and patrons with hearing loss have the chance to meet some of the performers and get a close look at the costumes and props.
The inclusive and supportive environment is ideal for building your confidence and giving you a sense of belonging through the collaborative process. Restless Dace Theatre also describes how dance can be extremely beneficial for your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. It can be a great way to improve your fitness, as well as developing your creativity and idea generation skills.
All over Australia there are activities and courses that welcome participants with hearing loss. Taking part can open a wide variety of doors, as well as encouraging personal development and giving you the chance to learn new skills. If you’re looking to learn a new skill, or brush up on an old one, why not discover what your community has to offer? These courses are just the beginning!