Sarah Houbolt’s daring feats on the trapeze don’t compare to her passion for disability rights advocacy.
That passion has been recognised by Vision Australia, which this week honoured Sarah with a Vision Australia Award.
The awards, a part of Vision Australia since 2006, honour those who have helped to make a difference through their commitment to Vision Australia’s mission to ensure people who are blind or have low vision can live the life they choose.
Sarah is also an international circus and physical theatre performer (with performance credits including Cirque de Soleil), an arts manager and a former Paralympian who swam for Australia at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney.
She has a rare condition, Hallermann-Streiff Syndrome. She is partially sighted and legally blind.
Sarah was the manager of Arts Activated 2016, and a speaker at the Sydney Opera House’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2016 on the topic of disability arts history.
Sarah works with the University of Technology Sydney in its Equity and Diversity unit, coordinating central staff and student accessibility policy responses across the university.
Vision Australia Chief Executive Ron Hooton paid tribute to Sarah’s passion and frantic schedule.
“I’m not entirely certain how you fit in being an international circus and physical theatre performer, and arts manager, a disability advocate and a Paralympian, but these are all remarkable achievements,” Mr Hooton said.
“Sarah works at the University of Technology Sydney in the diversity unit, and fitting all those other things in around that just seems remarkable.”
Sarah said she was delighted to connect with the blind and low vision community at the AGM and praised the Vision Australia Board’s leadership, along with the work of specialists in orientation and mobility and assistive technology for their work to support people who are blind or have low vision to participate.
She said she couldn’t have become a trapeze artist without support from Orientation and Mobility Specialists and her family.
“At my work at UTS, I talk about accessibility. I talk about what we need in the environment in order for us to keep our jobs, for example, so cultural leadership is really important and I am really pleased to connect with you all, because I’m excited to know more about Vision Australia and how I can connect stronger and better,” she said.
“In my work in the arts, I want to bring audio description into performance. I want to describe what I am doing. I want to describe what I look like, because then we create universal access. Access leads to innovation, so we create a world in which our cultural protocols are seen by all and respected by all.”