En­cour­ag­ing lead­er­ship

Central Leader - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

FOR So­nia Pi­vac be­ing deaf is a cul­ture.

As a proud sign lan­guage user Ms Pi­vac aligns the strug­gles of the deaf com­mu­nity with those of im­mi­grants look­ing to break down bar­ri­ers of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

‘‘For Deaf peo­ple, our is­sues are of­ten around ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion in a lan­guage we use and un­der­stand fully. So in this sense we of­ten have more in com­mon with Maori or mi­grant groups than those with dis­abil­i­ties,’’ she says.

Ms Pi­vac re­cently grad­u­ated from Be.Lead­er­ship, a unique course geared to­wards help­ing peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties es­tab­lish stronger lead­er­ship roles in the com­mu­nity.

She says the deaf com­mu­nity doesn’t ‘‘usu­ally as­so­ciate our­selves with the dis­abil­ity com­mu­nity as much as peo­ple might think’’, but the broader con­cept of Be.Lead­er­ship and its phi­los­o­phy of ac­ces­si­bil­ity and in­clu­sion is what led to her en­rolling in the year-long course.

Born hear­ing im­paired, Ms Pi­vac was lucky enough to be raised in a deaf fam­ily that utilised New Zealand Sign Lan­guage, mak­ing her child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences much like any­one else’s.

‘‘How­ever, once I walk through the front door this all changed, and ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion via NZSL was very rare,’’ she says.

‘‘Look­ing back that fu­elled my de­sire to im­prove ac­cess and re­sources for the Deaf com­mu­nity, which is what I am do­ing now.’’

The Kings­land res­i­dent is cre­ative di­rec­tor for the Deafra­dio or­gan­i­sa­tion, a deaf-run cre­ative hub that aims to fa­cil­i­tate the spread of sign lan­guage.

‘‘Deafra­dio is the per­fect place to spark my spirit of in­no­va­tion, which gives me a rare op­por­tu­nity to work on th­ese unique projects and to shape things for the ben­e­fit of the Deaf com­mu­nity es­pe­cially.’’

Ms Pi­vac says the Be.Lead­er­ship course equips par­tic­i­pants with the tools to move deaf and dis­abled com­mu­ni­ties for­ward.

‘‘In re­al­ity there are very few dis­abled peo­ple in po­si­tions of wider so­ci­etal res- pon­si­bil­ity or power.

‘‘If we are to ad­dress this lack of op­por­tu­nity, we need to start by em­pow­er­ing th­ese peo­ple to lead in ar­eas they are likely to have more knowl­edge about, and that’s be­ing dis­abled or oth­er­wise unique in a so­ci­ety rarely set up to con­sider th­ese dif­fer­ences.’’

The Be.Lead­er­ship course was started by a Welling­ton­based or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2010.

It was es­tab­lished to ad­dress the lack of lead­er­ship devel­op­ment among peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, pro­gramme man­ager Les­ley Slade says.

Each in­take has around 20 par­tic­i­pants from vary­ing eth­nic, ge­o­graph­i­cal and sec­tor back­grounds.

They come to­gether each month for a few days to en­gage in rig­or­ous con­ver­sa­tion, re­flec­tion and indepth in­quiry into the na­ture of lead­er­ship.

‘‘We ex­plore New Zealand from ev­ery facet you can imag­ine through a lead­er­ship and ac­ces­si­bil­ity lens,’’ Ms Slade says.

Power shift: Sign lan­guage user So­nia Pi­vac re­cently grad­u­ated from a lead­er­ship course de­signed to em­power dis­abled peo­ple in the com­mu­nity.

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