We discussed #DeafTalent and her passion for breaking barriers for deaf artists. Steward is 28 years old and originally from Wales. She is profoundly deaf and wears a cochlear implant. She moved to England as a teenager. Communicating through sign language, lip reading and speech, Steward admits at times she has to resort to pen and paper.
Steward created the British company PAD Productions along with co-founder Emily Howlett. As the Facebook page says, this “was a direct response to the shocking lack of support and promotion available to deaf creative professionals in the mainstream. There is still an alarmingly widespread perception that deaf (and disabled) artists, films and productions can never match the same high standards as their mainstream competitors. Which is nonsense.”
According to Steward, the company “develops projects and performances that are fully inclusive to audiences and participants, while also promoting deaf and disabled artists.” They “believe in breaking down the barriers between deaf and disabled individuals and mainstream companies and productions,” she adds. They also deliver fully inclusive workshops. As Steward says, they pride themselves in ensuring that “everyone involved in any aspect of PAD feels equal, included and has fun!’
Steward’s enthusiasm is evident when she says, “We are passionate about showing the world exactly why deaf people deserve to have the same opportunities as anybody else.”
“We are passionate about showing the world exactly why deaf people deserve to have the same opportunities as anybody else.”
PAD’s workshops and productions provide valuable opportunities to participate in various activities from acting to photography. These are all elements of putting on a stage production. This helps them to explore and further develop their natural talents. In turn, this helps their confidence. This is significant because this can sometimes be hampered with a disability.
#DeafTalent has been a hot topic in the media. It is basically PAD Production’s reason for existence. “#DeafTalent is extremely important because deaf people know their own language, culture and barriers better than any hearing actors would,” says Steward. “It’s a shame that hearing people would take an amazing opportunity away from a deaf actor when it is near impossible for a deaf actor to take an opportunity away from a hearing actor.”
Read more: All you need to know about 2018 #DeafTalent
The company doesn’t focus on the negative impact a hearing loss can have. Rather, they highlight the positives of deaf actors and “how amazing deaf people are,” says Steward.
As part of her role at PAD, Steward often dresses up as the deaf history hero Harriet Martineau for events and performances. “It’s important for deaf people to be aware of their own awesome history,” she says. She feels people such as Martineau — who played a huge part in shaping our world today — are being left behind in history. So she is truly educating and helping expand people’s horizons in more ways than one.
Through PAD, Steward’s goal is to “show people the power we deaf people have.”
What else can be done to break down barriers for deaf artists?