ABLE Assembly: Arts Better the Lives of Everyone 2021 | Theme: Intersectionality, Disability, and Arts Education ABLE Assembly: Arts Better the Lives of Everyone 2021 | Theme: Intersectionality, Disability, and Arts Education

Pre-recorded 20 Minute Session: Parenthood – Choices, Vices and Arts Expressions in Being a Disabled Parent

- EDT
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Fran Flaherty
Anthropology of Motherhood, Founder and Creator

Fran Flaherty is a Deaf artist living in Pittsburgh for over 25 years. As a first generation immigrant from the Philippines, her work is centered in issues surrounding migrant family relations and assimilation, maternal feminism, & disability aesthetics that synthesizes traditional media (painting, printmaking, and ceramics) and physical computing (digital inkjet printing and fabrication, 3D printing and modeling). She is also an educational consultant that specializes in building comprehensive digital fabrication labs. She founded Carnegie Mellon’s Digital Arts Studio in 2010 and Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf’s Cottage in 2014.

Ruth Fabby
Disability Arts Cymru, Director

Ruth Fabby [formerly Gould until October 2019] is the Director of Disability Arts Cymru (DAC) since August 2019.  Now residing in Cardiff, Ruth is leading the organisation to support a creative and equal Cymru where disabled and Deaf people are pivotal to the arts of the nation.  Its mission is to open up access and opportunity, celebrate diversity, nurture new talent and established high-calibre disabled/Deaf creative industries practitioners, and inspiring change throughout Cymru.

Previously she was the founder and Artistic Director of DaDaFest, one of the most successful disability arts festivals in the world. Based in Liverpool, DaDaFest began as North West Disability Arts Forum in 1984, to support the development of disabled/Deaf artists.  DaDaFest continues to produce a biennial international festival with artists from across the globe.

Ruth initially trained in performance arts, speech and drama at Liverpool Theatre School, and has worked in the arts / disability arts all her professional life. Ruth was the chair for the Unlimited Commissioning Panel in 2015. As a stimulating and enthusiastic public speaker, Ruth is regularly invited to speak about subjects relating to Disability and Deaf arts at conferences and cultural events across the globe. In the last two years she has worked in Finland, Qatar, Toronto, New Delhi, Pittsburgh [PA], Raleigh [NC], San Francisco and across the UK delivering talks, chairing or leading workshops. 

She is a Winston Churchill Travel Fellow 2014, visiting India, Malawi & South Africa, and has also been to DR Congo, Australia and various part of Europe to create and encourage connections with disability organisations around the world.

In April 2015 she was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Merseyside, was made an honorary Canon at Liverpool Cathedral in Oct 2016 and awarded a MBE in 2016 Queens Birthday Honours.

In 2018 she was Awarded Fellow status of John Moore’s University, Liverpool

In November 2019 she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Culture and Creativity Awards for the Liverpool City Region.

Ruth sees disability rights very much as human rights and is a passionate and knowledgeable speaker. She also articulates the links between art and social change.

Ruth has a deafness gain, and is more comfortable speaking in a studio environment, rather than down a telephone line – though this can be done if arrangements made in advance by using a Lip Speaker or Palantypist.


Fran and Ruth: disabled artist-mothers have endured scrutiny, intrusion, judgement and criticism in adding to the population. Willing and equal the task of motherhood, Fran and Ruth’s stories of motherhood are full of unencouraging reprove. As artists, however, they suddenly realized, they’ve not made art about this.Fran and Ruth will discuss lack of representation of Deaf/disabled parents and its intersection with being a disabled artist. What happens to the narrative of disabled artist mothers in areas such as our reproductive rights, our freedom to choose birthing procedures? How can children of disabled artist-parents be supported? Fran and Ruth will share with you a dissertation on why we as disabled artist-mothers do not represent these issues in our work and how important is it for disabled mother-artists to make art about being a disabled parent? What can institutions, arts and cultural producers do to support disabled parent-artists careers?

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