Neurodiverse artist leads travel project

A Northern Irish neurodiverse artist is leading an international project aimed at making travel easier for people with disabilities.

By Julie-Ann Spence
Saturday, 2nd July 2022, 7:00 am
Grzegorz Porzezinski, from Poland, Patricia Gorman from Northern Ireland, Julie McGowan Project Designer and Lead Artist and Chaminda Cordes, Germany at an Urban Survival Kits (USK) workshop
Grzegorz Porzezinski, from Poland, Patricia Gorman from Northern Ireland, Julie McGowan Project Designer and Lead Artist and Chaminda Cordes, Germany at an Urban Survival Kits (USK) workshop

Julie McGowan from Craigavon has designed the Urban Survival Kits (USK) project, working with 40 disabled adults from Northern Ireland, Germany, Poland, Turkey and Croatia to create tools that will make their journeys more accessible.

Having suffered a functional neurological disorder episode after surgery in 2020 that left her partially paralysed, she had to learn to walk again and when she started to travel, she realised the huge hurdles facing disabled people. Julie is a successful sculptor, photographer and performance artist and needs to travel for her work.

She said: “Having a disability can make travel extremely difficult, even short journeys can be problematic for some people. We are looking at different ways to help people be more independent and feel confident to negotiate any hurdles they may face.”

Urban Survival Kits (USK) is part of the University of Atypical International Research Programme that explores new models of creative engagement with d/Deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse people. It is funded by the Erasmus + EU programme

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    The project is bringing people together this week with workshops in the Crescent Arts Centre, the Ulster Museum and on Zoom to look at individual needs which might include communication tools, improved identification systems and strategies for coping with unfamiliar situations.

    Damien Coyle, Chief Executive of the University of Atypical, said: “We are working with four other EU nations to help improve Disabled people’s experience of travelling locally, nationally, and internationally. The project develops new creative approaches for d/Deaf, disabled, and neurodiverse people’s travel and creates tools and resources that will help make travel easier.”

    The project is a two-year initiative by University of Atypical and offers a programme of live and online explorative workshops, local exhibitions in each of the participating countries, a virtual and 3D exhibition, and an international exhibition which takes place in Belfast in 2023.

    The University of Atypical for Arts and Disability is a disabled-led arts charity, taking an empowerment-based approach towards supporting d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people’s involvement in the arts.