A Gosnells youth support officer has taken to the big screen to challenge misconceptions and attitudes about people with disabilities.
Ryan Honschooten appeared in a national SBS documentary ‘What Does Australia Really Think About Disability?’ which aired on TV earlier this month.
The documentary is the first episode of a wider series which challenges attitudes around various stereotyped groups in Australia.
Ryan lost eye sight in both eyes when he was three years old, to a rare form of cancer known as retinoblastoma.
He has worked with VisAbility for nineteen years, using his own lived experience of being blind to offer guidance to children, teenagers and young adults who are blind or have low vision.
The documentary claims to capture shocking examples of prejudice, discrimination and abuse through undercover and covert filming.
The first episode includes an experiment where people are asked to look at a photo of Ryan and talk about what his life is like.
The responses include several misconceptions, with one assumption being that Ryan works in a call centre.
Another person simply called Ryan “amazing.”
Ryan said the experience was all part of sparking an important conversation.
“I loved being part of this program,” he said.
“I have no hesitation in challenging prejudice and stigmas, but it was confronting listening to people talk about me.
“People use this a lot – but why are people with disabilities amazing? I might be confident and active, but to call someone with a disability amazing is irritating.”
As well as his dedication to helping others with low vision, Ryan is a skilled sportsman.
He completed the iconic Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht race over three months in 2015.
He has also received the 2019 WA Disability Support Award.
VisAbility Manager of Therapy Services, Kate Brill, said when the SBS contacted them for someone to be involved in the documentary, Ryan was the obvious candidate.
“SBS contacted VisAbility directly and asked if we knew anyone who would like to be involved, and we immediately thought of Ryan,” she said.
VisAbility is a not-for-profit based in Victoria Park, which provides NDIS services and therapy support for people with low vision. The organisation is more than one hundred years old.
The most recent data by the Australian Institute of Health found that one in six people have disability in Australia, and 27 out of every 100,000 have low vision or blindness.
Ms Brill said while lots of progress has been made, there is more work to be done to eliminate existing prejudices.
“Attitudes may be changing but not fast enough. People with low vision can use technology such as screen readers or magnifiers to undertake everyday tasks – such as using computers.”
“Ryan is proof that if you set your mind to it, you can reach your goals,” Ms Brill said.
The documentary is available to watch on SBS Demand.