GRACE LEE-KHOO (b. 1986)
FOUNDER, ACCESS PATH PRODUCTIONS
Grace Lee Khoo is passionate about improving access to the arts. Earlier this year, she celebrated the second birthday of social enterprise Access Path Productions on a rooftop with 70 other people – collaborators, funders, supporters, participants and artists. It was a literal high point on her journey, which had included years of being a drama teacher under the Ministry of Education system, and leaving formal teaching to freelance in various jobs ranging from school shows to Mediacorp productions.
In 2016, Grace left Singapore to pursue a Masters in Applied Theatre in London, which opened her eyes to the world of disability and the arts. This led her to do a one-year residency with the United Kingdom’s foremost disability-led theatre company, Graeae Theatre Company, learning everything from marketing and producing shows to access work, such as arranging sign language interpreters, and managing wheelchair access and space requirements.
“There was always this currency of kindness, of sharing practice and generosity. Till today, everyone is just like, if you need help, get in touch because if you’re going to do this sort of work, working with vulnerable, marginalised communities, you better get it right,” says Grace.
In Singapore, the understanding of disability is rooted in the charity model, which is attached to feelings of pity for the individual. Grace believes in the social model of disability, which is less about an individual’s impairment and more about the structures and attitudes in society that are disabling. “I realised that disability is in the same lens as marginalisation. Where you’re deprived of opportunities because of how you look, how you act, or sometimes it’s the social income bracket that you’re born into,” she says.
The work of Access Path Productions involves producing theatrical and cultural experiences centred around the narratives and talents of the marginalised. It also provides drama workshops and disability awareness training for groups and organisations. The company is not afraid to chart its own path and go up against Goliath when it comes to championing equal access to the arts – it even has its own accessible ticketing website. Once, when faced with gatekeepers who turned down free tickets to a show she was producing, Grace bypassed them to engage the community directly. “I said, hey I think you’re not underprivileged, you’re underserved. I had to stir the tea a bit,” she says cheekily.
Adds Grace: “We all have different needs and as this body ages, we will become disabled one way or another. It’s just which one of the senses, or cognitively, which part goes first. It’s about how we can make the world less disabling.”
To know more about Access Path Productions and the community it serves, visit www.accesspathproductions.com.