Mind & Well-being, one of the Priority Action Areas that form part of The Disability Expo 2024, is dedicated to dismantling the stigma surrounding mental health through candid conversations while effectively linking the community with support services.
In this interview, we are happy to introduce our Mind & Well-being Champion: Rena Zenonos. Rena shares her own lived experiences and gives us an insight into her vision for this pivotal aspect of Disability Expo 2024.
Can you share a bit about your background and experiences in the field of mind and wellbeing, and how these experiences have led you to take a leadership role in this area at the Disability Expo?
Rena Zenonos: Growing up hard of hearing and receiving a late dyslexia diagnosis in university, I set out to navigate a perplexing world. Meditation and yoga became my refuge, creating personal spaces where I found solace and mindfulness. Creativity and self-expression, my trusted companions, became powerful tools to confront stigmas and stories on my journey.
In my former roles like primary school teacher and nursery nurse, I saw firsthand the pivotal role of well-being in the lives of both children and educators. Venturing into childbirth education, yoga teaching, and doula work, I forged a holistic framework, now woven into my practice as a creativity coach and mentor. Merging these worlds has become my mission—a quest to make well-being not a luxury but a necessity.
Taking a leadership role at the Disability Expo is a significant stride, an opportunity to unite the community and shift the narrative around well-being within the disability community and beyond. It’s time to emphasise that creativity, self-expression, and holistic well-being are not luxuries but fundamental aspects of a fulfilling and empowered life.
What motivated you to centre your attention on the mind and wellbeing aspect of the Disability Expo? Did you pinpoint a particular need or gap within the disability community that aligns with your expertise as a creativity coach, fashion designer, mentor, prompting you to take on this role?
Rena Zenonos: While attending the 2023 Disability Expo, I noticed a significant gap within the hidden disability community. This led me to focus on uniting both hidden and visible disabilities. Drawing from my personal experience as someone with a hidden disability—hard of hearing and dyslexic with ADHD traits—I observed distinct worlds within the ‘disabilities community’ and the ‘norm’. For instance, as someone hard of hearing, I never felt a sense of belonging in either the deaf world or the ‘hearing’ world.
Applying my creative approach in the realm of mind and well-being, I seek to facilitate self-expression without limits.
My goal is to bridge the gap between ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ disabilities and connect diverse communities. The integration of these holistic elements offers an inclusive and enriching experience for individuals of all abilities.
As a creativity coach and fashion designer, I have witnessed the empowering impact of these core elements on individuals across a spectrum of disabilities and neurodiversity, initiating positive changes in their lives.
From your perspective, what are some of the unique challenges related to mind and wellbeing that disabled people may face, and how do you plan to address these challenges at the Disability Expo through your role?
Rena Zenonos: At the Disability Expo, my focus lies in fostering inclusivity within the Mind and Well-being section. Recognising that I cannot speak on behalf of every individual across the spectrum of disabilities, I aim to collaborate with ambassadors dedicated to expanding this zone, engaging with people who possess lived experiences. Nevertheless, by upholding these holistic values and working alongside committed ambassadors, we can ensure a truly inspirational experience for all.
Our outreach efforts will involve connecting with individuals who have firsthand experiences in the realms of disability and neurodiversity. Through meaningful conversations, we will explore the unique challenges faced by individuals, whether their disabilities are visible or hidden.
My approach is centred on creating an environment that fosters open self-expression, free from constraining labels. By embracing creativity and ensuring accessibility, my goal is to transform this section into a resource-rich space that transcends the limitations imposed by any disability.
Join me in crafting a vibrant and welcoming community where individuals from diverse backgrounds can find support and inspiration.
How do you think creativity and self-expression are important for people with disabilities? And why do you think it matters to the wider community or people as a whole?
Rena Zenonos: Creativity and self-expression weave together, presenting varied facets in our lives awaiting exploration. These terms defy rigid labels, freeing individuals from being confined as an “artist” or “creative.” Opportunities, discovery, and accessibility guide this exploration—opportunity opens doors, discovery reveals hidden facets, and accessibility ensures inclusivity. Embracing the fluidity of creativity allows for a dynamic expression, nurturing a vibrant tapestry of individual narratives.
Integral to our identity, self-expression authentically embraces who we are. Complete expression, encompassing the good, the bad, and the ugly, brings a lightness to the mind and body, fostering fulfilment and enrichment.
Delving into creativity and self-expression has the transformative power to reshape perceptions, outlooks, ambitions, and overall lifestyles. It is crucial that individuals, irrespective of disability, feel unrestricted in expressing their thoughts, feelings, and visions.
Creativity is a key to individuality.
Disability Expo 2024 will shine a spotlight on 10 Priority Action Areas. Each area of focus has its own goals and will connect the disabled community with relevant providers of support, products, and services. Our Partners, Sponsors, Champions, and Ambassadors are working with us to turn these goals into impactful realities.
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Are you a mama who is juggling all the things? Living with dyslexia or ADHD, or perhaps you suspect you might be?
Discover a welcoming and supportive space where you can:
- Share your unique experiences
- Connect with others who understand
- Engage in meaningful conversations
- Learn some of my signature creative practices
At The Neuro Mama Collective, we embrace our differences and celebrate our strengths. No labels, just stories. Together, we create a diverse tapestry of people.
Join the waitlist for Rena’s next event and be a part of the conversation!