On February 1, 2022, I had the pleasure of co-hosting a Q&A session with Chella Man. Chella Man is a deaf, genderqueer, transmasculine, Chinese, Jewish artist. Amassing almost half a million followers on Instagram, Chella has dedicated his work to advocating for Jewish folks, disabled folks, and queer folks.
This event was organized by Hillel International in honour of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, better known as JDAIM. JDAIM occurs every February as a month of joint efforts between Jewish organizations to raise awareness of disability within the Jewish community along with promoting their inclusion.
The Q&A with Chella Man was a very successful event with hundreds of students attending and submitting questions. Chella was very vulnerable with us all and shared his journey into discovering his deafness, his journey in discovering his queer identity, and discussed how his art has been inspired by his various identities. This event was especially meaningful to me as someone with a disability. Seeing Chella Man, a successful artist breaking down the boundaries and social norms of how a disabled person should act. He has never let his disability confine him and has in fact utilized it to inspire the art he creates.
I think one of the most incredible things to come out of this event was that so many people felt represented; Jewish folks, disabled folks, and queer folks. It proved once again the importance of representation, a topic we discussed largely throughout the Q&A. I believe that the way forward in disability inclusion is through elevating those with disabilities. In a university, it means promoting disabled voices and creating inclusive spaces for disabled folks to thrive; through adding ramps, ensuring all videos in class are presented with closed captioning, priority seating for those with disabilities, etc.
Meeting with Chella Man was deeply inspiring, not just for myself but for all in attendance. He is truly changing the face of disability for the better. If you would like to watch the Q&A, you can do so through this link.
- Leah Goldschmidt Hillel York student