Defining Disabilities Art Exhibition 2021

Students from the TCPID participated in the Art Exhibition Defining Disability 2021, organised by Trinity Student’s Union, Disability Service, and the Ability Co-Op for Disability Awareness Week.

The Exhibition was on show in the JCR Hamilton space (student common room) from the 29th of November to the 3rd of December which marked the International Day of People with Disabilities.

The aim of the exhibition was to celebrate the work of Trinity students with disabilities, raising awareness of barriers that disabled students face every day it also revealed the immense contribution that they make to the Trinity community. The many definitions and meanings of disabilities are explored through artistic means in this student-based initiative.

TCPID students reflected on important themes such as disability and human rights as part of module assignments and created their artwork to convey their message to the world. The TCPID ran an art workshop to offer space and materials to students to complete their work which included paintings, poems, photography, and mixed media.

Students had the opportunity to show their work, and their ideas and help others understand universal issues of inclusion.

Participation in the art exhibition was a great opportunity for TCPID students to be actively involved in the several activities organised by Trinity on the occasion of Disability Awareness Week.

An art workshop was organised by the Trinity Ability co_op before the launch of the Defining Disabilities Art Exhibition 2021.

Project Overview

The Defining Disabilities Art Exhibition was a collaborative art project with the Trinity Ability co_op, Trinity College Dublin Student Unions (TCDSU), Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities (TCPID), and students with disabilities for Disability Week. The purpose of the exhibition was to give students with disabilities the to be creative in how they define their disability. The exhibition included artwork, poetry, and 3D pieces which were displayed in the JCR Hamilton Space from 29th – 3rd December 2021. We ensured that the exhibition would be held in an accessible location and that there would be audio descriptions of the paintings and poetry.

A podcast of the Defining Disabilities Art Exhibition was created, you can listen to the podcast below or on the Trinity Ability co_op podcast on Spotify.

Submitted Artwork for the Defining Disabilities Art Exhibition

Here are some examples of the artwork that was submitted by Trinity disabled students for the Defining Disabilities Art Exhibition.

Defining Disabilities Art Exhibition – Podcast Description

The podcasts are a collection of audible versions of works submitted to the ‘Defining Disabilities Art Exhibition as part of Trinity Ability co_op and TCDSU Disability Awareness Week in 2021.

Physical pieces such as paintings, digital art, or drawings have audible descriptions featured in this podcast; written submissions such as poems feature authors’ bios and poetry recitals.

The full show is available on Spotify – Defining Disabilities Exhibition.

Podcast Description

How the Podcast Works

Physical pieces such as paintings, digital art, or drawings have audible descriptions featured in this podcast; written submissions such as poems feature authors’ bios and poetry recitals.

The podcast is divided into two main sections; 1) written submissions which feature poetry and 2) physical art submissions, which include digital artworks, 3D pieces, paintings, drawings, and photos. For each written submission there will be a recital as well as a short biography about the piece. Some of the poetry is recited by the original authors. For each physical submission, there will be a description and a biography of the piece.


This podcast is the audio version of the ‘defining disabilities’ exhibition taking place from the 29th of November to the 3rd of December in Trinity College Dublin, as part of the Students’ Union campaign week for disability awareness. (Read the full introduction)

The exhibition is a collaboration of the Students’ union, the Ability Coop, and the Disability Service at Trinity. The purpose of this podcast is to allow full accessibility to the exhibition, including for those who are blind have, visual impairments, or for those who cannot attend the exhibition. This exhibition is showcasing some fantastic works of students with disabilities who are part of the Trinity community, as well as many works inspired by disabilities, in which creators have given their personal interpretation of ‘defining disabilities’. The exhibition and this podcast are celebrations of the disability community at Trinity, and it is an honour to have such a personal, meaningful, and talented range of submissions. For that, we want to extend our thanks to everyone who submitted to the exhibition. From everyone involved in the making of this exhibition, we hope you enjoy it!

The Gatekeeper – Faolán Doecke Launders

A place of hope, a place of dreams, Lies behind the gateway. Guarded by him, He stands at the edge of the abyss. The one which we all climb from … (Read the full poem)

Upon reaching the gate, I first saw him. While others passed the gate, I was stopped, By him.

His body devours light, Only his bleak outline can be seen. His lifeless eyes fixated on you, With a sword in his hand. He guards the gateway.

When I try to pass, He shoves me back. When I try to run, He hunts me down. When I try to fight, He strikes me last.

He lets all others pass him, He is only focused on me. He knows my every move, No matter what I try.

I asked him his name once, Grinning with razor teeth, He looks me in the eye, Pulls off his cloak, Revealing his face to me.

It was at that moment, That I understood. For the face that I saw, Was my very own.

Then I remembered, Told to me by my kin. Our only true enemy, Is the one within.

Poem biography: Many times, we feel like the outside world is a terrible place that has a constant negative impact on us. However, that is only partially true. the world will offer situations, but it is you, and you alone, who defines how to react to that situation. We spend a lot of time in our own heads, thinking about an “ideal” version of ourselves and how they would interact with the world. We often find ourselves alone, trapped behind a large barrier separating us from this “ideal” world, a world where everyone else seems to be. Keeping us from entering is the “ideal” version of ourselves, we blame ourselves for not being “ideal”, constantly fighting this imaginary version of ourselves. How you overcome this could greatly define your life, but of course, this whole situation is merely inside your head, like life, entirely through your unique perspective.

A Glitch in the System (Except I’m not) – Evan Cryan

Sometimes I believe I am a glitch in the system, A piece of code gone wrong … (Read the full poem)

My God watches over me and wonders what can be done.

He cannot be fixed, he does not belong.

My own existence causes frustration,

And I am not meant to be.

I will be punished for the rest of my life for this.

I float through people’s lives like a ghost,

Picking up personality traits and social cues where I can find them,

And I pretend they are my own.

Sometimes my own body is a temple that I cannot enter or control,

I am locked out and I’ve lost the keys.

When I am allowed back in, I feel everything so deeply, so strongly, My emotions drown me.

However, there is peace to be found in community,

And I wish I could tell my younger self that he is not alone,

Moments such as these are temporary,

My struggle is valid, I am known.

Poem Biography:

This is a poem I wrote about my struggles with managing my mental health and being neurodivergent. When you’ve spent the majority of your life feeling isolated from others and like you don’t ‘fit in’, it can cause struggles with depression and depersonalisation. I, personally, have struggled with both of these for the majority of my life, and I hope this poem wasn’t too depressing, as I was attempting to end on a hopeful note! As difficult as being neurodivergent is, building a support network with those with similar struggles is a fantastic way to meet new people and there is so much in the world to be explored. I tend to feel emotions very intensely and this isn’t always a bad thing – I feel intense love for TV shows and books and can find escapism in other realities. Some moments are tough, but I am proud of my unique way of seeing the world. It is what makes me an individual.

Enough as I am by Sarah Rose McQuillan

I am not just some symptoms written on a page, Always too tired, too sick for my age … (Read the full poem)

I am not just the report that pops up on your screen,

And I am disabled if it cannot be seen.

Stop asking when I’ll get better or say at least I look okay,

You do not see the struggle I go through every day.

Don’t exclude me from society and try to keep me down, It doesn’t make you better to just sit and watch me drown.

I am a human with emotions, I love I laugh I cry, I am grateful for this life I lead,

I won’t let it pass me by.

A Man Who Dreams of Sunflowers by Ross Cumore

Far out in the desert Where the vulture is the king … (Read the full poem)

A haggard man was walking

Had nothing but whiskey and a dream

He was on his way to heaven

Had heard it wasn’t too far away

That he would make it there by noon

Now his whiskey was gone

But he still had his dream

A field of sunflowers was where he belonged

So, one foot after the other

Was all that was left to do

Now some folks say he made it

To his field in Elysium

Others say his bones were bleached by Helios

His corpse a meal for the desert king

Poem Biography: In the Greek myth of Clytie and Apollo, the sunflower can be seen to represent adoration and loyalty. The poem further alludes to Greek mythology with references to Elysium, which is the paradise in which the blessed dead spent their afterlife. The man is wandering through the desert looking for a beautiful place, a field of sunflowers. Helios in Greek myth is seen as both a personification of the Sun and the fundamental creative power behind it and as a result is often worshiped as a god of life. The man is in search of sunflowers (adoration) while the Sun (life) slowly kills him. I suppose this poem to me represents that constantly searching for adoration can slowly kill you. You can spend your whole life looking for adoration but without loving yourself there will always be an emptiness. Constant exposure to the Sun (life) can lead to death, its ok to find shelter and rest when you need to.

I Rise by Sinead Ringwood

Once heavy with the weight of days upon days of immovable fear Now I walk bravely forward … (Read the full poem)

I am aware.

I finally see.

I am beginning to really listen.

I know that as I am walking the darkest woods, my footfall has been heard.

With me, I brandish the most beautiful shining sword to cut the ties,

The cords of that which do not serve me.

I slay the thick and twisted beliefs that have trapped me.

Now I can see the road in sight, A wonderful clear way.

I know that once I release, let be, and pause.

That path will lead me home.

Poem biography: In 2015 my world changed. My father died suddenly; we were best pals. Also, in this year I separated from my husband and found myself parenting alone. My mam then also passed away in 2017. These were a very tough few years and I did my best to weather the storm. I realised in 2019 that I had no fight left in me. I was exhausted juggling parenting alone and looking after everything by myself and my self esteem was non-existent. I knew that I needed help. I sought out the support of One Family, a lone parent’s group who provide counselling, support and courses. I took part in a year long course called New Futures. We were trained in how to work on our personal and professional development. They showed us that we had so much to offer and that we had the chance to pick ourselves up and start again. During this course when my self esteem grew, I found that my creativity emerged once more. I began writing poetry once again. I am going to perform an original poem which I wrote in response to the effect this course had on me. It is how I felt on completing the course and how I feel now every day. We all have a brave warrior within us. We just have to believe we do and never ever give up. The poem was presented to President Higgins in Aras an Uachtarain in 2020 on

the occasion of International Woman’s Day.

Quote and Poem selected by Petra Doherty

Selected Quote & Poem: “Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts … (Read the full poem)

That’s what little girls are made of; the heck with sugar and spice.” Bethany Hamilton

‘I am not what happened to me I am what i choose to become’ by Trina Graves For no matter the trial and test You are truly the only one To change what you think and believe Even little steps each and every day Will change your life for the better

Biography: “For me I felt that these pieces depicted my educational journey as someone who has a physical disability. As my disability is part of me and does not defined me. To quote Trina Graves it is ’What I Choose To Become’.

As it has enabled me to achieve to the fullest of my potential! Disabilities don’t disable you they merely enable you!”

Poem by Alice Jane Kennedy

I used to like you I don’t quite remember when I stopped or maybe I never really thought of you too deeply … (Read the full poem)

and living with you was expected, not a decision I hate how you wear your hair these days I can’t remember when I last saw you read a book your stomach has that pouch, you can see it when you stare at it from the side I am often staring at it from that angle these flaws are a lot louder when you’re the only one around your voice sounds irritating when you speak in a group your nose has that bump, something small, that I know you think people don’t notice, but I do you shout constantly, you pick fights, you don’t play fair, you are terrible at arguing you complain you complain you complain you failed that exam last semester, which is just pathetic you are never on time you go running, but you come home, panting you sob till you have no voice your face looking red and splotchy I don’t even know what you’re crying about anymore you are subpar you disappoint you are average and I cannot stand your arms but I am stuck with you, staring straight back at me even now, stuck with me

Poem biography: It is about my experience with having Borderline Personality Disorder, and how it causes you to start hating who you are and who you’ve become. You no longer feel like yourself, and so your hatred is expressed as though you are an enemy.

Let me have the same rights as you by Jack Egan

You can get an education I want an education (Read the full poem)

You can get a job

I want a job

You can live an independent life

I want to live an independent life

You can get married

I want to get married

People like me With disability

Want the same as you Because I am the same as you

Biography: Jack Egan is a 20-year-old TCD student with Down Syndrome. He is studying Art, Science, and Inclusive Applied Practise. He Lives in Navan, Co. Meath with his parents and his younger Brother. He swims for Team Ireland and plays basketball and floorball with Special Olympics. He loves music, poetry and singing and he is learning ballroom dancing. Jack doesn’t want his disability to stop him from having an independent life, education, career, love and happiness.

3D Piece by Keela Duffy Naughton

Physical description: A plastic bag with a sticker on it that says Personal PPE pACL. Inside the bag are numerous empty insulin ‘Flex pen’ cartilages. (Read the full description)

Biography: My allusive art piece is entitled ‘Ziploc Bag of Life’. Inside a Covid-19 testing-centre plastic bag, is over 30 of my insulin pens. Each pen is used up and empty, and no longer holds any worth. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes during the pandemic. It’s almost surreal, knowing the essence of what keeps you alive can be physically put into a plastic bag. What’s more, the contents of said bag were once worth $3,542.58. It’s technically my own personal protection equipment pack; insulin keeps my organs functioning; my lungs breathing. I had a million different ideas when it came to creating this piece, but I believe this is as real and honest as it could get.

Painting by Meera Engelya

Physical description: Rectangle watercolour painting. (Read the full description)

In the centre of the painting, is a blurred face, capturing sudden movement, restlessness. Surrounding the moving face is a variety of shades of blue, white and grey. For a 2D piece, the painting conveys movement well, depicting a constant shaking head, representing fatigue, anxiety and sadness.

Biography: Oil on canvas 100 x 25 cm 2020 This painting physically represents the overwhelming state of thoughts hunting I was in. Dealing with ADHD made me feel that I had experienced the ongoing covid pandemic more intensely than others. During the isolation period spent in Dubai and Dublin, losing communication with people led to an extreme extent of hyper self reconnection. Those moments when the random thoughts and ideas coursing through my brain became suddenly overwhelming. Although my brain is passively active all time, I feel stuck, with an urge to send out signals to escape from the situation.

Non-fungible token by Daniel Ryan

Physical description: A pixelized image of a golden retriever, with a lilac-purple outline. (Read the full description)

Biography: An NFT (Non-fungible token) is a means of digital asset ownership, entitling people to ownership of variations of this dog. As a person with Aspergers’ Syndrome, I have developed a special interest in cryptocurrency, and am thoroughly excited for the applications of blockchain and decentralized finance in the world of art, finance and security. This artwork represents a brave step forward into that world.

Digital artwork by Zahra Torabpouran

Physical description: Set in the nighttime, a young girl in a purple dress with dark hair with a fringe is sitting on the ledge of a circular tower. (Read the full description)

Depicting childlike innocence, the child peers inside the tower to see the sparkling star-shaped yellow flowers glisten and escape the tower. The tower is made of blocks of stone, with small strands of ivy branches. Some bricks are missing, showing how the flowers are emerging from deep within the tower.

Biography: The piece is representative of healing your inner child during the pandemic. No one talks about how childhood trauma and anxiety force an individual to grow up much faster than their peers around them. The pandemic was an isolating period, however, there came a sense of comfort in spending time alone to find inner peace. The digital piece depicts a young girl sitting on a wishing well in awe of the stars in front of her. Her surroundings are dark but she only notices the light. Despite my own interpretation of the piece, it can be applicable to people’s own experiences and my hope for the artwork is that people can recognise that there can be lightly found during the darkest of times.

Painting by anonymous

Physical description: This piece depicts a three-story structure with a sign at the top saying ‘the brain place’. It shows a busy building with each floor depicting specific interests such as reading books, playing games, and growing plants. (Read the full description)

Biography: If people with ASD had an unlimited budget to build an HQ, this is how I’d imagine it would look – a little chaotic, yet kind of peaceful at the same time, and full of interesting things! Everything from the games console on the wall to all the books is a representation of some (definitely not all!) special interests

Photo by Ciaran Moran

The picture is of a doctor’s office that is only accessible by stairs, I put a person without a disability climbing the stairs, and a person who is in a wheelchair crying because she can’t use the stairs to get into the doctor’s office because there is no ramp. (Read the full description)

The person on the right is a person with an intellectual disability trying to understand the instruction for mediation that a doctor has prescribed to him, he can’t understand the instructions because the writing is too small and there are lots of big words that are not easy to understand, intellectual disability is also a hidden disability you can’t see it, this is highlighting the barrier that people who are in a wheelchair and people with an intellectual disability face every day. They are being denied their human rights and disability rights. They have the right to healthcare as everybody else has. There should be a ramp or a lift everywhere that has stairs and for people with an intellectual disability, the instructions should be easier to read, and also the writing should be bigger.

Painting entitled “Hear for you” by Rory Chinn

Physical description: An outline of an ear is shown with lines. However the lines do not connect, so the use of dots or semi-circles connect the gaps between the lines to create the overall outline of an ear. (Read the full description)

Biography: The piece tries to capture how technology (hearing aids in this case) can and does fill in the gaps of disability. I myself require hearing aids and have tried to visually describe the feeling of gaps in my life created by hearing loss- note that there are still gaps left. What may have been a fully drawn ear now has empty sections with intermittent completeness.

Drawing by Bobby Dolan

Physical description: There is a blue sky and clouds in the air. In the foreground of the drawing are five people.  (Read the full description)

One of the people is telling the others to work ‘faster’, the other people are carrying out manual labour.

Biography: The art piece I created was on slavery in ancient Egypt. One thing that’s interesting about slavery back then was that the slaves were treated really unfairly

and that they had so many barriers

which made it hard for some of them who had disabilities to do their job which is something we can still see today that there still is so many barriers that stop people with disabilities today from living their life which

in my opinion, can possibly make it hard to see how different are we

to the slaves, in Egypt some of us are still being treated unfairly, some of us

are judged by are disability and we still have barriers that prevent us from doing things like traveling or working.

Digital art by Rachel Murphy

Physical description: Digital drawing done on the Procreate app on an iPad. The drawing is set in a park, surrounded by trees. (Read the full description)

In the centre is a giant glass facing downwards. Inside the glass, is a brown-haired girl, her eyes fixtured on a book she is holding in her hands. She has her back facing away, hidden from us. This is a comfortable, safe space for the girl as she has a pillow and blanket. She has made the space her own with an indoor plant and fairy lights hanging above her.

Biography: Growing up with chronic illnesses can be isolating at times when you miss out on things and don’t really understand why. In one way that’s what being inside the glass is meant to show. On the other hand, being isolated means feeling safe and calm. It’s complicated because it’s a good and a bad thing. This was always the case, but I think living through the last two years as a vulnerable person has made it clearer to me how isolation can be a good thing, but it comes at a huge cost.

Painting by Charis Kenna

Physical description: This picture is situated in a square box. The box has a diagonal line going throw it. (Read the full description)

One side depicts flowers growing and the roots of a tree growing getting longer. The other side depicts a blossoming tree full of leaves.


Sometimes when we feel we are rock bottom abs buried beneath the dirt, we can still find ways to go through the struggles that once held us down for so long. Being held down isn’t the end, it’s a chance to grow, bigger and stronger than ever before

Painting by Emma Tyrell

Physical description: Painting done on a canvas with clay elements. The painting is slashed with paint strokes with varying colours. (Read the full description)

Sad eyes can be found throughout. Words are painted, “always watching” and “who am I”. The words, drawings and paint strokes make the painting appear overcrowded, which is fitting to the artists view of opening their head and laying it all out on a canvas.

Biography: This piece represents my daily struggle with mental illness. I greatly struggled with this for many years and am lucky to have even made it to college. The piece to me personifies my inner turmoil and struggle it is like as if you opened my head and scooped out everything that is going on for me. it is open for interpretation and I believe people see and relate to it in any way possible even if they do not suffer mental illness.