1 July 2005
DAO and Disability Arts
Disability Arts can be all sorts of things, wild, wacky, serious and/or frivolous. During its origins in the 1980s cabaret and performance were prevalent. Throughout the 90s Theatre and Dance became a force to reckon with the emergence of companies like Graeae, Heart n' Soul and Candoco. Over the past five years or so, film, media and the visual arts have seen a blossoming of work by disabled artists.
We are now at a crossroads, as more disabled artists are breaking into the mainstream arts world. Issue-based Disability Arts has evolved into something far more sophisticated than many might have imagined. The thing that distinguishes Disability Arts is that the work is rooted in the artists' experience of impairment. Impairment is a complete cross-section of states of mind and body that challenge society's assumption that perfection is the norm.
It is a radical artform because, since the beginning of time, the disabled mind and body has often been represented as something bad or sad, something that should be tucked away under the carpet, something to be patronised or feared - a world of miracles and manacles.
DAO (DisabilityArtsOnline) comes from a Social Model perspective that views disability as something created by society that creates attitudinal and physical barriers for disabled people. Disability Art, in its purest sense, uncovers the truth that disability is far from special. By far the majority of people, from all walks of life, will be disabled for at least part of their lives. Neither genetics nor genocide will make us go away.