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Disability Arts Online

Baptism of fire / 1 December 2008

Ink drawing of a knitted yellow boat sailing across a blue sea by Colin Hambrook

The cover illustration for Knitting Time by Colin Hambrook

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In many ways I feel as if I was born into Disability arts. I was drawn me into it with a baptism of fire and haven't looked back. At the time there weren’t many mental health survivors in Disability Arts – and there was a fair bit of debate about whether we belonged or not.

My involvement was a natural progression, something I felt I could put my heart into, despite and maybe because of, how difficult and painful it can be at times. I could relate to the social model rhetoric about being disabled by society.

I could never hide my mental health history – in the best and the worst of times - and my experience always felt like being refused a place on the bus – the same bus other disabled people couldn’t get on to because of similar barriers.

But the the difficult thing I've tried to embrace in doing what I can to support disabled and deaf artists is that the barriers are different for different impairment groups. I think maybe that's something that the disability arts movement has found hard to comprehend and is a big reason why engagment - from my perspective at least - has become fragmented over the last eight years, compared to where we were in the previous six years.

In many ways trying to support disabled and deaf artists feels like trying to fall up a hill. There are so many barriers; the isolation, the lack of understanding, the personal nature of the way that impairment impacts on individual lives. But it feels like an important struggle to take on, wherever we go with it.

I have tried with DAO to create something of a legacy that can be looked back on at a time when there is more understanding and accessibility and requirements are not simply add-ons.

The issues are vast and the things that need to be put in place are so big; and we are learning as we go along; learning from each others experience, but most importantly learning from each others Art.

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