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A highlight of the DaDaFest Congress was the Big Debate. Trish Wheatley responds to the question of recognising how much influence non-disabled people should have in working within the Disability Arts sector

a photo of Trish Wheatley in a wheelchair in an empty swimming pool with her hair splayed outwards

This Is Not Disability Arts © Trish Wheatley

A highlight of the DaDaFest Congress was the Big Debate. Trish Wheatley responds to the question of recognising how much influence non-disabled people should have in working within the Disability Arts sector

Comments

16 January 2015

Bob Williams-Findlay

I found this piece interesting, not so much for what it says, but more to do with what it doesn't say and the subsequence comments it has encouraged.

I'm also reminded of what Marx once wrote to distance himself from a group of German economists; he said, "if they are Marxists, then I am not." Marx, of course, could take ownership of a body of thought and reject the distortion of his views whereas I don't have a similar set of relations to the concept of "disability arts" although I would position myself as one of the original thinkers and activists with both Movements - disability politics and disability arts.

I had to smile at the idea that disability arts isn't a human rights issue; how sad it is to see disabled people still being screwed by the distorted "rights" approach which eventually drove the Disabled People's Movement. I had to laugh at the notion of "disability is a universal experience" found in one of the comments because this stands in direct opposition to the founding ideas of UK Disability Arts!

This is why I spoke about the absences; the vital things left unsaid, the continued fig leaf presentation of modern day 'disability arts' with its sham nod towards disability politics of the past. Another illustration of the political confusion that exists currently:

"Being a disabled person in no way immediately confers an understanding of the political context of disability. A disabled person is as likely to be reactionary as a non-disabled person unless they are lucky enough to have contact with a community of disabled people who can be a mirror that reflects something different from the hegemony of non-disabled society."

If you follow Mike Oliver's three fold understanding of what defines a 'disabled person' from a disability politics perspective, the person in the above quotation isn't one - they are a person with an impairment defined as 'disabled' by the dominant ideology underpinning the Equality Act.

What I'm suggesting is that there isn't a fixed view in the 21st century of what 'disability arts' constitutes - the path travelled since the late 1980s has gone in many directions and far from the early days of the movement Finkelstein and Morrison spoke about.

15 January 2015

Rachel Stelmach

Re: By sharing those disabling experiences on a regular basis alongside friends and colleagues I am kind of ‘disabled-by-association’

I think the Equality Act 2010 would enable this 'by-association' principle given the clause making it illegal to discriminate aagainst somebody who is not disabled but has copious association and understanding of the disabling factors still pressent in our society, or just by simple association.

15 January 2015

Simon Startin

I prefer the term 'not disabled yet' person to 'non-disabled' person. It is a universal human experience, made to look like a sectarian niche by fear. Those who recognise this can be leaders to that truth even without a disability maybe.

15 January 2015

Colin Hambrook

I think there was a problem with the way the proposal was worded. It was in fact two proposals: 'Disability Arts is a form of human rights activism'; 'Should non-disabled people be leaders within the disability arts sector'. The two questions didn't dovetail into each other and therefore the debate was interesting but not as clear as it might have been. I thought Chris Smit's point in particular - he talked about wanting to vote for the motion with his heart; but against the motion with his head - and basing that on the numbers of non-disabled people - specifically family, who work directly with him and understand disability from his perspective in ways that other disabled people don't, was the argument that made me teeter. Being a disabled person in no way immediately confers an understanding of the political context of disability. A disabled person is as likely to be reactionary as a non-disabled person unless they are lucky enough to have contact with a community of disabled people who can be a mirror that reflects something different from the hegemony of non-disabled society.

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