I feel strongly about the sense of being part of a worldwide disability community that DAO invokes - and which guides my sense of editorship of the journal. The engagement that DAO stirs in its audience and the sense of ownership by the contributors - is something irreplaceable.
At least ten per cent of DAOs 6000 plus, visitors per month come from outside the UK. It's maybe not massive numbers comparative with other online arts journals - but the difference is that DAO has a dedicated audience, shown by the amount of interaction we receive.
Nothing demonstrates this more than a recent email I received from Suzanne Robertson editor of El Portavoz Newspaper, (The Voice Carrier) - a publication from Costa Rica, designed to provide a space where disabled people can freely express themselves, encourage discussion on disability topics and help to represent a more accurate and positive image of disabled people.
With kind permission Suzanne has agreed I can reproduce her communication here:
"I am a keen follower of the DAO website, and I would like to congratulate yourself and your team on creating such a powerful tool in promoting Disability Arts in the UK.
In terms of disability legislation in Costa Rica, we are very far behind in implementing practices outlined in national and international policies. One main area of neglect is the provision of equal access to culture, a fundamental human right that our organization is actively fighting for.
The term disability culture is a concept that has not arrived here yet. We still live in a society that is just barely adapting to the social model of disability, let alone trying to introduce developing discourses such as the Affirmative Model.
Although we have a long way to go, we are determined in getting there! We are passionately aware of the artistic talent that disabled Costa Ricans have to offer and of the abundant disability history waiting to be uncovered.
Through our publication we have amassed a wealth of knowledge that we believe can be directed in helping to create initiatives that promote Costa Rica's own Disability Culture. At this present time we are presenting a proposal to the national government body on disability in
order to create a collaboration plan to support and make this initiative a reality.
Whilst looking on the internet, for definitions of Disability Culture, I came across the excellent article by the poet Simon Brisenden, entitled;What is Disability Culture; originally published by Disability Arts in London Magazine.
I think it would be a powerful element to not only include as a reference in our proposal, but to also republish in our newspaper; especially as literature regarding this subject over here is literally non-existent!
On the DAO website, I noticed that you managed and edited this magazine for many years. Do you have any knowledge on who to contact in order to obtain permission to republish this article in Spanish, how to correctly quote when and where it originally appeared and if there is any more background information on Simon Brisenden."
Sadly, Simon Brisenden passed away at least ten years ago, now. I have been following leads to touch base with his sister Diane who I believe holds Simon's estate in trust - which includes intellectual copyright on the many excellent discussion pieces around disability arts and culture that he penned.
It is a testament to the strength of the disability community that the voices of individuals like Simon Brisenden can continue to echo around the world. If anyone knows how I might get hold of Diane Brisenden would they contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org
Outside Centre is a disability arts oganisation, working within the Social Model of Disability, whose primary objective is to celebrate and promote disability and disabled people through arts and culture.
They have produced Stamps of Disability - an online collection of postage stamps from across the world that depict disability. Searchable by theme and by country they cover everything from Beethoven to Princess Diana's Anti-land Mine Campaign.
In many ways postage stamps play a similar role to the flag - as cultural objects. Primarily, obviously, they are a means of payment for postal services.
They commemorate; celebrate; confer meaning with less prescriptive meanings and provoke a much more variable sense of the value of the territorial rights of nation states.
As with all images - their meaning is always tailored by the context in which the viewer finds them. There are some interesting debates raging on Outside Centre's Facebook Group - primarily in response to a postage stamp of Moshe Dyan posted onto the Outside Centre FB site.
Especially at this time when protests against Israel are mounting after the recent attack on the aid ship, destined to provide relief for Palestinian refugees, a postage stamp of Moshe Dyan seems at best to be encouraging a counter-productive idea of disability arts as an artistic activity that challenges in order to 'celebrate and promote disability and disabled people through arts and culture.'
Paul Darke says "the stamps are a perfect record of the socio-political and cultural oppression of disabled people in a small perferated form. That is, for me, is what makes them so fascinating." But isn't there something missing here; something that's been missing through the relatively small history of disability arts - an awareness of the fact that more people are disabled through war than any other human activity.
The disability arts movement has worked religiously to overturn and subvert the oppressive, cultural accepted association of 'disability' with 'suffering' - as a cipher. But somehow disability arts has never got to grips with what disability means in the context of war.
Whoever makes or breaks war; and whatever the arguments for justification - it doesn't happen without human suffering. In the process of celebrating war or war-makers, there will always be a sense of furthering the notion of disability as synonymous with suffering.