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Disability Arts Online

DAO Reader's Survey / 20 November 2007

I understand that reprobate Crippen's missus has become a blog widow! I'm not surprised. Jeni - do you realise I've got a proposal from him here - 500 words a month it says! He sure knows how to make his words count ... or should that be count his words!? Any road-up, I'm delighted to have Crippen on board. (yes I know I'm supposed to say that) His cartoons have been lighting up my life over this past month - which is just as well since I can't afford ligthbulbs at the moment!

Anyway, as DAO editor I thought I'd say a few words about what this site is about and who we are trying to reach. I guess primarily it is for those of us who extol the virtues of Disability Art as a movement of creative disabled people. It's for those of us who believe the world needn't be a flat, prescriptive place in which we take our automatic roles. It's for those of us who believe the world could and should be more inclusive and more embracing of difference - in all its guises.

I've been involved in the disability and survivor movements since the mid-80s. All that time I've found it consistently challenging and rewarding in equal measure. I've never made much of a livelihood from it (in comparative terms) ... but then I've never had much of an alternative (you might say that's not surprising!)

I'm a firm believer in Disability Art (be afraid, be wary, he's started using capitals - Crippen), because I see it as a place that affirms the use of art to highlight the fact that we live in a disabling world. The assumption that is often made is that this just means ramps and toilets and general access issues - (and what sort of art movement is so narrow in its aims) - completely missing the point that disability is an identity. For the majority of us with invisible disabilities it is something that we take on or off, depending on how vulnerable it makes us to talk about ourselves as 'disabled.'

We learn that talking about our impairments makes us vulnerable ... so we learn to avoid those sorts of conversations, despite the fact that this means exclusion from learning, from work prospects, from social networks. We develop an extra skin and a myriad of survival strategies (most of which amount to increasing levels of isolation), so that we can avoid any attention on our disabilities.

A lot of disabled people (and I'm not only talking about people with invisible disabilities) eschew the label of 'disabled' because for them it means admitting to weakness .. or signing up to something that immediately places them in a place of disempowerment. And of course it's true! To be out as a disabled person - and I'm speaking as someone with a lifetimes' history of mental health and associated issues - on all sorts of levels you simply are not supposed to own up to that stuff. It is not supposed to go on display in a public place. You can't mention it on job application forms or to acquaintances ... or even possibly to your own family.

Yet from my perspective being a disabled person is what has made me ... me. And I know that I am lucky to be here; that it is only because of and through my own strengths that I'm still here. And that is something to be celebrated - hence why I'm sitting here as editor of the DAO of Disability Art.

We've recently conducted a readers' survey. Bear with me and I'll take some time and space here to go through what you have suggested we do to make this project more accessible and more exciting. We've also got a new team of peeps working on this project in the New Year. So I look forward to introducing all the dao dudes over the coming month.