Who are disabled artists?
This is an exhibition by disabled artists. I use this term because it’s in line with the social model of disability. The social model of disability is a way of thinking about disability. It was developed by disabled people and was the foundation of the disabled people’s movement in the UK. The social model says that disability is caused by barriers in society that exclude people with impairments, or medical / long term conditions. People are therefore disabled by these barriers, and by the way things are organised. Things like inaccessible buildings, inaccessible information, prejudices, lack of support, financial inequalities and more.
So, disabled people are people with impairments, health conditions or long-term conditions who have experienced disabling barriers. This is potentially a large group of people which includes people with physical and mobility impairments, learning disabled people, neurodiverse people, Deaf and hard of hearing people, blind and partially sighted people, people with mental health problems, people with long term conditions and others. It includes people with conditions that are not visibly or noticeably obvious.
For this exhibition, the artists taking part are happy to be part of an exhibition that is described as being by disabled artists. But individual artists might describe themselves in different ways, which is, of course, entirely up to them. Most of the time, labels are irrelevant anyway, so people might try to avoid them.
I didn’t ask the artists to take a particular stance or to focus on disability, in their art or in their statements. Some chose to do so, but others didn’t.
However, I’m really pleased that so many artists have taken part in this exhibition. The definition of disability is broad and inclusive, and I find using the term ‘disabled people’ is a useful umbrella, underpinned with a bit of politics.