How can we support artists with disabilities?

Check out this guest post by IFC Board Member and alumna RescuePoetix, in belated observance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

A Filipino woman in a blue dress gestures as she performs on a stage. Her face shows intense concentration. In the background, we see a backdrop featuring an American flag rendered in different shades of pink.

Eileen Ramos, an IFC17 & 18 alumna, is one of the many Disabled artists we've highlighted.

As an arts and inclusion advocate, I searched what International Day of Persons with Disabilities encompasses and I learned more than I ever imagined: Things that are important to me as a person, sister, friend, artist, and community leader.

I started out by taking an online quiz to test my knowledge and understanding, then I dug deeper, did research, and reached out to artists in my community to ask some questions.

Interested in testing your knowledge? Disability Awareness Quiz 1

Another area of research was through podcasts:

To learn directly from persons who live with disabilities daily was very impactful for me. Their experiences, stories and perspectives provided me with a personal understanding that I may not have had otherwise.

A Black man in a white shirt signs I love you in American Sign Language. He is smiling and standing outside on a cloudy day.

Thyson T. Halley, a Disabilities advocate, signs "I love you."

History of International Day of Persons with Disabilities

In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3 proclaimed the annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons[1]. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities. Since 1992, the observance has been renamed International Day of Persons with Disabilities and is observed on December 3rd of each year.

According to a 2017 study by the Center for Talent Innovation, among white-collar, college-educated employees, 30 percent have a disability. But only 3.2 percent self-identify as having a disability to their employers. And of all employees with a disability, 62 percent have an invisible disability. In the survey, those employees responded: “Unless I tell them, people do not know that I have a disability.”

That means many people go through their day-to-day work lives without revealing what disability they may be experiencing or how it impacts them physically, emotionally, and mentally.

One of the biggest challenges in meeting the goals of IDPD as a day-to-day observance is the understanding, acceptance, diversity, and inclusion of persons with disabilities. Often, there are unconscious biases based on perceptions of enabled people. As described by one of the hosts of Life Fantastic Podcast[2] states, “Disability isn’t a special occasion thing, Disability is an everyday thing.”

The cover of "Borderlines" by hemophiliac musician Max Feisntein. The artist, a white man with curly hair and a black shirt, is shown putting his hands together and closing his eyes in concentration while surrounded by abstract black and red lines that suggest chaotic movement.

"Borderlines" is a music album by Max Feinstein, a musician and hemophilia advocate

Arts and Disability

In March 2016 Canadian Art published an interview with Eliza Chandler of Tangled Art that discussed 8 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Art and Disability. [3]

This interview covered practical real time issues, obstacles, preconceptions, and assumptions that artists with disabilities experience. One of the most impactful quotes I took away was a statement on how art is created:

“… it’s not just about translating art in accessible way—we are actually producing art with the intention that it can be experienced in a different way...”

Read the article here.

Center for Business and Management of the Arts, Claremont Graduate University (California) published Accessibility and the Arts: Reconsidering the Role of the Artist[4]in December 2020 that included 23 interviewees and opened with this:

“For people with disabilities, the fight for equal access to arts and culture is part of a broader struggle for access to both physical resources and intangible benefits in daily life…”

This research touches on Medical versus social model of disability, provides statistics and information about Rates of Disability, seen below, and interview responses base