Liverpool John Moores Univ.
In July founding steering group member Alison Wilde was invited to be part of the headline panel at the Accentuate ‘One Year On’ Symposium held in partnership with the University of Brighton. The symposium explored the potential wider cultural legacy of the London 2012 Paralympics for Deaf and disabled people. Wilde’s paper interrogated the ideological underpinning of the hierarchical and individualistic notions of legacy deployed throughout the games. In particular she highlighted the discursive compatibility between this notion of legacy and the damaging deployment of an individualistic account of the bio-psycho-social model of disability being promoted by the likes of the American healthcare insurance giant Unum and Atos (a major Paralympic sponsor).
The Symposium brought together the views of those involved in the cultural Olympiad, including sports and cultural practitioners, disabled artists and Paralympians, academics and disability policy experts. The Demos report from the event – ‘ One Year On’ – captures the concerns raised at the symposium and concludes that that while the ‘elite’ of disabled artists whose work was commissioned as part of the Cultural Olympiad received a huge boost, the silent majority of disabled people missed out. The report argues that cultural legacy of the Paralympics remains overlooked, with much of the focus on improving disabled people’s access to sports or on the perception of disabled people more generally. It also perceives a missed opportunity to increase the participation and employment of disabled people in the UK’s cultural life.
The Demos report marks the start of a more in-depth study to understand why disabled employment in the cultural sectors is so poor, and what stops disabled people engaging in the arts more generally, including attending cultural events.
Full coverage of the One Year On symposium – including papers, audiovisual presentations and films – is available here https://tinyurl.com/accparapsym
The free Demos report covering the event is available here https://tinyurl.com/paralegacy
For more analysis of the relationship between Unum Insurance and the UK-DWP Atos Healthcare work capability assessment structure for disability assessment see Jon James McCardle’s article on the Black Triangle Campaign’s website: https://goo.gl/NwE0h7 (More information below).
Avoidance and/in the Academy, Centre for Culture and Disability Studies, Hope University
In September, steering group member, Irene Rose represented the network at the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies conference, “Avoidance In/And the Academy” held by the CCDS, Hope University. The avoidance project asserts that the time has come to recognise that the academic avoidance of disability studies and disability theory is indicative of social prejudice. Addressing this issue Rose’s paper offered a reading of Leonard Cheshire’s Creature Discomforts Campaign that drew upon disability studies critiques of institutionalised charities that deem such charities as fundamentally incompatible with Disability Rights. Rose revealed how the discourses and aesthetics of cute employed within the Discomforts campaign enact a symbolic distancing and disavowal akin to the age-old discourses of fear previously used by impairment charity campaigns. In this way she demonstrated that engaging with disability theory enables a productive reading of contemporary charity campaign techniques that reveal the continuing oppressive production of the dependent disabled subject of charity discourse.
In her concluding remarks Rose noted that the importance of such critical engagement is more vital than ever as with the dismantling of the NHS huge charity organisations are vying for lucrative healthcare contracts. Likewise she asserted that –notable exceptions notwithstanding – the continuing conspicuous absence of disability perspectives within media, cultural and communication studies acted as a blight on the broader political project of cultural studies. However ending on a cautiously optimistic note, she noted that the spectacle of the Paralympics had offered a great opportunity for academic engagement and interrogation that could mark the end point of critical avoidance. To this end she noted with anticipation the Bournemouth Media School Paralympic collection that aims to expose the ideological cracks in the shiny exterior of Paralympic rhetoric and representation.
For more information on the long term economic plans of impairment charities that currently appear to be supporting disability rights see Black Triangle’s website https://goo.gl/kFYkdT
The DSN would like to take this opportunity to draw MeCCSA members’ attention to some of the key grassroots campaigns against austerity arising from within the Disabled People’s Movement. In particular we would invite colleagues to engage with the work of Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle and the Mental Health Resistance Network. These organisations have arisen in response to the implementation of austerity cuts that have seen the systematic attack on justice and human rights for disabled people. All the sites contain insightful political and economic analysis, research and personal testimony and offer a wealth of material to draw upon in teaching and/or research.