A leading disability arts organisation has called on the Welsh government to provide new cultural and international rights for disabled people.
Disability Arts Cymru, the leading organisation for disability arts in Wales, spoke out as it launched a new manifesto: Bring Us Our Creative Rights.
The manifesto says that many disabled people who want to develop careers in the arts and creative sector face “multiple barriers”, such as a lack of opportunities in education, a lack of understanding of their access needs, and inaccessible funding portals.
Its key demand is for the Welsh government and other organisations to take steps that would implement parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The manifesto focuses on two articles of the convention, article 30 and article 32.
Article 30 says governments must take measures to enable disabled people to “have the opportunity to develop and utilize their creative, artistic and intellectual potential, not only for their own benefit, but also for the enrichment of society”.
The manifesto calls for measures that would implement article 30 in Wales, including an obligation on publicly-funded organisations to introduce equality action plans to ensure that access is “standard” for all arts audiences, participants and staff; and the development of a new disabled people’s cultural leaders programme that would support participation in all levels of public life.
Article 32 says that governments must recognise the importance of “international cooperation”.
The manifesto calls for measures to implement article 32 in Wales, including more opportunities for disabled creatives to connect with other countries; and enabling disabled people to take part in international opportunities, for example as leaders, collaborators and presenters.
The manifesto also calls for statutory recognition of British Sign Language; and to make disability equality training mandatory at all levels of the Welsh government and public bodies.
The manifesto, supported by Disability Wales, the Arts Council of Wales (ACW), and ACW’s international agency, Wales Arts International, was launched on 3 December, the international day of disabled people.
Dr Natasha Hirst, DAC’s chair, said: “As we developed our manifesto, it was clear that disabled people are still too easily disregarded when we call for access to arts and culture.
“We are certainly not treated as equals despite decades of legislation and policies that claim to prevent our exclusion.
“Arts and culture are central to all social and political change and we must be equal and visible participants in this.
“That can only happen when we have full access to all of our rights. Disabled people are done with platitudes. Now is the time for action.”
Disabled writer Kaite O’Reilly, who spoke at the launch, said: “The disability community is dynamic, diverse, intersectional, creative and innovative, but we are still overlooked, underdeveloped, under-funded and under-valued.
“Our culture and contribution is unfamiliar to many owing to the historical impact of segregation, institutionalisation, and systemic ableism.”
Phil George, ACW’s chair, said: “At the Arts Council of Wales, we completely support the perspective of the social model of disability, and we strongly affirm that it is our responsibility and the responsibility of the organisations we fund to address the many barriers preventing disabled people achieving creative fulfilment in the arts.
“Supporting this manifesto expresses our commitment to working with disabled people to achieve full inclusion in the making and enjoyment of the arts.
“The whole society will be culturally richer if disabled people have the creative rights which have been so often and so shockingly denied to them.”
A spokesperson for the Welsh government said: “We have a clear commitment to promoting and protecting human rights in Wales and our recent Programme for Government incorporates the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into its plans for this governmental term.
“We have worked with disability groups throughout the pandemic to understand the impact of coronavirus on their lives and, as a result, we have already taken action to address concerns, including the establishment of a minister-led taskforce including leaders of the disabled people’s movement in Wales. Disability Arts Cymru have joined this also.
“Additionally, earlier this year we published research into strengthening and advancing equality and human rights in Wales.
“The recommendations of this, including those which relate to incorporation of UN conventions, are presently being shared and discussed to consider how they might be integrated into ongoing and future planned work.
“We will consult on any legislative models that emerge, including with those public bodies which may be affected by proposed new duties.”
Picture: The DAC Arts Prize exhibition in Oriel Davies Newtown, 2020
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