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Disability Arts Online

Wednesday 24 June 2008 / 25 June 2008

I have been on holiday- very nice thank you. It was to France. I ended up spending a few days in Grenoble as part of it and I was impressed by the accessibility of the place and the high visibility of disabled people in the city. It is actually quite unlike a lot of other European places (including in France) where disabled people are by and large invisible and probably institutionalised. I have no idea why Grenoble is so different (if you know please tell me) but it was a great relief compared the absence of disabled people that is usually so apparent. I only really do Europe as I do not fly: fear is the key. I have no problem with my fear of flying (unlike my fear of dying) and I am quite happy to drive around Europe recognising I am lucky enough to be able to and I can afford it.

I hate coming home – even though I am usually relieved to be able to use a loo or a bath at home that actually suites me. So many baths, showers, toilets and the like in hotel - designed for disabled people - are, to put it bluntly, bizarre. A 2 inch deep baths that are only three feet long behind a door is whose view of disability? And no, that was not a shower! Coming home was even more depressing this year as it coincided with the publication of the honours lists: the usual do-gooders and lackeys rewarded for being born patronising or middle or upper class (honest Guv: it’s not their fault).

What stuck out was a medical honour on the BBC website gloriously titled as 'birth defect test guru knighted.' Basically, the chap in question has been instrumental in developing tests for the pre-natal idetification of Downs Syndrome, Spina Bifida and Anencephaly which does not harm the prospects of normal babies. The BBC proudly told us about the chap that his work has led to a 95% reduction in the prevalence of spina bifida. As a result of his work, antenatal screening for anencephaly and spina bifida is now routine throughout the world.

Now, what can I say. Thanks to this man (who the governernment and the Queen recognise as being more than any other as worthy of credit for such work) there are now virtually no more people like me being born. They are being concieved, they are not being born. But, it goes further: thanks again to this chap we are not even being concieved as we used to be (he is identified as promoting pre-natal strategies such as Folic Acid to prevent our conception – much like the Charity that represents people with Spian Bifida: ASBAH). Such joy that he helped rid the world of people with Spina Bifida (and Downs and Anencephaly. Laugh, I could - and did - cry.

What has this got to do with art: a lot actually. Art is now relatively irrelevant in defining humanity or the direction of the great human experiment that is life and society. Science (medicine and its concomitant cohorts particularly) now define humanity. Such a reality will increasingly define our, as artists, significance as art practionioers, our income and our role in wider society. For Disability Art is perhaps our greatest challenge and a cause we fight alone. The reality of the representation of such an honour as above on the likes of the BBC shows the degree to which its – any - disability coverage is mere tokenism and that the greater idealogy of the negation of difference is at the core what all culture now seemingly represents. The Quality Press is no different: The Guardian and The Independent (et al) now read like propoganda for a eugenicist futurist movement previous advocates could only have dreamt of (except on Token day on a Wednesday in The Guardian).

Our role as artists is to keep the human in humanity. Something scientists are not actually capable of. Disability Art will not only save disabled people it will save humanity from itself. Unless of course the capitalists destroy us all first!