Art and disability week on The Overtake

4th June 2018

This week we’re shining our metaphorical spotlight on disabled artists. From musicians to painters, from writers to graffitiers, from poets to anyone else, artists are as likely to have long-term physical, mental or developmental illnesses as anyone else.

We’re doing this because 11 million people in the UK (that’s 6% of us) are living with a long term illness, impairment or disability, and they are underrepresented in the arts, if represented at all.

If you’ve ever had the misfortune to see US TV goliath The Big Bang Theory, you might have noticed the five main characters — and especially fan favourite Sheldon Cooper — are depicted with stereotypical autistic mannerisms and behaviours, which are never addressed as such. What’s worse, they can often become the punchlines for jokes.

In real life, people with disabilities in the UK are 20% less likely to be in work, let alone be in a well-paid position like the university lecturers in The Big Bang Theory. In fact, 19% of individuals in families with at least one disabled member live in poverty, compared to 15% of individuals with no disabled family member. Additionally, life costs you £570 more on average a month if you’re disabled.

Sadly, it has become the norm for disabilities to be overlooked, ignored or excluded from media and the arts, but there is by no means a lack of talented, and disabled, artists. The movie industry, in particular, persists with casting able-bodied actors in the roles of disabled characters, such as Alec Baldwin in Blind just last year.

More inclusion of people with disabilities will encourage others to live their best life and benefit society as a whole. Opportunities need to be given to people like DJ Casey Rochell, and the government need to stop cutting services for those with disabilities again and again.

But instead of complaining about the Tories, we’re going to celebrate the achievements of some disabled artists. This week we’re talking to a Peace Pirate about his guitar and his hook, finding out about artists you didn’t know were disabled and taking a look at disabilities on the catwalk, and how accessible disability-friendly fashion really is.

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4th June 2018