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a screen shot of DAO's website


It's great to be part of the Sync programme. We want to move on as an organisation; we're now looking inwards and outwards for clues to help us grow our core skills and competencies. We know we'll learn a lot from the experiences of others, and it might just be that we'll be doing some talking too. Learning and developing isn't always easy, so we'll be coming equipped to take the rough and the smooth in equal measure.

DAO is a unique online journal. First published in 2001, DAO publishes quality work by, and about, Deaf and Disabled artists. As part of this process, we aim to raise awareness of the issues that face all of us working across the disability spectrum. We are just starting a fresh programme for writers called New Voices following a successful G4A award from Arts Council England, we're now focussing on animating and evolving our journal in sustainable and creative ways.

painting by Colin Hambrook of a sun rising from a complex web


Colin Hambrook, and Trish Wheatley tell us what they think is at the heart of DAO...

Colin Hambrook

Disability arts - is it politics, or is it art? Who decides?

DAO (Disability Arts Online) is more than just a website. It is a place where discussion around creativity and artistic practice is disseminated in a way that is open for public consumption – outside of the barriers we the disability arts ghetto have set for ourselves in which we hide our opinions for fear of upsetting the apple cart.

We connect with artists. We showcase important work. We discuss important issues. It is a unique place where the disabled and deaf voice is given priority. Our work has the potential for opening up discussions about the human condition that have never been had before. There are lots of positive, creative, artistic sides to the disability experience that DAO reflects and records. We have the potential to educate and to disseminate the kind of information that few web resources are set up to provide.

I have always been reluctant to write about my impairment issues. Such talk always leads towards a medical model, victim mentality. And that is why the disability arts community has always, rightly, made room for self-definition. We’ve been labouring against medical model labels that brand us as tragic for a long time. And certainly the weight of media still continues to represent us as victims of our conditions and to define us with negative stories about our lives; dressing us up in the emperors’ bravest clothing.

For some time we have been labouring to get to grips with the Social Model thing about celebrating difference and understanding how the barriers to equality of opportunity etc. have been imposed on us by society. There has been a lot of mileage in those ideas; questioning the medical model and societies attitudes to disability. They have given us room to build the disability arts movement. But now we have the DDA and a lot of positive change has come over the past ten years, in terms of accessibility and equality of opportunity. But there is still a weight of discrimination to fight against and I am not sure that any of us know where the disability arts movement is going? We have consistently failed to come together to debate our vision and purpose and to fight our corner for self-determination as a whole. DAO is the last hope, perhaps…

DAO’s intentions and vision have always been a tall order. There is so much work to be done and so few who understand it. I may well have been labouring under a misapprehension, but I hope not…

There is also the social inclusion and networking side to DAO’s potential operation. We are designed to look at usability and accessibility and could be a revolution if we can develop the capacity to make it happen!

Trish Wheatley

Q: What’s in the pipeline for DAO?

A: New Voices is our next big project and the focus of our work over the next year. We’ve already had a fantastically successful pilot run based at Spike Island in Bristol during early 2011, which has seen three diverse and equally fascinating individuals contribute to the debate on DAO. New Voices will bring 2 groups of disabled writers together, one in Brighton, the other in London and deliver a workshop programme designed to enhanced their critical art writing skills.

Each of the New Voices writers will have their own section on DAO and contribute three pieces of content for each month of the programme. We are currently negotiating with organisations to act as hosts for writers residencies which will boost the offer to our writers and the potential partners. In recent times the blogging on DAO has gone from strength to strength and is now the most popular and commented on aspect of the journal. We aim to support our bloggers and encourage new people to take part throughout the coming months.

Q: As the newest member of the DAO team, what do you think is at the heart of DAO?

A: For me, it’s about how people interact with DAO and what they get from it. They could be a general audience, programmers, bloggers, students, anyone who visits or contributes to the site. In DAO we have a perfect opportunity to share the successes, celebrate the achievements, contribute to the debate and showcase to the world. I believe at DAO’s heart is the ambition to be most entertaining, current, exciting and comprehensive online resource for anyone looking to find out about or engage with the arts in a disability context.