Break the limit: Chinese disability activists call for more inclusive access to arts

If we say art is the greatest spiritual jewel for all human beings, is it true that EVERYONE gets to appreciate its beauty?

Well, some of us are actually having a harder time than most people would imagine and China, like many other countries across the world, is making efforts to remove the obstacles and make arts more inclusive in a society widely designed for the able-bodied.

“How do I know what is available and where it is? How can I get to and move around the venue? How will others treat me? These are the three most common problems faced by people with disability,” said Gary Robson, a British actor and writer, during a panel discussion in the China-Britain Unlimited Art Forum, which was a highlight event of the 2019 Luminous Festival, China’s first Inclusive Arts festival opened on Oct. 13.

China has gradually integrated such needs through multiple ways, according to disabled and disability-friendly artists and promotors at the discussion.

Since 2013, the China International Cultural Association has been regularly sending art students to 25 countries and regions to learn novel disability-friendly measures taken by galleries and museums.

Last year, Zheng Xiaosan, a hearing-impaired director from Shanghai, and the team of the “Kinky Boots” China tour, introduced the first-ever musical performance with sign language interpreters in the country.

Nevertheless, China is still at a very early stage in promoting the inclusiveness of arts, largely due to the insufficiency of public awareness and funds, according to observers.

Major art institutions including theatres, museums, and exhibitions lack barrier-free access and experience zones for the deaf and visually impaired. Moreover, people with physical or psychological disorders, in general, do not have a public platform to search for art events and exchanges, let alone finding a job in the art area.

Efforts made should not be FOR the disabled, but WITH the disabled as much as possible, in order to cater to their real needs, Robson emphasized.

In fact, inclusiveness is not limited to disability, but also refers to aging, gender, and social minorities’ issues, several activists with disability noted at the forum, who aspired to work with the world to celebrate diversity and spread the healing power of arts in China, gradually making the society a truly symbiotic home for EVERYONE.

Source: People’s Daily