Today is one of the most important days to date for disabled people in Britain and a breakthrough for disability arts in the country. Unlimited, the UK's largest ever disability arts programme, is set to transform the disability arts movement in the UK as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
Why is disability arts so important? Because it gives us a freedom like no other to strive for artistic expression, champion our destinies and, through this, create awareness and combat prejudice. Disability arts moves the narrative about disability beyond legislation, acts of parliament and employment law, to become a transformative, expressive, participative and involving process of change. It provides a feeling of solidarity and hope to disabled people – often pushing at seemingly insurmountable barriers in their own countries.
Paralympic sport has made giant leaps in promoting disability awareness and by working in collaboration with disabled artists, we have the opportunity to help strengthen the agenda of equality, inclusion and celebration which can be handed on to Brazil and other Games.
Disability arts complements disability sports and provides a subtle and powerful way of inviting debate on the complexity of disability and giving disabled people a wide range of expression – from visual arts to dance. We are leading in defining our direction, artistic expression and striving for excellence.
The commitment of London 2012 to create Unlimited is a sign of the maturing of the Games and our society, with concrete steps to support disabled artists where it is needed most, financial awards and an opportunity to showcase our work globally.
Hand in hand with maturity and the drive for excellence comes the opportunity to critique. And this is what we want. London 2012 has given us a global platform, an audience of billions, and opportunity like no other to take a giant leap forward in changing the perceptions of disabled people. Cast aside the tired language of "worthy but dull", "brave but flawed" and critique the work we hold up to be judged. Help foster young talent, and let's build the stars of the future – whether disabled or not.
The author, who is deaf, has been the artistic director of Graeae Theatre Company, which works with disabled adults, since 1997. She is an artistic adviser to UnlimitedReuse content