The Stalking Histories Project uses
a Social Model approach to the issue of disability. This means that we
have particular ideas about what disability is, what causes it and what
we should do about it.
" People who have physical impairments
Firstly it is important to understand
that the Social Model separates impairment from disability. Impairment
is a long term/permanent medical condition or physical/mental difference
which the disabled person experiences. The Social Model re-defines disability
as a social construction; it is the negative attitudes, the inflexible
organisational procedures, the inaccessible information and the barriers
in the built environment that exclude disabled people. So disability is
the discrimination and exclusion perpetrated against the disabled people.
This medical understanding of disability is the traditional view and it is rooted in the historical development of the medical industry. It is the foundation for all services and legislation relevant to disability. The enforcement of this approach has institutionalised discrimination against disabled people.
So, to illustrate the different models with a simple example: Take a situation where a person, who has a mobility impairment and so, is unable to access a public building because of the stairs. A social model approach here would identify the stairs as the problem and a ramp as the solution for the benefit of the whole community. In contrast the medical model would identify the problem as the person being unable to use the stairs, solutions will probably be individual; to use the service located in the inaccessible building on the behalf of the disabled person; to use medical intervention to enable them to use stairs or to provide an alternative option (segregation).
So to go back to those original questions at Stalking Histories we believe that Disability (discrimination) is a human creation. It is a consequence of the beliefs, values and behaviours in our society. For example the assumption that people can walk up stairs has led to behaviours which have created an inaccessible environment to those who do not walk up stairs. If disability is a consequence of human activity then it can be changed. Impairment and difference, of course, will always be with us in some form.
At Stalking Histories we are interested in artwork that is informed by these ideas, particularly when dealing with the issue of impairment. This kind of art is often called 'Disability Arts' because it is not just art made by people who happen to have impairment/difference but art made to explore and increase our understanding of Disability and the experience of impairment and difference.