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ART:DIS exists to serve and create opportunities for persons with disabilities in the arts. By adopting the definition used within Singapore’s Enabling Masterplan, this means we are committed to enabling, empowering and engaging persons whose prospects of securing, retaining and advancing in education and employment are substantially reduced as a result of physical, sensory and/or intellectual disabilities.
As one of the few social service agencies (SSAs) in Singapore that accepts students or artists with physical, sensory and/or intellectual disabilities, this means we have differentiated approaches to learning, training and collaborating which are adapted to suit the students’ and artists’ accessibility needs.
This is one example of how ART:DIS puts into practice the Social Model of Disability. Widely adopted by many leading disability organisations in Europe and Australia, and developed by persons with disabilities themselves, this model holds that people are disabled by barriers in society and not by their own impairment or difference. For example, if a visually-impaired child is unable to enjoy fully a picture storybook, the Social Model places the fault with the author or publisher for not providing creative descriptions of images so that the child can have an immersive experience.
The Social Model is a direct challenge to two outdated but still practised models – the Medical Model which treats persons with disabilities as sick and needing to be cured or cared for through medical intervention, and the Charity Model which views persons with disabilities as pitiful cases requiring constant support or inspiring heroes worthy of worship.
ART:DIS believes both the Medical and Charity Models do not acknowledge the capabilities of persons with disabilities and leads to loss of their independence, voice and control. By adopting the Social Model of Disability, ART:DIS aims to work with allies to find universal solutions that organises society in a way where disability inclusion is the norm. We are therefore committed to changing physical, attitudinal and communication barriers whilst increasing access so that our students and artists with disabilities can participate actively and equally in society.