We work to promote inclusion by building the capacity of disabled artists and provide an opportunity for audiences to engage with performances by them. We seek to promote greater understanding enabling social change, cohesion, progress, and enhancing our common understanding and humanity through creativity.
Our Global Arts and Disability programme offers international cultural connections and experiences that are designed to strengthen the resilience of persons with disabilities. We facilitate the creation of disability arts networks and assist in the development of skills for organisations around the world to support artists.
We provided a grant to VisAbility e.V. where they will use the arts (in this case, dance) to promote inclusive development for people with disabilities by challenging and changing community perceptions through Mixed-Abled Dance Workshops and Disability Rights Workshops. They will also work with Universities of Essex and Coventry for research on the impact. They have also received partnership funding from the Schmitz Foundation.
In phase 1, during 2019, 67 mixed-abled participants in Vavunathivu and Paddipalai (Batticaloa District) and Puttur East (Jaffna District) where trained and public performances engaged with an audience of 500 – 600 across the 3 districts.
In phase 2, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the project had to pivot online. 21 weekly workshops were conducted for 14 participants including 6 with disabilities between 11 October and 21 December 2021. Prior to the workshops, both VisAbility staff members and participants had to run through digital training sessions. The workshops covered socio-cultural topics (class, power relations, culturally influenced prejudices on people with disabilities), economic disadvantages, and the value of diversity. The sessions discussed the laws and rights of people with disabilities, the situation of people with disabilities in Sri Lanka, as well as ways to use the arts and activism to cause change in society. They also introduced public institutions (legal aid, courts, divisional secretariats), their role and tasks. The sessions were delivered by VisAbility staff members and three external facilitators. At the end of all sessions, VisAbility streamed 10 public dance performances (1 group and 9 solo pieces) via Facebook and YouTube between 29 December 2020 and 24 January 2021. An average of 110 people watched the performances every week.
A toolbox of guidelines and video clips were also prepared. The guidelines seek to offer a session plan of six online, offline or semi-blended dance/ rights workshops. It targets facilitators with no or little experiences. The video clips serve to visualise the described exercises.
Choreographer and dancer Mahesh Umagiliya, the country rep for VisAbility e.V. was the Sri Lankan delegate for the UNLIMITED 2019 Arts and Disability Festival at the Southbank Centre, London.