Positive examples of disabilities and disability as aesthetic?
November 27, 2022 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Please share suggestions for film, books, songs, architecture, design, theater or similar that addresses issues of disabilities intelligently, with compassion, with bonus points for consideration of disability as an aesthetic.

These materials will inform a graduate urban planning studio focused on improving recreational access to trails in the Northeastern United States. The course will plan real world projects that will be implemented and that will have significant regional impact. A core component of the studio will include planning for consistency with the Americans With Disability Act (ADA) and consideration of Universal Design principles. Students will host in-person and virtual public outreach sessions for input on proposed designs, and the public engagement portion of the class must also be consistent with ADA best practices. I would like to include positive cultural references to disabilities and how they are accommodated throughout the course.
posted by tidecat to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Consider looking into All Abilities Playgrounds, which are recreational playgrounds/spaces that are intended for "All abilities" and takes into account multiple different disabilities. Here is some information on them. The thing I like about them is that they take into account the disabilities of both children and adults, as well as "invisible" disabilities, such as autism, blindness and deafness. An example is this park in California, Mia's Dream Come True, which takes into account physical disabilities - it even has a swing for wheelchairs - but also children/adults with sensory issues and is open/unobstructed for Deaf families to be able to sign together. This is one example, but there are several throughout the country, so if there is one local to your students, a field trip would be enlightening.
posted by Toddles at 8:45 AM on November 27, 2022 [4 favorites]

In My Language was a game-changer for this. A must.
posted by ojocaliente at 8:48 AM on November 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

You might be interested in the work of landscape painter Mary Duffy. Best Foot Forward is one place to start or Unarmed and Dangerous.
posted by BobTheScientist at 8:48 AM on November 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it's exactly what you're after, but maybe the work of Alison Lapper would be of interest? She's an artist and was also the model for a well-known sculpture which was displayed in Trafalgar Square, London, for a few years.

She was born with no arms and shortened legs, and from that wikipedia page: "Lapper uses photography, digital imaging, and painting to, as she says, question physical normality and beauty, using herself as a subject."
posted by penguin pie at 9:22 AM on November 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

A few come to mind:

Deaf architecture is a fairly well-developed genre of design, with concepts and buildings dating back back at least 100 years.

The recent McSweeny's Audio Issue tackles accessibility in a really profound way, by creating a second text version of the magazine that contains insights from blind and DeafBlind writers (Andrew Leland and John Lee Clark) as well as a Plain Language translation.

And artist Christine Sun Kim is a Deaf artist working in sound and mixed media that strongly articulates a "Deaf aesthetic":

Disabled writer Jillian Weise is a must-read as well, on "cyborgs and tryborgs" and disability vis-a-vis feminsim, and offering some pretty savage critiques of able-bodied writers engaging with disability in her persona as Tipsy Tullivan.
posted by Playdoughnails at 9:38 AM on November 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Look into Riva Lehrer's art!
posted by spiderbeforesunset at 9:43 AM on November 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

The tv show Special
posted by bookworm4125 at 9:55 AM on November 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was there for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics and it really blew me away. Finished with monumental figure of Alison Lapper
, mentioned above. Widely available on YouTube, and also a lot of the performing artists would be well worth seeking out.
posted by tardigrade at 11:25 AM on November 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

On disability hacks and DIY culture versus ‘disability dongles’. https://thebaffler.com/salvos/care-tactics-mauldin
posted by d288478 at 11:45 AM on November 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Disabled (and brilliant and hilarious) historian Charles Hughes wrote a moving, personal, and really astute book about disabled rapper Bushwick Bill (of the Geto Boys).
posted by dr. boludo at 11:57 AM on November 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Molly McCully Brown, who has cerebral palsy, has written a wonderful book of essays called Places I've Taken My Body. For a more historical point of view, she also has a book of poetry called The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. This was an institution near her home, and she recognized that in an earlier time period, she might have ended up there. She is just an amazing writer, and I cannot say enough good things about her work.
posted by FencingGal at 12:09 PM on November 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

"disability as an aesthetic"

immediately made me think of model & pop music singer Viktoria Modesta:

Viktoria Modesta previously on MetaFilter:
posted by Jacqueline at 2:43 PM on November 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Seconding that Viktoria Modesta post. I remember being blown away by it at the time.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 2:45 PM on November 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Sins Invalid is invaluable in the disability arts & wider disability justice movement - their work is performance-based but there's a lot in terms of disability aesthetics that may be useful.
posted by creatrixtiara at 9:12 PM on November 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

I watched Sound of Metal last night, very well done. (The sound design won an Oscar; worth seeing for that auditory experience of what being deaf might entail.) And some scenes (esp. the group of deaf people having a meal), reminded me of one of my favorite SF stories, Persistence of Vision.
posted by Bron at 7:41 AM on November 30, 2022

Cooper Hewitt Museum in NYC had an exhibit on Access + Ability that brought together thoughtful elements of design serving different abilities. The exhibit was in the past but their website still has a list of the highlights. I believe they have recorded videos of past events. They list this on their highlights but the NYU Ability Project might be a good resource as they bring NYU students together to fit technology and design to abilities.
posted by ichimunki at 7:43 AM on December 1, 2022

Riva Lehrer wrote a book, too, Golem Girl, which is great & might be useful.
Also maybe Graeae Theatre. They have a podcast that talks about stuff like this with various disabled creators. One of their founders, Nabil Shaban, also has a YouTube channel, 2BenefitPeople, where you can see a lot of his work and some of Graeae's productions.
posted by BlueNorther at 8:01 AM on December 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

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