Disability Equality Ethos Statement
Little Cog is a proud part of a disability arts and culture movement to end ableism and to end cultural theft by crip-taking (see definition below). We are committed to promoting and championing an understanding, and the incorporation, of a Disability Equality Ethos in the art and culture of the nation. It will require rigourous examination and investigation of what this would mean in both policy and practice in our current systems.
We promote disabled-led work and demand that the arts and culture sector in this country talk with us about what precisely this means and how it can be implemented across all publicly funded venues and organisations.
Little Cog works in specific artistic and strategic ways to actively programme and deliver new and increased opportunities by, with and for disabled people at all levels in the arts. We are working to ensure our cultural landscape is vibrant and proportionately representative of the disabled people living and working in our communities.
We want the content of work, whether produced in the largest galleries or on the largest stages, to be scrutinised for its perpetuation of age old and dangerous stereotypes and tropes around disability and disabled people. It is essential that 21st Century Britain brings an end to crip-taking (see definition below).
We want to see changes to inaccessible activities in inaccessible buildings run by inaccessible people with inaccessible attitudes. We want to see meaningful change now to arts systems and structures.
Our broad aims are:
Through our artistic policy, Little Cog is committed to supporting work which is contemporary in its approach and relevant to peoples’ lives today, whilst clearly locating how the past has shaped our contemporary societal views on disability and disabled people.
Thinking About Disability in Different Ways
Social Model of Disability: We are working to the Social Model of Disability which was developed by disabled people. The social model says that disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person's condition or difference. It looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people. Such barriers include physical, sensory, neurodivergent, information and attitudinal barriers and solutions include accessible buildings with level access and lifts, British Sign Language, and infra-red or induction loop hearing access, relaxed spaces and practices, guide or assistance dog access, braille, large print and audio information, and a change in attitudes and practices by increasing understanding of disability and disability equality. We aim to work with disabled people of all ages and from across all communities.
Other models of disability: The way that society views disability has been informed by charity and medical models of disability which both suggest a deficit version of a human being, needy and something being ‘wrong’ with a person who can’t look after themselves. The social model directly challenges those perspectives and provides solutions for society to be less disabling. Disability studies are evolving new models of disability to either build on and sometimes reject the social model of disability. Our current view at Little Cog is that all of this new thinking is both critical and essential, but society has not yet changed or moved beyond the demands and soultions of the social model. It can be summed up as disability is the lived experience of discrimination and barriers. The model does not deny the daily lived experiences we have with our conditions but offers solutions to systemic ableism.
Disabled-led: For us the term disabled-led is not about a 51% / 49% ratio of disabled board members. It is about the ethics and practice of ensuring work by, for, with or about disabled people is led by disabled people from conception to planning to delivery to evaluation. A way of working that ensures art and culture is informed, managed and delivered by disabled people. Disabled-led needs to become a permanent fixture in all art and culture – organisations, venues, funding, networks, infrastructures – and not as a transient fad as diversity priorities change or come and go. Disabled people can not be expected to continually re-make the case across lifetimes and careers in the arts to successive changes in personnel in positions of power.
Self-defining: We also realise that many people with conditions do not identify themselves as disabled, for many reasons, but sometimes due to the negative stigma attached to ideas around ‘disability’. This is part of an ongoing conversation. We believe that in order to achieve equality for disabled artists, practitioners, professionals, managers, participants and audiences, it is necessary to use definitions about disability, although we do not expect people to change how they choose to define themselves.
Crip-taking and the ethics of who gets to tell disabled peoples’ stories
Crip-taking is cultural theft. It is ablesim. It is the sustained historical and cultural mis-representation and exclusion of disabled people, our value and contribution. It is erasure. It is the dilution of our identities and experiences in systemic oppression. It is the taking of disabled peoples' voices, stories and roles.
A major driving force behind our work is about the ethics of who tells the stories of disabled people. We firmly believe that work with a disability focus must be disabled-led and that artists creating work about disability are disabled people. We expect disabled people to fill the roles of disabled characters and we expect artists and companies to cast disabled people in roles where disability is not necessarily a focus of the production. Otherwise it is cultural theft.
We expect to see an end to ‘crip-taking’ and the ableist practice of taking our voices, stories and roles.