It is 40 years since the world's first disability legislation was steered through Parliament onto the statute book.
Hailed as the 'Magna Carta' for disabled people, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 set down specific provisions for the inclusion of people with disabilities in welfare services, housing, education and recreational facilities. While much progress has been made since this groundbreaking step on the road to equality was introduced, people with disabilities continue to encounter discrimination and exclusion.
At St Dunstan's, the charity working to secure an independent future for blind and partially-sighted members of our Armed Forces, we see, first-hand, the positive impact art and culture can have in the rehabilitation process for blind and visually-impaired people. Yet we know that people with serious sight problems struggle to fully participate in cultural experiences, such as museums and art galleries, with exhibitions and displays designed, primarily, for only the sighted.
By introducing simple measures, such as audio description, tactile displays and through harnessing the power of IT, art and cultural venues would make an important contribution towards promoting inclusion and equality for disabled people. By bringing exhibitions to life, our cultural institutions would help them share in the same immersive experience and joy we often take for granted when visiting museums and art galleries.
That's why St Dunstan's is supporting a ground-breaking Resolution, which calls for Europe-wide action to remove the barriers that blind and partially-sighted people face when visiting museums, galleries and heritage collections. Passed at a recent international conference, held by St Dunstan's and the European Blind Union and presented to the European Commission and European Disability Forum in Brussels, the Resolution urges national governments to promote the full participation of people with a visual impairment in all aspects of art and culture.
At St Dunstan's, classes run by the Art and Craft Department at our flagship rehabilitation and training Centre in Ovingdean, Brighton, is transforming the lives of the ex-Service personnel we work with. The classes help unlock their creativity and provide them with a channel through which a range of emotions can be expressed. Giving disabled people the chance to fully experience the power of art and culture, on an equal basis with others, brings a host of therapeutic benefits and gives them a sense of achievement, pride and belonging.
We ask so much of those who make incredible sacrifices by putting their lives on the line for our safety and security. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the world's first disability discrimination legislation, let us all make a pledge to make 2011 the year we redouble our efforts to tackle the barriers that prevent our blind and partially-sighted ex-Service men and women from a playing a full and active role in society.
St Dunstan's Ovingdean Centre
East Sussex BN2 7BS
T: 020 7616 7932 (media enquiries)
Notes to Editors:
The In Touch with Art 2010 Resolution 'Equal Access to Museums for Visually Impaired People' was presented to the European Commission in Brussels on December 3 2010
144 delegates from 22 countries and 4 continents passed the In Touch with Art Resolution. The Resolution was passed by delegates at a conference held on 13 October 2010 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, held by St Dunstan's and the European Blind Union.
St Dunstan's - An independent future for blind ex-Service men and women. For more information, please visit our website at: www.st-dunstans.org.uk or call us on 0300 111 2233.
Patron: Her Majesty the Queen. A company Limited by guarantee No. 189648 Registered Charity No. 216227 (England & Wales) and SC039411 (Scotland) Registered in England at 12-14 Harcourt Street, London W1H 4HD
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