We are constantly answering questions about how to introduce the art of theatre to individuals with disabilities. Of course, why we have a passion to introduce theatre to this population requires a discussion on equality, opportunity and choice. In our quest to fully reflect the mission of 4th Wall, we focus on the concepts of self-worth that are often lacking for those with disabilities. As we enter the new year, let’s give attention to some perspectives on one of these ideals: dignity.
The organization, Rooted in Rights, aims to broaden the disability conversation through videos on perspectives and rights affecting those with a variety of disabilities. This video lays the basis of what dignity is for people with disabilities; acknowledging that we are people, first and foremost.
Loretta Claiborne gives this must watch TedxMidAtlantic talk about being a fearless advocate with an intellectual disability, the opportunities and choices provided by Special Olympics, and the faith that one day people with intellectual disabilities can be seen as people, like everyone else.
Ben Myers focuses on “The Disability Conversation” at TedxOStateU and uses his own experiences with a physical disability to encourage others to get talking about what they don’t understand so fear does not take control.
All three of these videos discuss elements of dignity in the disability experience. By not defining dignity, these perspectives show that the essence of having dignity is being given opportunities and choice in an environment that recognizes people with disabilities as people.
I have often seen in society, and have experienced personally as a person with a physical disability, dignity being denied or taken from people with disabilities because they are kept out of the conversation. Whether the topic be housing, healthcare, transportation, education, employment or–for the purposes of 4th Wall–inclusion, the best way to preserve dignity and create success is to include people with disabilities in these conversations. And let’s take it one step further; the people whose lives are most affected by these conversations should be the ones most often heard from and heeded–Nothing About Us, Without Us! (At 4th Wall Theatre Co. they are often also the loudest: which we totally encourage! )