The Living Declaration

‘This Is Not For You’ Graeae, 2018


As the public health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic continues, more and more people are asking themselves fundamental questions – about the values we profess, about social justice, about how we live. There is an abundance of analysis and dreaming, and some of it will surely change the world, though in which direction remains to be seen. In all that, I’ve not yet seen anything more important, more fundamental, than the Living Declaration of Disability, Equality and Resilience. It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death for millions of our fellow-citizens, who are unable to obtain what are simply their human rights.

In times of resource allocation, manufactured crises and critical shortages – such as COVID 19 – we must reaffirm that all People with Disabilities / Disabled people are valid in their needs and expectations in upholding all rights accorded to personhood  – physically, psychologically and socially

Drafted in record time by six people – activists, artists, researchers and campaigners – it is a vital reminder to governments, but also to society as a whole, that no one must be left behind in the scramble for safety

Among its authors is Jenny Sealey, artistic director of Graeae, who has done so much to bring the creativity, imagination and experience of D/deaf and disabled people into the heart, if not always the centre, of British life. I have known Graeae’s work for 30 years, and my admiration of their work only grows. It is one of the joys of my professional life to work on evaluating their extraordinary 2018 production This Is Not For You, created with 25 ex-service personnel and one of the most moving – and challenging – artworks to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The piece underlines both the exceptional contribution that disabled people make in every walk of life and the common injustice of their treatment. We need artists like Jenny Sealey to understand their stories and their lives. But we also need challenges and campaigns like this one – and we need them now, as vital choices about treatment are being made.