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Disability Arts Online

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Disability Arts Online Archived page from summer 2016

Sculpture made from segments of trees by Tony Heaton

Six Circles 1989 © Tony Heaton

Disability Arts Online: transforming and enriching arts and culture

This is an archived page. If you are looking for the current organisation please go to the updated url at Disability Arts Online 

DAO's vision is to achieve widespread appreciation for the richness and diversity of disability arts and culture.

We aim to do this by transforming and enriching arts and culture through nurturing creativity and discourse from a disability perspective.

We are bold and fearless in instigating intelligent debate to support the development of disability arts and culture.

We are a portal into the world of disability arts and a hub that connects people in a strong and vibrant creative community.

We nurture and showcase talent, provide information and create opportunities for disabled artists through innovative partnerships. 

We are an empowering disability-led organisation with 83% of the board and 95% of our writers identifying as disabled people.

We regularly attract over 30,000 pageviews every month.

We have a growing international reach including readers in Australia, Korea, India, the United States and Europe

What people say about us

“I think you do a fantastic job, the world is a culturally richer and more amazing place because DAO exists”

“DAO provides underrepresented people with a platform to express themselves.”

“I think you provide a very valuable resource and it is wonderful to see that it is such a thriving community.”

“A remarkable resource. Constantly delivering new material, it is always stimulating.  It is now the only journal of record for the disability arts movement, and as such, a highly important resource for those of us who wish to follow new developments in this area.”

“[DAO is] a link to the disability arts world which I think is vital in terms of forming a positive identity as a disabled person. It's important to me because I am housebound so cannot access things in the traditional manner.”


Who is DAO?

Trish Wheatley is DAO's Director and works three days per week. Working in the arts sector since 2005, she has developed a passion and specialism in working with and supporting disabled artists having started her career at Holton Lee curating and managing the Disability Arts programme. In 2009 she moved into freelance work and has a significant portfolio which includes: Shape, London, LinkUpArts in Salisbury, consultancy work for DAO, project development for many individual disabled artists and the creation of Freewheeling. Her other part-time work is currently as the Project Manager and co-producer for Freewheeling which is producing Sue Austin’s Unlimited commission, ‘Creating the Spectacle!’.

Colin Hambrook is DAO's editor, working three days per week. Colin set DAO up initially as a channel on ArtsOnline in 2002. In April 2004 he registered DAO as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, setting the journal up as an independent organisation. Since then he has strived towards his vision for the site as a journal dedicated to work by deaf and disabled artists, which reflects on disability as a social and political construct from a Social Model perspective. He is a disabled artist who has worked in the field of disability arts for 20 years having produced a variety of web and print based publications in that time. These include DAIL (Disability Arts In London) Magazine (1994 - 2000), Arts Council Combined Arts Unit publication: Digitising Disability (1999), NorDaf News (2000), Channel 4s Access All Areas website (Jul 2000 - July 2002), Heart n Soul Road Trip (2003), Dada-News – monthly bulletin (2006 - 2011). He has worked as guest editor / writer for a variety of projects / organisations including Rachel Gadsden's Unlimited Global Alchemy, Link Up Arts, Poetry Express, Open University ‘Diverse Perspectives in Mental Health, Architecture Inside Out, Accentuate, Tate Britain.

Joe Turnbull is DAO's subeditor and project co-ordinator. He studied Politics at the University of Manchester but has since gone on to pursue a career in arts journalism. He has written for the Guardian, Apollo Magazine, Frieze, a-n News, this is tomorrow and Garageland. He was previously Politics Editor at the Inky Needles publishing group and Publications Editor for Art Map London. In 2011 he helped establish Novel, an arts and culture magazine based in his native North East. Joe has long been an outspoken critic of the hierarchical power structures of contemporary society and campaigns for the rights of various marginalised groups.

DAO Board members

Michelle Molyneux is a visual artist and works in the arts sector. Currently she is the Director of the Craft Potters Association of Great Britain and its companies: the Contemporary Ceramics Centre and Ceramic Review magazine. She began working in arts and disability in 2005; she was the Director at Gallery Gachet, a collectively run exhibition and studio space built to support artists, administrators and curatorsto encourage dialogue on issues relating to mental health illness, trauma, or addiction. Later, based on her work with Gachet, she was invited to become a Trustee of Tangled Disability Arts, an organisation that develops and promotes the work of disabled artists. Also, at that time she was appointed Director atFUSE Magazine, overseeing the publication of this seminal quarterly which provided reporting, documentation and critical thinking on socially and politically engaged arts practices.

Tony Heaton
English, North West in place and spirit. Father, artist, sculptor, fiddler of bits, likes animals but not pets, likes people but from a distance.

Currently CEO of Shape – disabled and deaf people and the arts – based in London. Prior to this Tony spent ten years as Director of Holton Lee in Dorset, creating short-stay residential accommodation with exhibition spaces, gallery, and studios and NDACA (the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive).

Board and Access group involvement with Tate, Whitechapel Gallery, The National Archive and the Richard Attenborough Centre.

Previous incarnations with NACAB, Citizens Advice and RADAR, the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, an independent record retailer and graduate of Lancaster University.

  • Lead Artist on the Art-Plus Art in Public Places Award with Zoe Partington-Sollinger and Dada South. This £50,000 award resulted in the creation of the sculpture, “Squarinthecircle? 2008, situated outside the school of architecture at Portsmouth University.
  • Regional finalist in the Unipart Reflections of technology award for original sculpture - Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
  • Commissioned by London Disability Arts Forum to perform "Shaken not stirred" a time-based installation of a pyramid constructed from 1,760 red charity collecting cans - then destroyed as part of the Block Telethon demonstration.
  • Exhibitor "Unleashed", Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle.
  • Solo show "Great Britain from a Wheelchair" Diorama Gallery, London.
  • Collaborator in partnership with Armley Resource Centre, Leeds "Buried Over Ground" project.
  • December 1997, public sculpture commissioned by Manchester City Council, "Grey Mare Project"

Work featured in DAO, DAM, DAiL and Disability Now magazines, profiled in “From the Edge" programme for BBC TV, Director David Heavey and "Moving from within" video, Director Chris Ledger

You can see more of Tony's work at

Dr Colin Cameron is a Senior Lecturer in Disability Studies at Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne. He has been active in the disabled people’s movement since 1992 within organisations including the Northern Disability Arts Forum, Inclusion Scotland, Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living and Shaping Our Lives.

As well as writing sardonic short stories and poems, a number of which can be found on DAO pages, his more serious work includes book chapters and journal articles on Disability Arts and identity in, e.g., Emerging Issues and Insights in Disability Studies, The Community Development Journal, Popular Music,  and Parallel Lines. His PhD thesis, ‘Does Anybody Like Bing Disabled?’, involved clarifying and developing the affirmation model,  a non-tragic framework for making sense of the experience of living with impairment in a disabling society.

His book Disability Studies: A Student’s Guide, is published by Sage.

Dr Emmeline Burdett gained her PhD from University College London in 2011. She is an associate of the Centre for Culture and Disability Studies (CCDS) at Liverpool Hope University, and a book reviewer for H-Disability, which is part of H-Net, an online humanities resource run by Michigan State University. In addition she sub-edits for Disability Arts Online, and edited a number of chapters of Dr Colin Cameron’s book Disability Studies: A Student’s Guide. She contributed a chapter on Eugenics to the same book, and has also written a chapter for Dr David Bolt’s forthcoming book Changing Social Attitudes towards Disability. Her interests include disability and bioethics, and portrayals of disability in the arts. 

Simon Startin is a freelance theatre-maker and activist of some twenty years standing, including work with Graeae, Fittings, BBC, Channel 4, Royal Exchange Manchester, Hampstead Theatre, London Bubble, Red Shift, Theatre Royal, Oldham Coliseum, Birmingham Rep, Kazzum and many others. Simon has been London Bubble’s writer-in-residence for the past ten years, having now completed 14 professional commissions as a playwright, five of which were awarded Time Out Critics Choice.

Associate artist of both London Bubble and Graeae. Graduate of the Young Vic Director trainee. Lectured on the MA Applied Theatre course at Goldsmiths College in Community Theatre and Disability Aesthetics. Alumni of the BAC 21st Century leadership scheme. Currently co-creative director of the Big Lounge Collective, a company set up to promote the work of emerging disabled theatre makers. 

Under the umbrella of the Young Vic Simon has founded the Deaf and Disabled Directors Network, and is working with the London Theatre Consortium.  He is currently directing a new project at  the RSC investigating disability aesthetic and Shakespeare, working with Caroline Horton on a new satire about tax havens and filming 'Mapp and Lucia' for the BBC, starring Miranda Richardson, Frances Barber and Anna Chancellor. 

Who writes for DAO?

Trish Wheatley, DAO's Director, occasionally gets the opportunity to step out of the administrative and managerial role to attend arts events so you will see some reviews, interviews and discussion pieces by her. She is also co-producer for 'Creating the Spectacle!' a Cultural Olympiad commission by Sue Austin. Trish is blogging about the development of this commission throughout 2012 at

DAO is edited by Colin Hambrook. He is a disabled artist, with a substantial background in media and publishing, who set the site up initially in 2002. He has striven towards a vision for the site as a place dedicated to work by deaf and disabled artists, which reflects on disability as a social and political construct. You can follow him on his editorial blog at

Sophie Partridge trained as an actor with Graeae Theatre Co. and has performed in several of their productions as well as with the David Glass Ensemble, ZincArts and Theatre Workshop. Her script-work includes rehearsed readings and `Just Me, Bell’ was Sophie’s first commission, performed in schools as an interactive piece for young people in Autumn `09.  In 2012, she co-facilitated Reasons To Be Cheerful out-reach workshops and performed in the Paralympic Opening Ceremony. This year she has been performing with Graeae in The Limbless Knight

Jade French is a writer, curator and researcher who has been running participatory art projects since 2008. Jade predominantly works alongside people with a learning difficulty to explore accessibility within art institutions and is currently undertaking a Ph.D at The University of Leeds titled 'Art as Advocacy?'. Jade also writes for Liverpool based magazine The Double Negative and is the project lead for the 'Arts & Social Change Network', a doctoral researcher forum spanning three Universities in Yorkshire.
Twitter: jadefrench

Rosaleen McDonagh is a feminist playwright within the Irish Traveller community. Currently, two of her plays are in pre-production: Protégeé and Mainstream. She holds a BA, and two MPhils, from Trinity College, Dublin. She is currently working towards a PhD in Northumbria University, on ‘Disabled Traveller Identity: The Affirmation Model.’

John O'Donoghue is the author of Letter To Lord Rochester (Waterloo Press, 2004), The Beach Generation (Pighog Press 2007), Brunch Poems (Waterloo Press, 2009), and Sectioned: A Life Interrupted (John Murray, 2009). Sectioned was awarded Mind Book of the Year 2010. He teaches Creative Writing at the University of Westminster and lives in Brighton.

Amardeep Sohi began her career in publishing, before being mentored by a national theatre critic as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s arts journalist bursary scheme. Since then she has contributed to the Observer, Guardian Theatre Blog, DAO, What’s on Stage and the site dedicated to the ACE’s Creative Case for Diversity.

Marian Cleary has written for Culture24, Pink Paper and a variety of B2B publications in her capacity as freelance journalist. As well as providing journalistic editorial support, she assists writers, academics and organisations through transcription, proof-reading and note-taking services in the preparation of articles, books and research papers through her company Sound Words.

Paul F Cockburn is an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist & copywriter who specialises in disability issues, arts & culture, and military resettlement. Formerly chief writer on Able magazine, his work continues to appear in the publication, as well as a growing range of national and specialist publications including Disability, and Scottish Review. You can find out more about him at

Richard Downes has aspired to write since a very early age when he found out that his grandad stored his words to act as memoirs whilst he was away at special school. He says: "There was a time when I would share my work with friends but it became more and more a private thing. Community Magazines and organisational newsletters, where my outsource for a while. It felt useful to have something to say to others but nothing much happened. Then a chance to join DAO arrived by email and its been a source of preview, review, interview and blog since." His other blogs are and

Susan Bennett has been writing reviews for DAO since 2009. She has a keen interest in Disability Arts and has worked alongside disabled people in her work as a performance management specialist, trainer and a facilitator to local authorities, charities and community groups. In March 2012 she had a cochlear implant and is now rediscovering the world of sound.

Tom Wentworth is a frequent contributor of reviews to DAO. He lives in Cardiff and enjoys seeing as much of the inclusive theatre he can. He has been a columnist for Able Magazine since 2009, also contributing features. His poetry has been published widely and he is a member of the Sherman Cymru Advanced Playwrighting Group, as well as currently developing projects with BBC Radio.

In the last two years DAO has been developing the blogging area of the journal to give space for disabled artists / writers to write about artistic development and processes. Producers from disability arts organisations also write for DAO to let our audience know about work they are engaged in or which is in development.

In fact we welcome anyone who is passionate about disability arts. If you would like to write about the arts for DAO - as a reviewer, commentator or blogger please email Colin via

Consultancy and Partnership Publishing

People we're working with...

As well as filling Disability Arts Online with great content, we also help others in the arts to build their websites, and to learn how to write online.

Previous consultancy and partnership activities have included:

Shape Arts, London - general web development assistance and also content generation for their Animate project

Parliamentary Outreach - we made a three minute web film to sit within the new Rethink Parliament outreach initiative. This was a national, one-year project to work with individuals with experience of mental health in an art workshop setting. To see the film and to find out more about the programme go to

Other partnerships and consultancy activities are in the pipeline: we always welcome enquiries about working together. Please email Trish Wheatley, Director, Disability Arts Online at

Editorial Policy

Dao is an online journal for disabled and deaf artists and all individuals and organisations engaged in the field of Disability Arts. Wherever ‘Dao’ is used, it refers to the entity ‘Disability Arts Online’.

• The opinions expressed in DAO, either within feature articles or the forum, are those of the writers and not of the editorial team, or of the journals’ host organisation, its funders or sponsors.

• Dao seeks to publish critical opinions from contributors to the journal, when backed up with evidence. However Dao will not publish any personal invective, which seeks to discredit or bring prejudice to targeted individuals.

• The editorial team aims to correct and publish all errors of fact and to publish apologies for these where appropriate.

• DAO accepts unsolicited press releases, reviews, features, creative writing and art work relevant to Disability Arts. However, acceptance of material does not guarantee publication.

• Copyright for any text, photographs, graphics, video or audio published in DAO remains with the journal, except where the creator of the work is named as owner of copyright for any material.

• DAO is committed to advancing the human rights of disabled people.

• DAO uses the term disabled people to include people with physical, sensory, emotional and cognitive impairments

• DAO opposes all discrimination on the grounds of disability, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, class, or religious belief.

• DAO works within the Social Model which regards disability as something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily excluded and marginalised from society. For example this might be through lack of physical access or through prejudicial attitudes and discrimination.

Commissioning Policy

• DAO aims to publish art work and comment on the arts by disabled people, which is fresh, exciting, analytical, critical, controversial, stimulating and creative.

• DAO aims to commission work by disabled artists and Disability Arts, and Inclusive Arts organisations.

• DAO aims to profile projects and best practice within the Arts, particularly from arts organisations e.g. Disability Arts Forums and Agencies, which are led by disabled people.

• DAO aims to pay disabled artists for material commissioned for publication. Rates of payment for comment, reviews, features, are £50 per 500 words or £100 per article if agreed feature is over 1000 words. Payment is limited by budgetary constraints and is at the editors’ discretion. All fees paid are subject to UK tax laws. All contributors are liable for making their own tax arrangements.

• DAO aims to commission disabled artists to produce artworks specifically for the site.

• If you wish to retain copyright or licence over material commissioned for publication on DAO, when submitting material, please state your conditions or terms for use. In all other instances, on submission of any contribution, DAO reserves the right to use, modify, adapt, publish, distribute, and exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to the contribution.

Equal Opportunities and Diversity Policy Statement

DAO is firmly committed to equality and diversity.

DAO recognises that access to services is not equal and that discrimination occurs on grounds of race, disability, linguistic and cultural preferences, gender, sexuality, age, class and religious beliefs. DAO aims to develop, promote and deliver its services, information and employment opportunities without discrimination.

DAO has a commitment to:

• Develop services which promote access, equality and diversity in all its activities.
• Endeavour that site content genuinely reflects the population.
• Actively consult with different individuals and communities to ensure that activities or services are responsive and reflect diversity.
• Provide all contracted staff with the training and development they need to enable them to achieve organisational goals.
• Listen to its customers and involve them in the development of services that recognise and value diversity.
• Provide services relevant to people's needs, respecting cultural and social identities.
• Strive to have a representative workforce that can sensitively address the needs of all communities.
• Work with other organisations to promote disability and racial equality and eliminate disadvantage and harassment.
• Only accept an environment, which is free from disability discrimination, racial harassment and racist behaviour.
• Follow Government guidance on applying the relevant UK legislation.
• Strive to create an environment which recognises and respects religion and belief.
• Ensure gender mix throughout DAO’s activities and promote gender equality.
• Create an open environment where Lesbian, Gay, transgender and Bisexual people feel safe to be open about their sexuality and difference, should they choose to do so.
• Work to make its service accessible to everyone and provide the same level of service to all.
• Recognise responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, EU Directives and other legislation and will follow the relevant DRC Codes of Practice for employment, premises and services.
• Strive to provide services, which are relevant to the interests of disabled artists.
• Remove age-related criteria or references where not relevant or at the behest of the artist concerned.
• Continue to review and progress the organisation's Equal Opportunities and Diversity Policy and Strategies so that they reflect the true diversity of society.