Playlist: Disabled Artists on TED


The TEDTalks format has proved to be incredibly successful as a means of disseminating a range of ideas beyond the specialist fields from which they emerge, to a wider general public. It was a real privilege to travel with Sue Austin to Washington DC a few years ago when she delivered her second talk under the TED banner at TEDMED.

The opportunity to see such a diverse range of speakers opened my eyes to the innovation and passion of individuals from the medical sciences. Whilst tickets to attend an actual TED event are sold at lofty prices, the videos of each talk are made available online for free – what an amazing resource!

In preparing this playlist I’ve just been sucked into the black hole that is the TEDTalks Youtube channel. There are so many great videos out there. It’s reminded me of the huge variation of approaches to disability that people take and challenged me to come up with a coherent playlist.

Disabled artists and activists, particularly in the independently organised TEDx satellite events, have been able to use this platform as a means of sharing stories about their lived experience. In putting together a curated playlist, I decided to head up the list with a talk that sets the scene and raises the bar in terms of articulating how disabled people should be treated in society.

The late Stella Young, filmed here at TEDxSydney in 2014, gives one of the most powerful and accessible talks I’ve seen that should be considered essential viewing for those wanting an introduction to disability in the 21st century. She expertly and wittily covers inspiration porn, the social model, the objectification of disabled people and ‘the lie that we’ve been sold about disability’. Stella calls for a world in which genuine achievements by disabled people are celebrated, not just the ability to get out of bed in the morning. The talks that follow highlight disabled people who are using the arts as a means of communicating the powerful observations that come from lived experience in order to enhance people’s lives through culture and create positive social change.