• sarahgoddardartist

Disablers and Enablers

I am a proponent of the social model of disability. According to the social model, people are disabled not by their conditions and impairments, but rather by social barriers. These may be physical barriers to access, or they may be attitudes.

At my exhibition, I’ve been encouraging people to think about #DisablingBarriers, and things that enable them to live a full and enjoyable life. What would you add?   “What disables you?” is written in black on a red background. Under this, I have written in red: stigma, busy roads, lack of public transport, crowded places, small print. Post-it notes have been added by gallery visitors, saying:  Shame Silence Isolation long drives to Gloucester Alzheimer’s; arthritis; age Physical disability Depression Negative thoughts lack of money   “What enables you?” is written in white on a green background. Under this, I have written in green: art, music, nature, understanding, well-placed pedestrian crossings, smart phone, reliable public transport, talking buses, rural bus routes, large print, audio books, ebooks.  post-it notes have been added by gallery visitors, saying:  Talking Adequate finance Mental and physical space to make art Compassion Kindness; time; good listening; YES Attention and encouragement The lightning process and NLP Friendship Encouragement Family; drawing; walking Company and family
What disables you / what enables you

To encourage people to think about this, I included an interactive piece in my recent Room For Art exhibition at Gardens Gallery in Cheltenham. I started this by listing some of the disabling barriers that affect me: stigma, busy roads, lack of public transport, crowded places, small print. Also, some of the things that help to enable me to live a full and enjoyable life: art, music, nature, understanding, well-placed pedestrian crossings, smart phone, reliable public transport, talking buses, rural bus routes, large print, audio books, ebooks.

Examples of disabling barriers adoes by visitors were: Shame; Silence; Isolation; long drives to Gloucester; Alzheimer’s, arthritis, age; Physical disability; Depression; Negative thoughts; lack of money.


Visitors also provided examples of things that enable them: Talking; Adequate finance; Mental and physical space to make art; Compassion

Kindness; time; good listening; Attention and encouragement; The lightning process and NLP; Friendship; Encouragement; Family; drawing; walking; Company and family.


I was really pleased that I got so much engagement with this piece. While I may know what barriers I face myself, I feel that it’s really important to ask people what can be put in place to make society more accessible, rather than making assumptions.

Is there anything that helps enable you to gain access? Or, if you run a service, what questions do you ask about how you could remove barriers?


35 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

I prefer to call myself a disabled person rather than a person with a disability. I don’t carry my disability around like a handbag. If I did I might have been lucky enough to leave it on a bus years