One of the most exciting elements of the National Disability Arts Collection & Archive, a project delivered by Shape, is the NDACA Wing at Buckinghamshire New University. Digital conservation of the Disability Arts Movement will allow disabled people’s heritage to be fully accessible for new online audiences, but it is the NDACA Wing that will secure a physical home for the future. 

The Wing is currently being designed and built by a team of disabled and non-disabled architects, furniture designers, tactile model makers, advisors and researchers. They are working to provide a space where both students and the general public can engage with the archive – complete with fully accessible furniture, artworks, innovative NDACA design, and pioneering Audio Description tools (co-delivered with Disability Arts Online) for use when studying. The NDACA Wing will open in April 2018, along with the website and other launch events.

In the latest NDACA blog, we introduce the faces of the Design Team, discussing their motivations to take part in the project, whether the audacity of the disability arts movement has impacted their perception of disability, and how their NDACA journey will shape their careers in the future.

What motivates you to take part in this project?

Anahita Harding, Access Advisor

As a disabled person who works in the museum and heritage sector, I was really excited to hear about a project centered on Disability Arts, a heritage story which before NDACA has not yet had a full retrospective. I know I can learn so much about disability art and activism along the way, and apply it to further work around access.

Becky Jacques-Parr, Tactile Model Maker

I believe access should be mainstream in all museums, galleries, theatres and never an after-thought. Every element of the NDACA Wing is being planned, tested and evaluated to ensure the research facilities are accessible as they can be. I’m really proud to take part in a project where accessibility is a priority. 

Jess Ryan-Ndegwa, Furniture Designer

My motivation comes from anticipating the many benefits the research space will bring, especially to disabled people. Knowing that I've been able to take part in helping improve accessibility when it comes to a public communal space fills me with so much excitement, and I look forward to hearing what users think once the space is launched in April 2018!

Nina Thomas, User Engagement Researcher

I have only recently begun to find confidence as an artist and also as a disabled person so learning about the leaders of the Disability Arts Movement, who have been creating work a lot longer than myself is encouraging and inspiring. I believe others will feel similar benefits once the archive is established, and the NDACA Wing itself will be a great way of accessing this rich resource. The Disability Arts Movement really deserves recognition.

Robin Bray-Hurren, Tactile Model Maker

Being able to be involved with the building of an archive of disability arts seems like an opportunity that'd be silly to miss! Disabled people's history hasn't necessarily been well documented or studied, so a central archive of grassroots disabled people's art is hopefully a really valuable resource for the future.

What was your previous knowledge of Disability Arts before working on NDACA?


In all honesty, I have been exposed to so many more disabled artists and artworks by being a part of this project - any disabled artists I’d previously known were from the past ten years or so, and seeing work pre-2000 has shown me a range of work that deserves to be more widely celebrated in the UK.


Not much! And if I did have any, it was probably very cliché. I wish I had realised the quality or variety of what is called 'disability arts' or the political and cultural significance of much of the work being produced in this country.


I worked for Graeae, the disability-led theatre company, for several years, and before that had provided access support for an artist. However, I wasn't particularly entrenched in the world of disability arts, more that it was a field I overlapped with occasionally. 

What will you take forward into your practice as a result of working on the NDACA project?


The planning process will most definitely feed in to my future work, and I can feedback to museums and galleries by suggesting ways to be more inclusive.


I have learnt a lot from collaborating with the others on the NDACA team, it has been great to have an opportunity to learn about the different things to consider when designing functional accessible furniture and spaces.

Emmy Bacharach, Architect

As a result of working with NDACA I am much more engaged with and aware of accessibility issues and will take this into my own architectural practice and strive for innovative design with regard to all kinds of accessibility.


A greater awareness of the context in which I am working and what still needs to change politically and socially to allow everyone to flourish. Also - not to give up without a damn good fight & maintain a sense of humour in the face of injustice.


I’ll take forward a more nuanced understanding of where disability arts in the UK has developed from.

Of the pieces you've seen, which image from the NDACA collection stands out most?


I think the documentary photography is so fascinating to look at - it’s so important to see disabled artists and activists over the decades as these images can be used to encourage disabled artists and activists today. They refer to the progress that has been made over time, but also remind us of the continuous fight for disability equality still going on at present.

Disabled protestors outside City Hall with banners


‘The Way Ahead’ by Caroline Cardus really stood out to me as it is such a simple graphic and powerful message that really drives home the marginalisation of disabled people by a society that fails to provide the basic right to accessible transport.

White and blue sign with the title Equality  with a question mark


The image that stands out to me most would be the self portrait of Tanya Raabe-Webber.

Self portrait of a Tanya Raabe-Webber

Self portrait of a Tanya Raabe-Webber

Self portrait of Tanya Raabe-Webber


My favourite piece in the collection is the 'Piss on pity' t-shirt. It reminds me of the late disabled activist Stella Young, who worked to eradicate stereotypical ideas of disability. The punchiness of ‘Piss on Pity’ really reflects how Stella, in a well-known TED talk, challenged the idea that “The only disability in life is a bad attitude”. She makes the points that, “Of course that’s not true, because of the Social Model of Disability. No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp! No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshop and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into braille. It's just not going to happen.”

I am inspired by Stella Young and the leaders of the Disability Arts Movement, who campaign to 'Piss on Pity'. They articulate something I always want to say for myself, as a disabled person facing barriers.

A black shirt with pink text A black shirt with pink text Piss on pity

A black shirt with pink text Piss on pity

Click here to read more of our NDACA blogs!

Banner image: Tactile Models produced by NDACA’s design team

Body Images (top to bottom):

Disabled protestors outside City Hall with banners, one of which relates to accessible transport. Another asks ‘Why are Children in Need?’ Johnny Creschendo performs as the protestors sing, Johnny is wearing a ‘Rights Not Charity’ t-shirt

'The Way Ahead’, Caroline Cardus, one of the works included in Shape’s art collection as well as the NDACA archive

Self-portrait, Tanya Raabe-Webber from the NDACA archive, Nude study of the artist in 3 separate images (head, torso, legs) designed to be mounted on revolving display stand so the body sections can be mixed with the other figures in study. Originally exhibited at the Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool.

‘Piss On Pity’ t-shirt from the NDACA archive

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