Transcending Barriers to Creativity

Excerpted from a paper written by Chris Rosa, Ph.D., University Dean for Student Affairs at the City University of New York (CUNY). Chris has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. He served as chairman of the Employee Disability Concerns of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. He is a member of MDA’s Board of Directors.

There are some 57 million Americans with disabilities, many of whom are actively reshaping the face of contemporary American society and culture.

They are asserting their rights to equal access and opportunity as never before. A major result of their efforts was the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, hailed as the most important piece of civil rights legislation since the 1960s.

People with disabilities are emerging with empowered identities and a prevailing sense of pride in their experiences. This worldview constitutes the distinctive culture of disability.

Disability culture, like all cultures, requires avenues to create the cultural artifacts that embody the essence of the collective experiences of the group. Such a vehicle is the MDA Art Collection.

The MDA Art Collection program allows artists with neuromuscular disorders the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents, to actualize themselves and to articulate their distinctive visions of living with a disability.

The Art Collection provides those served by MDA with the opportunity to visually communicate honestly and openly their experiences with neuromuscular disease. The dark colors and somber tones of some works in the Collection often represent the pain and fears experienced by people with neuromuscular diseases. However, these dimensions are balanced by bright images representing hope for a future free from the more harmful effects of neuromuscular disease and from discrimination against people with disabilities.