Culture and art are one of the best ways to combat stereotypes over people with disabilities (PWD), said executive director of the Association of Youth with Disabilities (UMHCG) Marina Vujačić.
Vujačič, in the introductory speech of the Regional Conference on the participation of persons with disabilities in cultural life, emphasized that PWD is equally among consumers and among creators of culture and art and wants to be perceived as such by institutions and society.
The Regional Conference is part of a project funded since June 2023 from the Western Balkans Fund.
“We are not the only ones who consume, absorb and seek, but we are also the ones who create, share and provide,” Vujacic said.
She notes that among the PWD there are writers and poets and poets and musicians and musicians and actresses and actors and painters and sculptors and sculptors and everyone and among all.
“But to be fully who we want to be and what we can be we need and must be respected, asked, sought after… The system must provide conditions because as the proverb says: “If you neglect your art for one day, it will neglect you for two“, Vujacic said.
“Art will change society undoubtedly more beautiful, more sophisticated and gentler than any policy will ever change.”
Head of the Directorate for Cultural Artistic Creativity Ministry of Culture and Media Petar Kovačević said that the Ministry continuously looks at all the problems that have been in the sector of culture so far.
“Every individual must be a consumer of culture. All of us, as well as this conference today, have an obligation and responsibility to create an environment in which we will jointly create, the emphasized importance of culture,” Kovacevic said.
When it comes to accessibility, he noted that the building of the Ministry of Culture and Media is adapted to PWD.
“We invite associations, all partners in this field to contribute, right now when the development of the National Plan and Program of Cultural Development for the next period is underway,” Kovacevic said.
Kristina Ćetković, program director of the NGO “35 mm”, said that it seems to her that in Montenegro a lot of emphasis is placed on minorities, with only thinking about national minorities.
“We do not see minorities to which PWD belongs, Roma, women victims of violence, addicts … We try to include all these groups through our work in order to give each other the strength to change society together,” Cetković said.
She pointed out that she is glad that UMHCG has fought so hard to improve the rights and position of PWD.
“The OSDs are somehow afraid to point out their ineptitude, which is again our social conditioning. Disability should be emphasized and that is why I am happy that we are talking about PWD in culture and that they are part of the culture,” Ćetković said.
Academic sculptor Anisa Đokić say that culture must not happen to be something that is unattainable and a luxury for society.
“We know how much it can change and affect society and we must not limit PWD from enjoying culture,” Djokic said.
During the discussion, participants discussed the presence of facilities, how much PWD is employed in the state administration, whether institutions meet the percentage in employment of PWD, how cultural and cultural objects and cultural contents are accessible for all categories of PWD.
Among other things, it was noted that Montenegro “pays insufficient attention to what it considers boring, namely statistics and databases”.
Participants in the discussion agreed that in particular, more active MPs should be involved in improving the rights of PWD, who also influence the creation of human rights.
In her closing remarks, Vujačić asked where Montenegro is when it comes to the field of culture and art.
“The fact that we allocate small funds for culture and art speaks of us as a society and system and speaks of our relationship to culture and art. If culture is a way of behaving, then it is clear what our behavior is,” Vujacic said.
Speaking about the accessibility of institutions and facilities for PWD, she said that there is no institution or facility that fully meets all accessibility standards.
“I have been to facilities in Europe that are from the 13th and 17th centuries, and which are accessible to people with disabilities. If people with disabilities can climb the Acropolis, then I don’t think we should say in Montenegro that something is impossible,” Vujacic said.
Also, they say that if an institution cannot meet the standards needed to adapt to PWD, then it should move to another space that is accessible.
The conference was organized within the project ARTiculate inclusion, which UMHCG implements in partnership with the Association of Art Networks from Serbia and the Association of Citizens Information Center for Persons with Disabilities “Lotus” from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The project is financially supported by the Western Balkans Fund.