Kasama All: Reconsidering the Role of an Artist in the Fight for Accessibility

By Aaron Sumampong | DAKILA

This essay reflects on the role of an artist-activist in the fight for accessibility.

On our walk home, from a night of outdrinking our livers and yelling our guts out, my friend, barely making out the words, shared something out of the blue, “Interesting…” her voice curious albeit sluggish, “… a bit crowded pero keri na”. She took one more glance at the campaign poster of a candidate for the 2023 local elections.


For the most part, she’s not wrong. It could use a little breather; a little too generic for my liking, but if it works, it works. Trying my best to process the information, I found myself in an odd position, mentally rethinking every design I had ever made, good or bad, and was left wondering, “How many times have they undergone the same treatment as this poster in front of us?”.


In our defense, most graphic designers have a critical eye. One poster merits a thousand unsolicited advice and comments—most of which are uncalled for. Don’t get me wrong; as a self-taught artist, suggestions for improving my designs are welcome. Even I am critical of my work. Whether it is helpful or not is a topic for a different conversation. That’s when I remember how poor I was in creating accessible and inclusive art cards and publicity materials in the past. As an artist-activist working with several human rights organizations, I think accessibility and inclusivity are somewhat of an afterthought. If a partner doesn’t need it, I won’t have to think of it- even for works that are out for public displays and in the community. How ironic that an advertisement from the 90s, although deemed simple, is on the more accessible side of the spectrum. Yes, I was talking about the siphoning services ads on every street possible within the Metro.


Simple yet effective. A staple font, bold color, and straight to the point. A color-blind friend could easily read it. My mom, who has terrible vision, can also read it just fine- meters away. Arial, the font they used, is dyslexic-friendly*. There’s also a bonus: it became a pop icon in the local art scene, an essential perspective in communications and design. The question remains: as human rights communicators, how do we make it more accessible?


I don’t know.


 I can only speak for myself as an artist and part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m not particularly saying that my words and my beliefs are absolute, but they hold truth to my experiences. And that’s an excellent way to start: recognizing intersectional identities. Lori Vogt Rosone put it best in her column, “My responsibility is not to understand every person’s experience; my responsibility is to remember that I can never understand any person’s experience better than they do.” Although used in a different context, it can be applied in our field of work. Sometimes, we won’t be able to put ourselves in our partners’ shoes, but knowing your limitations and what you can do to amplify their voices is the perfect spark to start a fire.


The same principle goes for disabled people. “This world is not built for us,” Jennifer Anne Mendoza, co-founder of The Equity Collective PH and a disability rights advocate, said. True enough, one look around, and you’ll see why: an environment that limits participation, lacks diverse communication formats, has negative biases, and lacks proper policies. “Nothing about us, without us.” A slogan often used by disability rights advocates to emphasize the importance of including people with disabilities in decisions that directly affect their lives. It means that policies, programs, and practices should not be developed, implemented, or evaluated without the active participation and input of people with disabilities. A world that doesn’t include from the get-go can’t possibly expect silence and receptiveness.


The last thing that I want to point out is the importance of the language we use as human rights defenders. There’s no denying that language evolves. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep up with the politically correct terms. However, if we can follow what’s hip, cool, and new, yet somehow, language, what we use every day gets backtracked. Where does that leave us?

There’s still a long way to go regarding Gender Equality, Disability, and Social Inclusion. What was written here is not an exhaustive list, not even the tip of the iceberg, but a few reminders that in everything we do, we need to be mindful that no one gets left behind. As someone who is fairly new to the human rights movement, I still have a lot to learn. Learning comes in many forms, but one thing’s for sure: It’s always better when everyone’s included.


As we made our way to the street where my house stood still, right in the middle of the quiet, she paused and then puked. I guess that’s one way to rethink your career decisions. In the meantime, we’ll dream of a country where every Filipino can proudly say that this nation is built with them, for them.

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Active Vista is an institution established by DAKILA to facilitate the learning process of empowering citizens to become agents of social change. Through the power of the creative form as a mode of education in shaping critical thought and fostering spaces of discourse toward transformative learning, it provides access to socially relevant films to raise awareness, spark reflections and conversations, and encourage meaningful actions.




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