The Common Ground Inclusive Arts Platform has as its guiding philosophy the evolving concept of disability underpinned by a rights-based model, championing the rights of children with disabilities to access community activities. It is strengthened by the articulation of the rights of persons with disabilities within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the Fundamental Rights Chapter (III) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, Article 12 (4) which provides for the possibility of "special provisions" for women, children and persons with disabilities.
The project focuses on raising the profile of persons with disabilities by inviting people to reconsider and reconstruct notions of disability through challenging stereotypes and questioning terminology. The underlying philosophy of all the events undertaken is the unambiguous and unwavering stance that people are all equal, and therefore, have an equal right, for instance, to education, healthcare, employment, relationships, political representation and participation in all community activities (including in the arts) as equal citizens. Our particular interest is in offering specific opportunities for inclusive arts experiences where persons with and without disabilities are able to share the stage as equal partners.
Following on from the four inclusive theatre workshops undertaken over the months of November and December 2015, three follow-up workshops and eight workshop-rehearsals were offered by students and staff of the Department of Disability Studies.This was in preparation for the inclusive theatre performances to be organized as part of the 'Common Ground Inclusive Arts Platform' at the Children's Festival of the Galle Literary Festival 2016. The workshops were conducted in Sinhala, Tamil, English and Sri Lankan Sign Language together with pictorial and sensory support with the following participants: Mannar: Children attending the school run by Mannar Association for Rehabilitation of Differently Abled (MARDAP), their siblings and teachers Ragama: Children at the Child Development Centre, residents of the Prithipura Communities of Mawanella and Wattala and children accessing the Speech and Language Therapy Clinic run by the Department of Disability Studies and the Multi-Disciplinary Clinic at the Faculty Kalmunai: Students of Human Link, Maruthamunai and Km/Al-matheena Vidyalaya, Maruthamunai Ratmalana: Students of WP/PILI/Colombo Hindu College, School for the Deaf and School for the Blind
A group of 10 child artists from the Mawanella group of artists attended an art session at the Department of Disability Studies on the 28th of January 2016. The art session was facilitated by some Batch 5 and 6 Speech and Hearing Sciences students and members of staff
As part of the mandate of the 'Common Ground' Inclusive Arts Platform, the Speech and Hearing Sciences students of Batch 5, 6 and 7 supported by members of staff organized an inclusive children's art exhibition at a stall at Kala Pola 2016 on the 31st of January 2016 held along Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha in Colombo. We featured child artists from the 'Mawanella artists', the 'Ragama artists' and the 'FocusAbility artists' groups as well as artwork from the inclusive art sessions conducted at our stall at the Children's Festival of the Galle Literary Festival 2016. Our aim was to offer an inclusive equal arts platform for all the young artists, encouraging them to be seen as 'artists first' without any label of ability or disability.
The Coordinating Centre for Students with Disabilities together with the Department of Disability Studies and Wheels-in-Motion organized 'Common Ground' on Friday 18th March 2016 from 11.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. at the University of Kelaniya. The aim of the event was to offer an opportunity for participants to deconstruct, debate and deliberate on issues related to accessibility and inclusive participation within the university community, particularly in light of the recent ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) by Sri Lanka. The event was graced by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman, the Vice Chancellor Senior Professor Sunanda Madduma Bandara, Deans, members of the academic and non-academic staff and first-year students.