This film is an end product of my research started during my time in residence with Vital Capacities.
This work was inspired by my relationship with my wheelchair and what it means to me. I have been using a wheelchair for the past 29 years after a car accident that left me paralysed. Although I don’t recall what happened on that day or what life was like when I could walk. My journey since then to me has been pretty normal. I soon realised what had been normal to me, is not exactly what is perceived as normal to society and the world we live in.
As a young child I was very shielded by family and grew up in a community that I now realise was a huge privilege to a child living with a disability. I was never seen as different to my pears or their parents, I was one of the other kids, played the games they played. To my family this new life was a huge adjustment to them. It was only later in life that I encountered the challenges many persons with disabilities face. For people living with a visible physical disability you are immediately treated differently when entering any room.
My life using a wheelchair has made me feel, experience and react to my chair in so many different ways. From not being aware of its presence and what that means in the world we live in, to it being the icebreaker as a child and making friends, to it being my lifeline and given me the ability to live a normal life and be mobile. This too I’ve realised living in a country such as South Africa, that this too is a big privilege.
During this process I got to explore my feelings past and present and relationship to my chair, speaking to childhood friends on what life was like as kids and having my chair part of everything we did and sitting down with family and coming to realise how my accident affected them.
This work opened up many conversations, thoughts and feelings, something I wish to unpack and develop hopefully in the near future. I am grateful for this process, it came at a very difficult time, yet somehow also what I needed to reconnect with myself and my journey and how I got to this moment…
What I wish for people to take away from this work is that. Disability is not a bad thing, and that persons living with disabilities can and many do live completely normal lives. We should not be an inspirations for living normal lives.
A few years ago I was in a shopping mall and had a young girl probably 5 or 6 years old run up to me and she said, “I like your chair, why do you use one?” I told her I could not walk and she said “ok, well I really like your chair and would like to have one” Her dad approached and apologised and said few months back she hurt her leg and used a wheelchair for a few weeks and ever since she has been fascinated by wheelchairs. It was this experience that made me realise that if only the world could embrace and be as open minded as this young girl, how many more persons with disabilities in our Country would have the ability and freedom to Live Life and feel part of society…