wheelchair

How do you see people in wheelchairs?

Common perceptions include that they're sickly, that they need help, that their lives are totally different from the lives of the able-bodied, that they can't have sexual relationships, and that they're brave for adapting to their disability. You can see how being viewed that way could get annoying. That's why in 2010 one wheelchair user decided to go wheelchair scuba diving.

Sue Austin started using a wheelchair in 1996 after an illness limited her mobility. According to Sue, she experienced "an amazing sense of exhilaration at being free to speed through the streets, mobile again. However, I found that people's responses to me changed; I came to understand this arose from the negative preconceptions many people attach to the wheelchair."

In 2005, Sue began training as a diver. She realized that scuba equipment was much like her mobility aid "both extend one's range of activity in the world." She also realized that by combining scuba equipment and her wheelchair, she could give viewers the same sense of freedom and adventure that she herself experienced from wheelchair use. Then they could come to view wheelchairs in a positive light rather than a negative light.

And so, her performance piece video Creating the Spectacle! was born. It features Sue diving with her wheelchair through various reefs. The video is beautiful, the reefs breathtaking, and her movements in the wheelchair poetic. It has been seen and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands around the world.

"I'm thrilled that people have been inspired by my project," said Sue. "Viewing the world from a different perspective enables new experiences and break[s] down boundaries for all of us."