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  • It's wonderful to be here

  • to talk about my journey,

  • to talk about the wheelchair

  • and the freedom it has bought me.

  • I started using a wheelchair 16 years ago

  • when an extended illness

  • changed the way I could access the world.

  • When I started using the wheelchair,

  • it was a tremendous new freedom.

  • I'd seen my life slip away and become restricted.

  • It was like having an enormous new toy.

  • I could whiz around and feel the wind in my face again.

  • Just being out on the street was exhilarating.

  • But even though I had this newfound joy and freedom,

  • people's reaction completely changed towards me.

  • It was as if they couldn't see me anymore,

  • as if an invisibility cloak had descended.

  • They seemed to see me in terms of their assumptions

  • of what it must be like to be in a wheelchair.

  • When I asked people their associations with the wheelchair,

  • they used words like "limitation," "fear,"

  • "pity" and "restriction."

  • I realized I'd internalized these responses

  • and it had changed who I was on a core level.

  • A part of me had become alienated from myself.

  • I was seeing myself not from my perspective,

  • but vividly and continuously from the perspective

  • of other people's responses to me.

  • As a result, I knew I needed to make my own stories

  • about this experience,

  • new narratives to reclaim my identity.

  • ["Finding Freedom: 'By creating our own stories we learn to take the texts of our lives as seriously as we do 'official' narratives.' — Davis 2009, TEDx Women"]

  • I started making work

  • that aimed to communicate something

  • of the joy and freedom I felt when using a wheelchair --

  • a power chair -- to negotiate the world.

  • I was working to transform these internalized responses,

  • to transform the preconceptions that had so shaped

  • my identity when I started using a wheelchair,

  • by creating unexpected images.

  • The wheelchair became an object to paint and play with.

  • When I literally started leaving

  • traces of my joy and freedom,

  • it was exciting to see

  • the interested and surprised responses from people.

  • It seemed to open up new perspectives,

  • and therein lay the paradigm shift.

  • It showed that an arts practice

  • can remake one's identity

  • and transform preconceptions by revisioning the familiar.

  • So when I began to dive, in 2005,

  • I realized scuba gear extends your range of activity

  • in just the same way as a wheelchair does,

  • but the associations attached to scuba gear

  • are ones of excitement and adventure,

  • completely different to people's responses to the wheelchair.

  • So I thought, "I wonder what'll happen

  • if I put the two together?" (Laughter) (Applause)

  • And the underwater wheelchair that has resulted

  • has taken me on the most amazing journey

  • over the last seven years.

  • So to give you an idea of what that's like,

  • I'd like to share with you one of the outcomes

  • from creating this spectacle,

  • and show you what an amazing journey it's taken me on.

  • (Music)

  • (Applause)

  • It is the most amazing experience,

  • beyond most other things I've experienced in life.

  • I literally have the freedom to move

  • in 360 degrees of space

  • and an ecstatic experience of joy and freedom.

  • And the incredibly unexpected thing

  • is that other people seem to see and feel that too.

  • Their eyes literally light up,

  • and they say things like, "I want one of those,"

  • or, "If you can do that, I can do anything."

  • And I'm thinking, it's because in that moment

  • of them seeing an object

  • they have no frame of reference for,

  • or so transcends the frames of reference

  • they have with the wheelchair,

  • they have to think in a completely new way.

  • And I think that moment of completely new thought

  • perhaps creates a freedom

  • that spreads to the rest of other people's lives.

  • For me, this means that they're seeing

  • the value of difference,

  • the joy it brings

  • when instead of focusing on loss or limitation,

  • we see and discover the power and joy

  • of seeing the world from exciting new perspectives.

  • For me, the wheelchair becomes

  • a vehicle for transformation.

  • In fact, I now call the underwater wheelchair "Portal,"

  • because it's literally pushed me through

  • into a new way of being,

  • into new dimensions and into a new level of consciousness.

  • And the other thing is,

  • that because nobody's seen or heard

  • of an underwater wheelchair before,

  • and creating this spectacle is about creating

  • new ways of seeing, being and knowing,

  • now you have this concept in your mind.

  • You're all part of the artwork too.

  • (Applause)

It's wonderful to be here

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B2 TED wheelchair freedom creating underwater transform

【TED】Sue Austin: Deep sea diving ... in a wheelchair (Deep sea diving ... in a wheelchair | Sue Austin)

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    VoiceTube posted on 2013/04/07
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