Underwater Wheelchair Inspires Disability Awareness

Underwater Wheelchair Inspires Disability Awareness

By Stephanie Haberman:

Artist Sue Austin has been wheelchair-bound since 1996. Instead of allowing her circumstances to hinder her art, she uses it as a vehicle so to speak.

Austin has created, with the support of diving experts, an underwater wheelchair outfitted with a propeller and fins that allow her to steer. With it, she gracefully hovers through the deep ocean, mingling with fish and flying past coral reefs. The wheelchair is equipped with a clear fin, making the artificial device seem slightly less out of place in the serene ocean.

On her website, Austin discusses how she uses her art to challenge the perception of wheelchairs and disabilities:

My studio practice has, for sometime, centred around finding ways to understand and represent my embodied experience as a wheelchair user, opening up profound issues about methods of self-representation and the power of self-narration in challenging the nexus of power and control that created the disabled as other.

The underwater wheelchair and the videos she creates of it are part of a piece called Finding Freedom. The piece is part of a larger project called Freewheeling, an initiative that promotes the status of disabled artists and encourages academic research surrounding disabilities.

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