Smart enough to know, privileged enough to ignore it.
Updated: Jul 27, 2020
I was twenty one years old when I first learnt the world was inaccessible. I had made it through two whole decades of my extremely sheltered, privileged life, before it occurred to me that the majority of places I went, were only built with a fully capable body in mind, with no variations. I was twenty one years old when I started to notice that some places had wheelchair accessible bathrooms, but stairs leading into the building.
For what felt like to me, a very long stint in a wheelchair, it was just a blink compared to the lives of most of my disabled friends, and after a period of not walking, I was able to get up, move on and forget it ever happened. I'm grateful for that, but also ashamed of the ease in which I fell back into ableism, not checking in with friends who have to pre-plan what cafe we go to, not thinking about my choice of apartments which limited who could visit my home.
In 2016 the incredible Loki Rickus invited me to be a part of the Fair Ground Project, a collaboration between some incredible artists to create material and to research truely inclusive circus. It was a revelation. We travelled the length of Circus Oz and discussed how each of us could or could not access each function of the building, we played and built really great acrobatics within the limits of each other's bodies, and it was joyous and safe and challenging. At this stage of my recovery I had just begun walking without the aid of crutches and finding a new way to be an acrobat, who holds skill quite highly, and it was the best place I could've possibly been.
Afterwards though, I found myself losing momentum, forgetting about those challenges that no longer applied to me as I got stronger and healthier, my privilege kicked back in as soon as I could manage a set of stairs.
I was twenty six years old when I remembered that my building was inaccessible. I've been living in this apartment since October (2019), moving in just prior to my elbow reconstruction, a few days afterwards I realised that there was no way for me to get out of the building, unassisted, without two functional hands and two functional legs.
For the able bodied people reading this, look around your space, think about how your disabled friends would exist in it (and if you don't have any, think about why) and get angry, let's talk about how we value certain bodies more than others.
Here's an example of me trying to get out of my own home while in an arm brace. I'm constantly more aware of my privileged upbringing and access to sports and fitness training, without it, I'd still be in this apartment.
[Image: the video shows Jon in shorts and a white t-shirt wearing a brace around his left arm. He lifts his right leg above hip height in order to press the button that releases the gate with his foot, which has to be pulled at the same time. He does this with his right arm. He turns to the camera and bows.]
Featured photo courtesy of the Fair Ground Project.