Some See This Artist's Wheelchair as a Limitation. She Sees It as an Adventure.


British artist Sue Austin began using her wheelchair more than 16 years ago due to an extended illness. When she got her “new toy,” she found freedom — finally, she could go outside on the streets again, “whiz around,” and feel the wind in her face. Despite this freedom, she noticed people’s perception of her had changed. She heard words like “limitation,” “fear,” “pity” and “restriction.” Austin had a choice: accept these assumptions or change the way people saw her.

In her TEDxWomen talk below, Austin talks about how she remade her identity and transformed others’ perceptions — by scuba diving… in an underwater wheelchair. Today, Austin devotes herself to helping people see excitement and joy in her life instead of limitation and fear.

“They’re seeing the value of difference,” Austin says in her talk, “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.”

Watch Austin’s full TED Talk below:

RELATED VIDEOS

A Filmmaker Watched These Sisters Dance and Saw Past What Was Missing


Filmmaker Susan Hess Logeais expected to notice what was missing the first time she went to see 19-year-old Kiera Brinkley dance a duet with her 17-year-old sister, Uriah Boyd.

She thought her eyes would be drawn to Brinkley, who lost her limbs to pneumococcal sepsis when she was 2 years old. She thought she would only see missing legs and missing lower arms, missing hands and missing feet as she watched the teen dance alongside her younger sister. Logeais stood in Jefferson High School in Portland, Ore., two years ago, ready for her preconceived notions to come true, as the two began to dance.

“The thing that blew my mind,” she recalls now, “is that you didn’t see what was missing.”

Logeais saw far more than a teen with a disability dancing. She saw a story of redefining the word “possible,” she saw a coming-of-age tale. She saw a unique relationship between sisters. Though teacher and choreographer Melissa St. Clair had brought Logeais in to film one performance, the director knew there was more to be told. She saw a documentary.

girl holding her sister above her in dance move with the text 'soar: your concept of what's possible is about to change'

For the next year, Logeais followed the sisters as they grew as students, dancers and young women. “SOAR,” (trailer below) which is co-produced by both Brinkley and Boyd, explores disability but delves more into the sisters’ relationship and their individual aspirations. Brinkley, who’s earned a medical assisting degree, is now looking to work in a hospital, while Boyd is enrolled in the Constructing Hope pre-apprenticeship program to learn about construction opportunities.

“It’s their story,” Logeais says, “I’m just observing and guiding it, in a way. They tell me what it is they want to say with the documentary.”

two sisters dancing together

two sisters dancing together

Each sister uses dance for her own reasons — to express, to communicate, to defy odds, to escape. But both know that even as they grow apart, dance will always them back together.

“Dance is the one way that we’re always connecting,” Brinkley says in the trailer below. “We have each other’s backs.”

“SOAR” is now in post-production. If you’d like to help them finish the film, you can make a donation here.

woman with red hair photographed as a mermaid

This Photographer Didn't See a Woman With a Disability. She Saw a Mermaid.


Photographer Kerri Lane was out to dinner with her husband in Leesburg, Va., when MacKenzie Clare’s beautiful red hair caught her eye. The 19-year-old, who was out to eat on her prom night, would make a perfect Ariel the Mermaid, Lane thought.

She eventually walked over to Clare, ready to ask if she would star in a Disney-inspired photo shoot. When Lane approached the table, she realized Clare was in a wheelchair.

woman with red hair photographed as a mermaid

“I will admit I was completely shocked,” Lane writes on her blog. “But in that same split second it went from shock to how amazing it would be to make her a mermaid.”

When Clare was 10 years old, she was paralyzed from the chest down after a car accident, The Washington Post reported.

“[MacKenzie] would say nobody’s ever going to want me to be a model,” Clare’s mother, Lisa,told Fox 5. “‘I’m in a wheelchair and I can’t do all the things models need to do.’”

Lane didn’t see things that way. A few days later, she visited the Clares’ home and, with the help of volunteers, transformed the redhead she’d seen out to eat into the world’s most famous mermaid.

woman with red hair photographed as a mermaid

Lane hopes seeing Clare’s transformation will inspire others to keep believing in the impossible.

“I would like for everyone to know and believe if they have a dream it can come true. Believe in yourself, love yourself and it will happen,” Lane told The Mighty. “It may not be today or tomorrow but one day when you least expect it, then it will happen.”

woman with red hair photographed as a mermaid

h/t Reddit Uplifting News

comedian stella young

Comedian Debunks the Lie We've All Been Told About Disability


Stella Young says we’ve all been lied to about disability.

“We’ve been sold a lie that disability is a bad thing… and to live with disability makes you exceptional,” the comedian and disability advocate says in her TEDxSydney Talk below. “It’s not a bad thing and it doesn’t make you exceptional.”

Young goes on to discuss the problem with labeling people with disabilities as “extraordinary,” “inspiring,” or “exceptional” — this can objectify a group of people, she says, for another group of people’s sake. Her talk is funny, charming — and extremely important. It’s certainly made us rethink about how we write about people with disabilities.

“Disability doesn’t make you exceptional,” Young says at the end of her speech. “Questioning what you know about it does.”

Watch her nine-minute TEDx talk below. The whole thing is worth your time.


How a Weight Loss Goal Grew Into a Journey Far More Meaningful


About a year ago, Jamie Goodwin sat in front of her computer for nearly two hours, staring at a picture of herself and deciding if she wanted to post it to Facebook.

In the photo, she sat in the wheelchair she’d been in for the past 20 years, since a car accident left her paralyzed from the chest down. She weighed about 230 pounds, far more than she had before having three children. If she clicked “Post,” she’d be announcing to the world that she was trying to lose weight — an effort she’d tried and failed at for the past two years. Her husband, Will, stood by, like a cheerleader. “Post it. Do it,” he said. She listened. Her Wheelin’ Weightloss journey was now Facebook official.

1010773_457176587717204_1149052968_n

In the year leading up to her post, Goodwin had been rejected from two reality TV shows: The Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. She’d made it to late rounds in castings but been disappointed both times.

“I was crushed,” Goodwin told The Mighty. “I thought, ‘How am I gonna do this on my own?’”

But when she posted her discouragement on Facebook, Amy Fendley, a local personal trainer, saw it. Fendley didn’t know Goodwin, but she sent her a message anyway, offering her free fitness and nutrition guidance. Goodwin called her and the pair met the next day.

“I started crying when I read her message,” Goodwin recalls. “This was what I needed.”

Fendley educated Goodwin about proper eating and fitness habits. She was the one who initially suggested Goodwin document her weight loss journey on Facebook.

Today, almost a year later, Goodwin is down nearly 40 pounds. She works out four times a week, time permitting. She went from trying any means of calorie-burning — she used to drag herself back and forth on the ground at home — to joining a gym and completing 5Ks.

10351766_497583273676535_9177917056598237338_n

10246235_494443230657206_1829279744801558061_n

Through her Facebook page, she’s connected with people from all over the country.

“It works both ways,” Goodwin tells The Mighty. “I encourage them, but they encourage me. I just wanted people to see that you can do anything you put your mind to.”

While on the phone with The Mighty, Goodwin gets a new email from a complete stranger.

“I was paralyzed in a car accident, too,” the email reads, “I thought it was the end of my life. My weight loss has always been a problem. Seeing this has given me hope. You’ve inspired me. I know I can do it. I know it’s possible.”

“I’m going to start tearing up,” Goodwin says after reading the email. “That lady right there is proof that I’m doing the right thing by sharing my story.”

10253963_490209084413954_5332277019216716128_n

Be inspired. Like us on Facebook.

paralympian chris waddell

Why This Man Calls the Accident That Paralyzed Him 'a Gift'


Chris Waddell’s motto is, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.”


Waddell, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a skiing accident in 1988, took this motto with him while he became the most decorated male skier in Paralympic history. And he takes it with him now, as he goes about trying to change the way we think of disability.

In the LifeMeansWhat? video above, Waddell doesn’t sugarcoat things — he’s not saying his limitation is all lollipops and roses or that he’s overcome it — but he does refer to his accident as a gift. Watch to find out why (and to catch a glimpse of some pretty insane skiing footage).

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.