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The creative case for … visibility. / 22 February 2012

I’m finding communication hard at the moment; a familiar phrase that I read recently has rattled around in my head until I googled it: I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. This is Ralf Ellison writing about Negroness, but could just as well be me.
Or could it?

Because my own visibility is invariably surrounded by the negative visibility of my wheelchair I do often forget that when using it, I am invisible. We share my personal space and its easy to forget that we are not one. I cannot wear my chair of invisibility in quite the same way as Harry Potter wears his cloak, my chair is less frivolous and without it I may possibly become visible, but then I am turned to stone. Or something like it.

I do not know what it feels like to be abused because of the colour of my skin, but I can empathise. A lot of people can and I take advantage of it. When they are shocked that it took me years to feel able to speak as a disabled artist, I ask them if they would suddenly be able to speak for black people if they woke up one morning with an impeccable black pedigree.

Disability is the transformation that can actually happen, to anyone, any time. No wonder we are scary; and invisible. We are Darth Vader, Cinderella and Frankenstein's monster. Like Prometheus, we have a secret; like the X-Men we... I could go on.
This is my culture, this is my mythology. See us and know that we are not an afterthought or add-on to the argument, we are pivotal; when you can see us you can see the way beyond cultural diversity.

I value anonymity
seek only to be
the artist:
hand behind the pen:
face behind the voice.
Seek only the space
to work unshackled
by the need for food,
for shelter, and water.
Income tax
Council tax.
Electricity. Still
I need to find out
who I am, even
if it means I am
no longer nameless.


Keywords: discrimination,invisible disabled people,other cultures,poetry,wheelchair users