Ghost Wheel Chair, 2011.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about design’s ability to restructure how we see disability. The view most accepted by disability theorists and activists defines disability as a purely social category. The common medical understanding of disability, in contrast, can only create a very negative and restrictive view—one which supports that a disabled individual has a bodily defect that must be cured or eliminated in order for them to achieve full capacity and personhood.
In essence, I believe the medicalized look of assistive technologies and prosthetics are limiting social understanding and the disabled individual’s ability to feel and know their self worth. As a project, I altered the presently trendy Kartell Louis Ghost Chair into a wheelchair. Although this model is not the most practical looking, I think it makes a statement and proclaims a hope that disability can lose a lot of its negative associations if designers can critically create assistive devices that are not only cool, but functional. Eye glasses were once heavily discriminated against due to their previous medical look. Now they have become something we not only use to assist, but also, to express our selves.
(Read Graham Pullin’s “Disability Meets Design” if you’re interested in this topic.)
I’m in London, en route to New York, and can’t believe this strange adventure is finally coming to a close. Oddly, this feeling of uncertainty is much greater than when I was sitting in Heathrow just four short months ago. I’m ready to see my family and friends, to start my new internship, to return to school, to return to health, however, do not feel ready to leave my new home. Out of any city in the world I’ve spent substantial time in, I really believe Berlin provides a better quality of life. Come graduation, who knows, maybe I’ll make my way back for a few years.