Thursday, June 13, 2013

Finding Me

(This posted when it wasn't supposed to ... it was to be scheduled for this morning. So it came on and then disappeared for awhile) I wrote this because I had trouble finding avatars who had disabilities or differences. Here in this animated film, the little bald guy says 'character' because he can't say 'avatar' ... isn't that weird. Hope you enjoy. The close captioning is horrible so the script is below.

Finding Me
Before we begin, I should tell you that I'm just an animated character. But you knew that already didn't you?  I am here to speak the words written down on a script that's been written   just over there
I was chosen to read the script after all the characters were looked through.
Every single one.
But none seemed to use wheelchairs.
Or walkers.
Or canes.
None, not one, were fat.
Or even modestly plump.
So, I got picked to be here  because I'm bald.
That makes me a little bit, a very little bit like the character who is missing. The one that uses a wheelchair. The one who is fat. The one who is gay around the edges.
This has happened before.
The other day I stopped at a store that sold those family decals that people have on the back of their car window
You know the ones. You can tell how many kids a couple has, or what kind of pets they have.
I think they are lovely.  I wanted to get a set a set as a gift.
I have a friend who has a daughter, she’s six, who uses a wheelchair.
I looked through every decal in the store. There were lots, they had soccer kids and surfing kids, but they didn't have one, not even one, rolling kid.
It doesn't make sense to me. A wheel is so easy to draw. It would just be my face with spokes.
But I'm guessing that it isn't about how to draw a wheelchair, or a walker, or a guide dog. I guess it's about understanding why one should be drawn in the first place.
I had a friend who told me about a man she knew.
They met in a place called, “Second Life.”
“Second Life” is a virtual world where you can live another, better, life on line.
She told me that this man had cerebral palsy and he chose a character that was big, and strong, and handsome
She said that his choice proved that disability pride was a sham. That disabled people all long to be like everyone else.
I asked her if he could have picked a character that had cerebral palsy and who used a wheelchair.
And if he had chosen a character that was more like himself how much of 'second life' would be accessible to him. Are there cut curbs and grab bars in "second life"?
Or maybe was second life a bit too much like real life for people with disabilities. Maybe it was full of barriers and prejudices.
She said that I didn’t get her point.
I think she said that because she didn’t want to get mine.
I wonder if there is a big virtual institution where characters who are drawn a little different are sent.
The one’s where the pencil slipped.
Or the one’s the eraser refused to erase.
I wonder if they live in lead pencil wards.
I wonder other things too.
I wonder if the pencil that will one day draw difference has not yet been made.
I wonder if the artist  with courageous hands has yet to be born.
Diversity is an idea.
It is more than a work that a keyboard types.
It is an action, not a slogan.
Diversity is the idea that will make the wheelchair that will allow me to sit, here, without my heart beating rapidly at the fear that at any moment I may lose my balance and fall.
I have no idea how long it will be before someone draws me the wheelchair that will make going home possible. Make my life accessible.
Until then I am confined to two to feet.
And two legs.
And they’ve given me running shoes.
Running shoes!
What the hell am I supposed to do with those?


CapriUni said...

Oh, man! I get so frustrated with this...

Some time ago, I decided to try "opening" a store for t-shirt and other designs at, specializing in humorous shirts and things centered around Disability Culture (with side branches into art and creative writing) with a theme of monsters (which, originally, meant people or animals born with physical deformities... which I think is one source of Western Culture's deep bigotry against the disabled).

Now, one thing I tried to do is design my shirts so that the message could be readable when the person is seated (since that was my target customer base) ...

But none of the "virtual models" for the shirts is sitting down -- forget a wheelchair -- no one is even sitting in an office chair or kitchen stool. So I've been left to guess... and I've had to buy shirts for myself and try them on before I knew whether the design worked or not.

It's been a long time since I put a new product up for sale, and today, I've been having a hell of a time trying to log into my account...

But here's the link to the store that I could get to, anyway, in case you're interested:


Unknown said...

I certainly agree. Stickers depeicting all visible diversities should exist. In my experience it is often not so much that people are intentionally excluding these diversities but rather they have no experience, knowledge or personal connection to it so they just don't think of it....ignorance in an oblivious way. Quite often once pople have been educated they are more than willing to include and appreciate the learning experience.

wendy said...

I love this post.

CapriUni said...

By the by... one of my online friends is a moderator in Second Life, and so I passed your questions about it onto her.

She said: In Second Life, you teleport to all the places you want to go, so curb cuts and such don't matter, and that yes, she has seen wheelchairs, and that avatars are completely customizable (and also, that there are safe spaces for folks on the autism spectrum, so they can hang out without worrying about social cues being misinterpreted).

That said: the woman who claimed that because one man with C.P. chose an able-bodied avatar, than all disability pride was a sham was making a false argument -- even for the man in question. As someone with C.P. myself, I've lived with the stares and voices of condescension all my life -- I've never experienced people's reactions to me except through the filter of disability... As such, I've been tempted to go into Second Life and design a non-disabled avatar just so that I can experience a different sort of interaction with people... And I'd do that having full pride in my off-line, "first life," too...

Danni said...

I used to spend a lot of time in Second Life. I mostly roleplayed being a young girl. And she was autistic like me- even had a rocking animation a friend had made. Once I resized a wheelchair (there were loads available but not in child sizes as it is a small community) to try it out, as it was something I was always interested in when I was little. Wheelchairs get up curbs (and stairs) fine in Second Life so no cut curbs are necessary, and nearly all buildings are large enough to get around.

Sometimes I would be a fairy, tiny and with wings. Sometimes I was a Care Bear. Sometimes a penguin. Sometimes even an adult human. Mostly female, sometimes male.

The advantage of Second Life is you can be whoever (or whatever) you want to be, and you can change in in seconds. And you can fly (as well as teleport) which right now no human can do in real life but it's a lot of fun!

Alryssa said...

I want to clarify Capriuni's comment above; she misinterpreted my virtual job as a music club manager in SL as being that of a moderator, when it was not. I am a user just like everyone else.