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Disability arts # 3b

May 2, 2013

Here is the rest of the paper from the previous post.

This image exemplifies expertise generally and in disability arts specifically. Austin had a vision – a “mental model” (Colvin, 2006, p.3) – of the freedom she gains from using a wheelchair and made the vision tangible by drawing together expertise in a variety of areas. Engineers modified a regular wheelchair so that it could be used underwater. Austin learned how to scuba dive in the modified wheelchair. In addition to creating still and moving pictures of diving in the ocean, she created and performs a dance (using the underwater wheelchair) in swimming pools. Austin and her team create exotic, liberating images to confront – indeed to shock – many people’s conventional views of wheelchairs and of people who use them. She frees us from preconceptions while demonstrating how using a wheelchair has freed her from some of the limitations faced by people who use wheelchairs for mobility (Kinross, 2012). Austin asserts that using a wheelchair allowed her to move freely (Kinross, 2012). Her artistic expertise allows viewers to experience that freedom of movement. Movement is depicted in this particular photograph by air bubbles above Austin’s head, her hair floating behind her, the swimming fish and by the position of Austin in the wheelchair.
Geoffrey Colvin and Daniel Coyle are two popular authors who write about talent, expertise, and greatness. Colvin (2006) hints at the importance of vision and innovation as parts of expertise or talent. Coyle (2009) does not discuss these noteworthy components in chapter 1 of his book The Talent Code. I chose to present the stunning photograph of Austin, in part, because it demonstrates how imagination and creativity are essential for greatness in many fields. This in no way implies that practice, as advocated by these authors, is unimportant. My argument is that their claims exclude factors that are necessary for greatness in many fields; therefore, I chose to present an image that reflects the importance of innovation and new ways of thinking as parts of talent.
The image of a woman scuba diving in a wheelchair is an example of how excellent disability art is able to offer a unique perspective to our culture. The picture shares the practical truth that for many people, wheelchairs are freeing. Austin, the performance artist, saw and recreated this freedom in an original way with beautiful and interesting light, colour, movement, and composition.

Austin, S. (2013). Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair. Ted Talks. Retrieved April 15, 2013 from
Colvin, G. (2006). What it takes to be great. Fortune Magazine. Retrieved April 18, 2013 from
Coyle, D. (2009). The sweet spot. In D. Coyle’s The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown.
Here’s How. pp. 11-29. New York: Bantam.
Ware, L. (2008). Worlds remade: inclusion through engagement with disability art. International
Journal of Inclusive Education. 12(5-6). 563-583.

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