Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair | Sue Austin

Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair | Sue Austin

Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Morton Bast It’s wonderful to be here to talk about my journey, to talk about the wheelchair and the freedom it has bought me. I started using a wheelchair 16 years ago when an extended illness changed the way I could access the world. When I started using the wheelchair, it was a tremendous new freedom. I’d seen my life slip away and become restricted. It was like having an enormous new toy. I could whiz around and feel the wind in my face again. Just being out on the street was exhilarating. But even though I had this newfound joy and freedom, people’s reaction completely changed towards me. It was as if they couldn’t see me anymore, as if an invisibility cloak had descended. They seemed to see me in terms of their assumptions of what it must be like to be in a wheelchair. When I asked people their associations with the wheelchair, they used words like “limitation,” “fear,” “pity” and “restriction.” I realized I’d internalized these responses and it had changed who I was on a core level. A part of me had become alienated from myself. I was seeing myself not from my perspective, but vividly and continuously from the perspective of other people’s responses to me. As a result, I knew I needed to make my own stories about this experience, new narratives to reclaim my identity. [“Finding Freedom: ‘By creating our own stories we learn to take the texts of our lives as seriously as we do ‘official’ narratives.’ — Davis 2009, TEDx Women”] I started making work that aimed to communicate something of the joy and freedom I felt when using a wheelchair — a power chair — to negotiate the world. I was working to transform these internalized responses, to transform the preconceptions that had so shaped my identity when I started using a wheelchair, by creating unexpected images. The wheelchair became an object to paint and play with. When I literally started leaving traces of my joy and freedom, it was exciting to see the interested and surprised responses from people. It seemed to open up new perspectives, and therein lay the paradigm shift. It showed that an arts practice can remake one’s identity and transform preconceptions by revisioning the familiar. So when I began to dive, in 2005, I realized scuba gear extends your range of activity in just the same way as a wheelchair does, but the associations attached to scuba gear are ones of excitement and adventure, completely different to people’s responses to the wheelchair. So I thought, “I wonder what’ll happen if I put the two together?” (Laughter) (Applause) And the underwater wheelchair that has resulted has taken me on the most amazing journey over the last seven years. So to give you an idea of what that’s like, I’d like to share with you one of the outcomes from creating this spectacle, and show you what an amazing journey it’s taken me on. (Music) (Applause) It is the most amazing experience, beyond most other things I’ve experienced in life. I literally have the freedom to move in 360 degrees of space and an ecstatic experience of joy and freedom. And the incredibly unexpected thing is that other people seem to see and feel that too. Their eyes literally light up, and they say things like, “I want one of those,” or, “If you can do that, I can do anything.” And I’m thinking, it’s because in that moment of them seeing an object they have no frame of reference for, or so transcends the frames of reference they have with the wheelchair, they have to think in a completely new way. And I think that moment of completely new thought perhaps creates a freedom that spreads to the rest of other people’s lives. For me, this means that they’re seeing the value of difference, 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. For me, the wheelchair becomes a vehicle for transformation. In fact, I now call the underwater wheelchair “Portal,” because it’s literally pushed me through into a new way of being, into new dimensions and into a new level of consciousness. And the other thing is, that because nobody’s seen or heard of an underwater wheelchair before, and creating this spectacle is about creating new ways of seeing, being and knowing, now you have this concept in your mind. You’re all part of the artwork too. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair | Sue Austin

  1. is so beautiful to see her with a smile I love that  bro she is teaching us that the power is on your mind no in ur muscles …

  2. I love it! Sue is my new hero! She explains the feeling of still being yourself with a wheelchair. Not a wheelchair person! Yes they never look down to see you! Children ask about it but adults are embarrassed by your power wheelchair! Thanks so much for the adventure Sue!

  3. I had polio at age 2 now I take other disabled people snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing in the Florida Keys. I would love to take you diving in Pennekamp park check out Active Disabled Americans org and send me info. on your chair Thank you for being an inspiration.
    Capt. Mick

  4. WOW, I am also use a wheelchair, every day all day, And would LOVE to be able to do that. Totally amazing, Totally, Awesome!!! Thank you SO SO much for sharing this info.

  5. I'm quite confused. Why would she be in a wheelchair when she goes in the water? You dont need your body supported by a chair in water as the water supports some of your weight. Surely a better way of helping people in wheelchairs dive is to create a jet pack kind of thing or help them by using those things that drag you along. i don't get it. It's almost like she has to constantly remind us she is a wheelchair user by saying "look I even need a wheelchair when I go diving!"

  6. Dear Sue Austin, 
    that was really nice exp. for you. That is something nice and creative that money can by to the people in who are invalids in a wheelchair. But most of invalids, or people with special needs, who live in this world do not have much money and it is difficult for them make living. Speaking from Second and Third World perspective at least. For most of them this is a rich mans toy. 

  7. Thank you, Sue Austin this is so amazing, hugs to you always for forever changing the way we see those in a chair. WOW, must share, you are brilliant! Give thanks to you and TED! One love!

  8. AMAZING I have been in a chair more than half my life and this shows theres really no limits just adaptations 

  9. T5 Para here and scuba diving is my absolute favorite of outdoor activity. That's visually interesting to see the chair in the water. I love diving because I am out of the chair!

  10. not to be a complete downer on somthing good but..cant paraplegics swim with their arms just fine without the chair?

  11. she make a mockery of disabled people she looks stupid yes sh scubs in a wheel chair but the cost and support team is out of most peoples reach

  12. that was beautiful 🙂 she made me cry and the ending of the video was simply beautiful!!!
    i feel so much happiness FOR her, i'm just so happy for her

  13. Wow, so stunning. Am busy with a series on my blog of People Living with Disability – definitely need to be linking to this story:

    Great stuff
    love brett fish

  14. She is so optimistic,creative,she doesn't give up easily,she likes experimenting with new things,she is sooo free!!!Good for you ,Sue Austin,for not letting your disability restrict you!!!!!!

  15. there are so many things we could do it we could only change our thinking. How many more people would benefit. that's so cool 

  16. There's a false picture of the thumbnail of this video on a twitter account that had over 250k followers, and it said "woman found dead in a wheelchair by divers, husband threw her off the boat after she cheated"

    People are dumb why would you make that up?? Lol

  17. It's a shame that people have limited views when looking at people in a wheelchair and how people respond to a person in one. Wheelchairs are supposed to help people rather than identify a person in one.

  18. RECREATIONAL scuba diving for people in wheelchairs is so inspiring.
    DEEP SEA DIVING on the other hand is a very different activity. Done by highly trained certified professionals, requires special gas mixtures, and special equipment.

  19. Inspiring! As a disabled person who is not in a chair I have always wanted to scuba dive but can't swim. You have inspired me to find a way! 🙂

  20. Dear TED people,

    Here is my problem. There are only 24 hours in a day, and of that I need to have 8 hours of sleep. I need to reserve another 8 hours per day for work. I have a very limited amount of time to watch internet videos, and you guys have WAAAAAY too many amazing and awesome videos. How do I carve out another 12 hours in my day?

  21. la discapacidad mas grande es la mental no existe el imposible atrevete besos Giggetta Mazzamuto.ESCRITORA.MENDOZA.ARGENTINA

  22. A wheel chair for under water diving is an awkward and ridiculous idea, this would simply be like a joke thrown at a gullible audience so as to secretly laugh at them… Scuba diving is actually the most accessible sport for the disabled. Under water, all divers are disabled as they all need adaptive equipment so as to breath and swim. So making such equipment for disabled like her is just an extra step (for much better and efficient ways than hacking wheelchair), so as to get a sense of freedom, weightlessness and increased movement which can only be felt underwater. Like having a propeller on the back and gloves with palms between fingers, etc.

  23. Ok I don't get this at all. It would be so much simpler to use one of those handheld propellers, unless she is trying to make some sort of statement by doing it in a wheelchair.

  24. Diving with a wheel chair underwater? It's a stupid idea, interesting non the less… A good theory if you will, but stupid in practice…

  25. obviously some people have no idea of the difficulty in containing uncontrollable limbs in surging water and propulsion through water. then the lack of understanding in the process of entering & leaving the water & the boat itself. putting the logistics together to overcome these obstacles does lead to this being a sound method to achieve doing this. not necessarily the only way but valid. besides it's meant to be artistic in it's demonstration and it has certainly done that.

  26. Someone is doing a good job in wheelchair design when it looks like fun to everyone. Of course someone could make something smaller than a wheelchair drag someone through the water but it isn't the same. An amphibious wheelchair is cool!

  27. Wouldn't it be easier to design scuba gear specifically for disabled diving, rather than modifying a wheelchair for the purpose and then having to deal with the attendant oxidation, among other problems associated with taking a device not made to operate submerged underwater?

  28. Interesting device, it seems a little pricey if one was to attempt to make there own. seems very fragile trying to retrieve/launch such a device from a boat. and in the event the chair got hung up under water. for most people a swim assist propeller motor with a tether and no chair would be a better option. but getting in and out of the water from a boat seems challenging

  29. Awsome shes a brave woman god bless her. Im on a wheelchair also and i see her as my inspiration ❤️

  30. (O3:11) "Scuba gear EXTENDS your range of activity in just the same way as a wheelchair does…"
    Well, I think I'll adopt that line of thinking and try riding about in a WHEELCHAiR 🙂 (I'm not physically limited)

  31. This inspires me so much I want to be a marine biologist so much even though u am in a wheelchair it determines me even more and my dad has always told me to never give up and I'm only 12 I can't imagine what kid of things they'll have when I'm an adult

  32. I'm amazed at the amount of people that seem to have completely missed the point. She is not actually making a scuba wheelchair for people to use, this is a performance piece, its art. Its in the description box, she even says it at the end. She was trying to convey, through art, the freedom she says the wheelchair has given her. Thats why she is wearing a summers dress instead of a wet suit, thats why the goggles she is wearing looks like sunglasses. Google her, she is an artist and this was an art piece not some invention to help some disabled people scuba dive. Some people seemed to have completely missed that.

  33. This is amazing, I never knew that you could do this. To me, I love that she didn't give up at all and I love this. Thank you!

  34. How much extra effort do you have to exert to go up, swimming in a wheelchair, as opposed to going down in a wheel chair? And, how can you use a wheelchair on a sandy bottom?

  35. Beautiful and graceful piece of art Sue.

    For those interested, here is an interesting apparatus for those able to utilize their upper body for propulsion:

  36. why use a wheelchair? I know of guys who are paraplegic and dive. They leave the chair on the boat and use hand fins

  37. Hi Sue.

    I learnt to Scuba dive just after getting MS in 1997.
    Last dived in 2007 at the Barrier Reef.
    Your video is amazing !
    Ignore the haters.
    They dont get it !
    20 years using a wheelchair they would !!
    You are amazing !

  38. After watching this video and seeing Sue perform at the Adelaide Aquatic Centre tonight – Sue is an inspiration to us all and it was a joy to be there – Every person should meet this incredible lady once in their life.

  39. This made me cry. I can relate with the speaker and hearing her press on in such a positive way to do what she loves and then do a successful ted talk about it…. well it's just amazing!! Thank you for the inspiration 🙂

  40. When I first saw her in the chair, I found it to be an overwhelmingly beautiful thing. Seeing a person being freed – that is unbeatable.

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