38" x 30" $2,500.00
Julia Trahan, Age 28
San Francisco, California USA
I was scared. Julia Trahan was the first
person I interviewed. I felt very comfortable
with her on the phone, but how would
she look? Would I be sensitive enough
during the interview? The minute we met,
she allayed my fears. I felt ridiculous wearing
all my layers of prejudice as we talked and
laughed. She responded to all my questions
without hesitation or condescension, and
my fears, built up over 35 years, started to
disintegrate one by one. We were enjoying
ourselves so much that we extended the
interview from two hours to four. She was quite knowledgeable about disability rights and was the first person to tell me that everyone is normal, yet what is normal for one person is not necessarily normal for another.
At 11 years of age, Julia was in a serious auto accident caused by another driver who swerved from the other side of the highway crushing the car into Julia's side. Now 28 years old, she has undergone fourteen operations. Presently, she walks with a colorful cane crutch, which she decorated herself. Julia dances in and produces shows involving drama, poetry reading, and dance. Her aim is to bring people together from various communities who want to create a strong voice through multimedia projects. People with and without disabilities, people of all colors, lesbians, and those with a broad scope of cultural experiences all contribute to her shows, artfully entertaining while addressing human rights and freedom of speech.
Julia helped me to use my strongest sense, sight, with more discretion. After our interview, I noticed more keenly than ever how my vision of disability had been distorted. I traced through all my visual reactions toward people who use tools for their disabilities. All the eyes in Outlook express the degrees of feeling I've had from childhood up to the present. What was I seeing in the past and what it is I really want to see now? These tools now read as positive vehicles like any other tool we might use to perform a task- a pair of scissors, a pen, a can opener. Which eye is yours? What do you want to see?
Tools are clustered in groups of three from left to right, starting from the upper left:
FOUR-WHEELED WALKER has a seat that comes in handy during a long walk.
SEAT CANE is used like a cane, but has a seat attachment.
REACHER is for people who have limited hand mobility or use wheelchairs to pick up objects on all levels.
FOREARM CRUTCH is very much like a crutch, except for a half armband that provides support so that hands
have more mobility than when using regular crutches.
JULIA'S HAND-PAINTED FOREARM CRUTCH is both aesthetically pleasing and practical.
ELECTRIC WHEELCHAIR is easy on hands and moves quickly.
JULIA'S HAND PAINTED FOREARM CRUTCH is continued from above.
WALKER provides stability when lower half of body is weak.
BLIND CANE sweeps from side to side to orient blind person to people or objects nearby.
WHEELCHAIR provides mobility.
QUAD CANE helps in the transition from walker to cane.
Julia's Tunnel Vision
Straight lines have always frightened me. I get dizzy when people tell me who I am before we say "Hello." Flexibility
is strength. Survival of the fittest means having ability to tap dance while the bullets fly. Perpetually moving, I avoid
I want to grab the world's eyes in my fists and drag people through symbols of ignorance, past what they know is
true, into what they know is real. We all use tools (adaptive aids) to survive. So much bigger than us, what is it that we
The sight of another's limping reminds us of our own hideous fragility. Mortality.
Why not see with vibrant eyes the brilliant contrasts of colors? Not dualistic light/dark, but mixtures, changes, contradictions. Opposites that are points-of-view of the same thing. Let it in. Don't accept the obvious. Straight lines
have always frightened me. Keep my eyes and heart open. Celebrate my fragility. Recognize my temporary mortality
for the gift that it is.
Athletes of the Spirit:
An Exploration of Disability
through Art and Writing