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Disability and Perspective

  • Curator: Adero Knott, founder and CEO of AK Prosthetics

Conversation Lead: Bess Williamson, author of Accessible America: A History of Disability and Design

About the Mini-Exhibition

  • Disability is seen/unseen.
  • Disability is independent.
  • Disability is fashion.
  • Disability is resilient.
  • Disability is radical.
  • Disability is sexy.

Disability is infinite.

In a time where able bodies control the built environment, that environment often excludes voices of people with disabilities. Disability and Perspective provides a glimpse into the lives of those forced to adapt to a world not designed for them and encourages the audience to consider how disability varies among individuals. The exhibition displays objects that are explicitly associated with disability, such as prosthetic devices, but also objects that are not, challenging the audience to see disability in a provocative light.

—Adero Knott, curator

About this web page

Below are the collectors’ words—unedited—about their objects.

Person Name: Bri Beck
Object Name: Trunk Rope Maker: Bought at Hardware Store Materials: Nylon Dimensions: 1 x 54 x 1in. Provenance: Object was purchased at Chicago hardware store

- Bri Beck, Edgewater

Trunk Rope

This rope, paired with a few bolts and nuts, is used to assist in accessing the trunk of my hatchback. Each time I drive from place to place, I walk to the back of my vehicle, open the trunk, pull out my mobility scooter, and then yank this rope (fastened to the trunk door itself) to lower the trunk door and swiftly toss the rope into the car as it shuts.

I use this because I am of short stature and cannot reach the trunk door to close it once it is ajar. I have instructed many people in my life to use this DIY access solution and it has become quite a task for them to master. I enjoy the opportunity to play with this rope myself and share it with others, almost as if it is a sort of game of "can you get the rope inside fast enough before the trunk shuts?"

It’s an object that one wouldn’t necessarily could be tied to the theme of disability. Disabled folks come up with cheap and creative solutions all of the time to solve basic tasks of daily living.

Person Name: Sophia Hamilton Object Name: Signed Arts of Life Band Kinda Weirdy Album Maker: Arts of LIfe Band Materials: Cardboard, Vinyl Dimensions: 12 x 0.125 x 12in. Provenance: I bought a copy of this record at the album release party at the Hideout, but I think I must have donated or something, because I subsequently got this signed copy in the mail!

- Sophia Hamilton, Logan Square

Arts of Life Band, Kinda Weirdy, 2017

My friend Whitney told me about the Arts of Life Band, and they quickly became one of my favorite local bands. I am not a big record collector, but this one in particular is a prized possession because it is signed.

Right now "Puppies and Babies" is my favorite.

Person Name: Stacey Brown Object Name: Transtibial Prosthesis Check Socket
Maker: N/A Materials: Copolymer Dimensions: 9 x 9 x 5in. Provenance: Made the object for a school project, I'm currently getting my Masters in Prosthetics and Orthotics.

- Stacey Brown, Streeterville

Transtibial Prosthesis Check Socket

I am currently getting my Masters in Prosthetics and Orthotics at Northwestern University. I went into this because I was born with congenital flexion contracture of both elbows. I am unable to fully extend my arms. As a kid I also wondered how my disability would become apart of my purpose. By going into this field I feel like I’m walking into my purpose.

I’ve wanted to go into this field since I was in high school. So to be doing it is such a blessing. I have the chance to change the lives of the patients I will see in the future. Northwestern University has prepared me to change the world one prosthetic and orthotic at a time.

Because its a representation of my progress and growth during my time at Northwestern. Some days I would question if I deserved to be here or if I was enough. This project has shown me that I can do anything I put my mind to.

Person Name: Vincent Uribe Object Name: Manhood ceramic by Nick Pagan Maker: Nick Pagan from Creative Growth Materials: Wood, ceramic, hair , paper, glue Dimensions: 4.5 x 7 x 5in. Provenance: October 2019 acquired from creative growth

- Vincent Uribe, East Garfield Park

Nick Pagan from Creative Growth, Manhood ceramic, 2019

Purchased on a work trip in Oakland during a conference hosted by Creative Growth [Art Center].

This is one of three ceramics that I own by this artist.

Person Name: Adero Knott Object Name: Adero's Arm Maker: Scheck & Siress Materials: fiber glass, woven material

- Adero Knott, Bronzeville

Scheck & Siress, Adero’s Arm, 2003

My stories and experiences deserve to be shared and deemed valuable. My prosthetic arm shows my journey to starting AK Prosthetics.

Person Name: Michele Friedner Object Name: Purple earmold for a hearing aid, no longer in use Maker: An audiologist Materials: Silicone, Plastic Dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1in. Provenance: This was made for me, using a hardened putty/silicon model of my ear. It could only belong to me. Audiologist made it, went to ear mold lab, audiologist did some maintenance and tinkering.

- Michele Friedner, Hyde Park

Purple earmold for a hearing aid

Because it is purple and I chose that color. Because it was made for me. Because it is a "disability object." Because it does require skill to make.

I don't use ear molds anymore, since as of 2018 I am a bilateral implant user. I miss them, in a way, and am mindful of both how complicated and mundane they are. Plus they're purple and I always had fun picking out colors, even sparkles and tie dye once!

- Marsha Elle, Miami, FL

Step Forward, 2011

This is my former foot. When I was younger, I would not have a foot of my hue, now I can.

- Bonnie Rosenberg (MCA Employee), Rogers Park

Trike D. Eisenhower

The ornament represents my full-size tricycle, which is named Trike D. Eisenhower. Trike is my adaptive bicycle. He has an Instagram account that chronicles our life together.

All my life I’ve wanted to ride a bicycle but have not been able to because I have a mobility disability. My sister, who also has a mobility disability, opened my eyes to adaptive bicycles. Once I gave up on the dream of being able to ride a two-wheel bike, a transition that corresponded with me accepting my disabled identity, I took the plunge and bought Trike.

Trike brings my disability to the fore in a way I don’t typically expedience. He is my only adaptive device and with him I have unique access to an activity I’ve always wanted to participate in. At the same time, he announces my disability in a way I strive more and more to be comfortable with.

Thanks for inviting me, Christy and January.

- Chunshan (Sandie) Yi, South Loop

It’s meant 2 Be, ongoing

A couple of years ago, a little girl saw my hands while we were both riding the cable car as tourists in San Francisco. She was very curious but did not ask any questions. I could tell that she was holding in her bewilderment about my disability. I smiled at her. As we exited the cable car, I found that I ha[d] one pin in my bag and I gave it to her. Her face brightened and she showed the pin to her family with excitement. We both smiled at each other. It was a great moment.

I am finding my kind! (My kind as disabled people who recognize disability as their identity and heritage) I offer a replica of me as a fashion object / body adornment with the hope to reach out to other disabled people. Also, it's about cripping fashion and making disability visible. In making this piece, I metaphorically reproduce disability. It's also a way to talk back at ableism. (Disability has been the subject of systematic erasure)

I had made different versions of these pins back in undergraduate school. I handed them out at my thesis exhibition. I was just beginning [to make the] connection to disability in my art even though my disability has always been apparent. I had trouble identifying myself as disabled and did not come out until age 25.

- Sky Cubacub, North Center

Rebirth Garments, Queercrip Patch, 2016/2019

The queercrip symbol here was one I designed in early 2016 and had a friend Yun Baek digitize it for me.

I love how many of these I have made and how often I see them sewn on wheelchairs and jackets!