In 2010, artist Sue Austin began to work with a team to create an underwater wheelchair that would allow her to navigate the depths of the world’s oceans. In her talk at TEDxWomen 2012, featured on TED.com last week, she explained how the art she creates with her re-purposed wheelchair aims to reshape how we think about disabilities:
I realized that scuba gear extends your range of activity in just the same way that 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 will happen if I put the two together?’
At first, the goal seemed impossible: “When we started talking to people about it, engineers were saying it wouldn’t work, the wheelchair would go into a spin, it was not designed to go through water — but I was sure it would,” Austin told the BBC. But things worked out, and the results are quite spectacular. “If you just put a thruster under the chair all the thrust is below the center of gravity so you rotate,” she said. “It was certainly much more acrobatic than I anticipated.”
Cross-posted from the TED Blog, where you can read many more of the great stories behind TED and TEDx Talks.