Sue’s diving wheelchair. When I started diving I became really aware that the associations attached to scuba gear are ones of excitement and adventure and freedom
and that they extended your range of activity in the world just like my power chair did.
But the associations attached to my power chair, when I asked people for the first words that came to mind, were ones of fear, limitation, pity, restriction, illness, and so on, and through my arts practice I came to realize I had internalized those ideas and it had changed my identity and I couldn’t quite work out what had happened until I made this connection and I started making artwork that was about using the wheelchair as an object to literally paint or play or have fun with. And so when I realized scuba gear extended your range of activity in the same way, I thought, “Mm, I wonder what will happen if I put scuba gear and an NHS wheelchair together”.
We attached these drive propulsion vehicles under the chair, but to stabilize the chair we needed to create fins, we call them “Hydroplanes” that attach to the foot plates which we’ve simply swapped over. So instead of hinging it beside, they hinge behind the heel.
Yes, absolutely, I have some mobility. The buttons from the drive propulsion vehicles come up the side of the chair and I press them with the side of my legs so my hands are free to be expressive, to create the feeling of that gentle exploration and interaction with the underwater world.
We’re not quite sure of the speed, but other divers get exhausted trying to keep up with me. It’s the most amazing sense of freedom there is. I have to say there is nothing else that I have done in life that quite compares to it. I think the only thing that would compare would be if you were an acrobatic pilot because I can loop the loop and pull curves and swerves and barrel rolls in the water when the chair is perfectly balanced. There’s nothing else I would rather be doing.
It’s quite incredible.