In repurposing her wheelchair to create fantastical art, Sue Austin reshapes how we think about disability.

Why you should listen

Multimedia, performance and installation artist Sue Austin keeps a fascinating mission at the center her work: to challenge the idea of disabled as “other” and represent her experience as a wheelchair user in a brighter light. She does this by creating quirky, unexpected juxtapositions -- bringing a sense of whimsy and empowerment to the discussion of disability.

Austin is the founder and artistic director of Freewheeling, an initiative aiming to further the genre of Disability Arts. In 2012, she was asked to be a part of the Cultural Olympiad in Britain, a celebration of the arts leading up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The work she created for the event, called “Creating the Spectacle!,” is a groundbreaking series of live art and video works of an underwater wheelchair.

What others say

“Like the athletes at the Paralympics, disabled artist Sue Austin is working to redefine the popular notion of disability. This week, she has been amazing spectators with a specially equipped wheelchair that lets her fly underwater.” — PRI's The World

Sue Austin’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Sue Austin


See much more of Sue Austin’s incredible wheelchair art

January 8, 2013

[ted id=1643 width=560 height=315]Sue Austin’s first ride in a wheelchair was an exhilarating one. “An extended illness had changed the way I could access the world … I’d seen my life slip away and become restricted,” explains Austin in today’s talk, which was given at TEDxWomen in December. “When I started using the wheelchair 16 years ago, […]

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