Those moments sparked by curiosity and creativity are moments when people connect in transformative ways.
I discovered this as a kid on my first day of school. I remember I was terrified that nobody would like me. I used to wear a hearing device that helped me hear through the vibrations traveling from metal transducers sitting on my head through the bones in my skull to my inner ear.
I arrived at school to find the other kids were curious. Eventually, they wanted to try it on so that they could experience sound the way I experienced it. Before I realized what was happening, we were connecting over the very thing that I thought would divide us.
As I got older and watched the world around me, I learned to see my difference as a tragedy or some bad luck that occurred in my mother’s womb. Visits to the hospital further intensified this perspective as I listened to doctors discuss the next procedure that would improve the appearance of my face and hence the “quality of my life.” I never had a conversation with anyone that wasn’t from a place of grief around having lost the ticket to ‘normalcy’ and belonging.
When I moved to Toronto, I met artists from a group of intersecting communities (disabled, queer, Deaf, Mad, Black, Trans, Fat, non-binary) – who all talked about difference differently. I heard stories and experienced art that positioned difference, not from a place of loss, but a place of connection, love, pride, comedy, sensuality. And for the second time in my life, I realized as I did on that first day of school, that people can be empowered by the very thing that the world tells us to fear.
As I connected with artists and their work, this story about difference had morphed into something more empowering and liberating. I started to see that creativity and community are where people can reclaim what it means to be different in radical new ways.
In 2015, I decided I wanted to connect more people to experiences like this. I started a small art project with a group of other visionary artists, and we called it Creative Users Projects. We played with the word “user,” a term used in inclusive design research wherein disabled people are commonly referred to as “extreme users.” Our vision was to build a forum where people can share stories, be creative, and explore what it means to be a “creative user’ in a world designed for one body.
We believed that, given space, opportunities, and tools, we could transform how society relates to disability and difference and build a more inclusive future.
— Lindsay Fisher