Our Limitations Do Not Define Us

CLICK HERE to view her unforgettable TED Talk and video clip of her scuba diving: 

Our Limitations Do Not Define Use: A TED Talk for an Aging Society

Bound to a wheelchair due to an extended illness, Sue found her own self-image changed by her experience and the way society viewed her. She set out to “create new narratives to reclaim my identity.” She wanted to communicate something of the joy and freedom she had even in her wheelchair and transform the preconceptions she had experienced. So, Sue began painting with the wheels of her wheelchair and even scuba diving in her wheelchair to change people’s ideas of what “disabled” people can do.

As she gave a TED talk in 2012, Sue showed her captive audience a video of her sailing along the coral reef, scuba diving in her chair. She gracefully moved her arms, propelling herself forward among the fish in the spaciousness and freedom of the ocean. It was incredibly moving and other-worldly to combine these two images/content: one, a representation of unboundedness and the other, of restriction. “When people see me scuba diving in my wheelchair”, she said, “they transcend the frames of reference they have for the wheelchair. They have to think in a completely new way. A new thought creates a freedom that spreads to the rest of peoples’ lives. They are seeing the value of difference.”

This is a beautiful example to us as an aging society. Traditionally, the disabled and elderly are pushed from the view of society, but in a world where10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years, this will change. Our longevity means that our society must not only see these people, but see them as an integral part of our society. We must reshape our understanding of what people are capable of doing and what gives people value.

For our clients in particular, we love dreaming together about the last decades of their lives, what they would like to do, who they would like to be with, and where they see themselves enjoying life. These are the powerful questions that should give shape to a life, not just what are your chronic illnesses, what are your mobility limitations, what medications do you take? Our services are simply a support for individuals to continue living their incredible and meaningful lives with quality and safety. 


Published on June 7, 2013.