Strolling into Imaginaries: When the Constitution of Space Produces Disabled Bodies



The Imaginary and Spatiality ///

My body is seen as disabled.
My body is not an assigned role.
My body is not a silent voice.
My body is not a fiction.
My body is real.
My body is sometimes feminine.
My body is lesbian.
My body is free.
My body is in love.
My body is alive.
My body is a dancer.
And, in front of you, who look at me, my body strolls and dances,
In the space, among you, with you.
I am not a dead image, you know?
I stroll with my wheelchair in the street, and feel that my presence in public space is not obvious. Stairs in front of buildings, high pavements, narrow doors; everything makes me feel bad, and out of place. My presence in public space is unexpected; I have to explain myself. I feel like a foreign object, an extraneous body, alien to social spaces, alien to the human community. Everything tells me: “You cannot enter. You are not welcome. You have not been imagined among us, so how can you be among us?” I am not able to enter. I am not allowed to enter. In these situations, my abilities are defined by the space around me. My rights are defined by the space around me. It’s not my body that represent an obstacle to my movement; rather, it’s the spaces I am in. My body is not disabled in a vacuum; a set of stairs in the absence of an elevator is what hinders my movement. A door which has to be pulled, instead of sliding or being pushed, makes me unable to enter a space on my own. Gradually, this relation between space and bodies adds up to a tacit segregation: my disabled body is stripped of its rights because of the constitution of spaces. Spatiality and architecture impose an order on bodies, create hierarchies between and within them, stipulating which places each is able or allowed to be in. We can consider spatiality a reflection of dominant relations, but it produces domination too.