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Artist goes to bed in public to raise disability awareness
Liz Crow in bed, exhibited

Making invisible lives, visible

When Liz Crow is out and about, she adopts a strong public image. But when at home, she has to lie down, cave-in and totally relax. She calls this her "bed life".

"I go out there and try and be all energetic and busy and doing things", says Crow. "But then I come back and have this kind of hidden self where I switch off, spend a lot of time lying down, a lot of time in bed recovering."

She is not alone. Many disabled people have fluctuating conditions which are painful or energy-zapping. Lots hide the bed recovery aspect of their lives from others for fear that they won't be understood.

Previously, Crow hid her most-disabled self from others in case they saw it as "not socially acceptable". But in April, this part of her is set to become very public.

Liz Crow speaks on the latest Ouch! talk show, available to stream now or download.
She will lie in bed for 48 hours as a human exhibit at Salisbury Arts Centre in mid April. Crow thinks the time is right to have an open conversation about the hidden life she and others have.

"There's a pressure", she says, "particularly after last summer and the Paralympics, to be a kind of super human when you're in public. And if you're not that, if you're a [benefits] claimant, then you're often cast as a scrounger.

"What I'm trying to do is to find that space in the middle where we just acknowledge that life is more complicated."

During the two day sleep over, Crow will invite visitors to join her for five scheduled bedside chats about disabled life. One of the discussions will be held on Twitter and via SMS text.

"Last time I did it," she says recalling a performance in Ipswich in November, "I was contacted by quite a few people who said 'this is great, thank you for making me visible. I'd really like to be there and visit but I have my own bed life and so I can't'."

The original version of Liz Crow's performance was only for those who walked in off the street; the new Salisbury performance will have a much wider audience as it will be streamed live on the web. A #beddingout hashtag has also been running for two weeks on Twitter and already there's a community of people with bed lives of their own springing up around the project.

The artist admits she has been surprised by the amount of feedback she's had and is keen to connect people with one another: "I had no idea that there are actually thousands upon thousands of us out there living this kind of life, because we are really isolated and we are really invisible in public life."

• The Bedding Out installation is at Salisbury Arts Centre. Liz Crow will be bedding down 'live' between 10-12 April.

You can follow Ouch! on Twitter and on Facebook.


Publ.Date : Tue, 12 Mar 2013 14:51:44 +0000

"I\'m a crawling mummy": how one disabled mum looks after her son
Laura with son Jonathan on her lap

Laura got alternative parenting ideas from a support network

Laura Miller lives in Glasgow with her husband and 13 month old Jonathan. As Mother's Day approaches, the wheelchair-using mum explains how she cares for her little boy who she cannot carry.

"I do most of my parenting sitting down," says Laura. She can transfer from her chair to the floor and move around after her son on her hands and knees. But because she can't pick him up while standing, she's had to find other ways of getting Jonathan to where she wants him to be in the house.

At bedtime, Laura lures Jonathan to where his cot is by switching off all lights in places she doesn't want him to be, leaving on only the light in his room. Sometimes she crawls through the house with him, squeaking a noisy toy to grab his attention and make him follow.

The self-declared "crawling mummy" is in no doubt who is faster on four limbs and has the bruises to prove it. She is confident Jonathan's not upset that he's not carried because she makes it fun getting from place to place.

Laura can pick her child up and hold him while sitting down.

When outside, she obviously wouldn't want her son to crawl behind her in the street. So when getting ready, she coaxes him over with her voice and, when he's close to her powerchair, she can reach him and put him on her lap; he then sits nicely protected in a baby carrier strapped to Laura's middle while they're away from home.

"Children do tune in to what you're doing," she says. "He'll run to his dad to get him to lift him up ... but he won't do it with me."

Laura makes sure she is "super ready" for every possible situation and believes she has become an amazing problem-solver. "That is the unique property of a disabled parent," she says. "We have to do it at a higher level and that's why we need encouragement from other parents because, obviously, that can get exhausting. You need people to keep cheering you on and feeding you ideas."

In Laura's case, the support came from the Disabled Parents Network, for mums and dads with a disability or health condition. She credits DPN with teaching her the strategies she uses, and other examples of what she calls "alternative parenting".

The Glasgow mum is now a volunteer for the organisation, helping other disabled parents herself. She says: "I think it's really important to let parents know that they're not on their own."

• Laura Miller was speaking with Liz Carr and Rob Crossan on the latest disability talk show from Ouch!

Listen to the interview in full on the latest show which you can download to your MP3 player or hear online.

You can follow Ouch! on Twitter and on Facebook.


Publ.Date : Fri, 08 Mar 2013 11:30:44 +0000


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