Claire Freeman | “My wheelchair is an extension of me” : IGTV Transcription

Hello! So my name is Claire Freeman, and I had a car accident when I was 17 years old. I have a “C5-6” tetraplegic, my mum fell asleep while she was driving, unfortunately, and I broke my neck. So that’s probably why you see me talking and I don’t quite have the right breathing capacity. But since I broke my neck I was told ‘you’ll never use your hands and legs’ and so forth, and I was certainly persuaded not to do design, which made me more determined to do design, so I got my design degree, and I got a job, and I worked as a graphic designer for a while. And then I had surgery that went really really badly and lost more function in my hands so I had to give up my job as a designer.

Claire has red hair in this image she is sitting with her dog on her lap and holding it, she is also wearing cat ears and her hair in a bun. She sits in her wheelchair, wearing a grey cardigan and black skivvy.

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Then I started my PhD, and my PhD is in looking at the discourses around power wheelchairs and why we have a sort of negative association with them. So it’s quite a broad based degree and it does also include a conceptual art exhibition at the end. But I love it. It’s really exciting. It’s really really interesting, and I’m really lucky to be able to study that. I’ve got a few more years left before I become a doctor however, but it has been really interesting. I’ve got a masters in health science from Otago (University) as well. 

I don’t really see… I mean, my wheelchair is certainly an accessory that I have, it’s like a pair of shoes in a way, so I try and make it look as good as I can. I would probably love to dress it up a little bit more, I certainly love those little wheels that flash, I think that would be really cool. But it’s just an extension of my body in a way, I kind of see it like I’m a cyborg. 

Certainly I often wonder if there was ever an earthquake it would probably be quite a safe place to hide under because it’s titanium so I’d be fairly safe. 

I did social media, I do social media, and there was an agency that signed me up in Italy called, Iulia Barton and they had me over in Milan last year for Milan fashion week, which was crazy because I don’t really see myself as a model, but I kind of got thrown into that sort of role which is… strange! I see myself more as a role model because I guess I’ve always relied on my brain instead of the way I look. But certainly more recently I’ve come to appreciate that I’m okay looking… it’s not about being okay looking, but it’s more about accepting who I am. So I don’t get scared about the fact that my legs might be a bit skinnier, things are a little different, but I’ve kind of learnt to embrace that and I’ve learnt to embrace those differences and see them as unique parts of me. And I don’t mind showing them off anymore, whereas certainly a couple of years ago I was very shy, and I would hide under really baggy big clothes, always black. I know this (dress) is black but I do wear colour. And I love colour!

My favourite fashion brand… I like pretty things, like pretty dresses. I like dressing up, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel better about myself, it’s better for my self-esteem. At the same time I like being comfortable and obviously, comfort is a big part, and it’s quite a crucial part of the way I am. I tend to buy a lot of clothes that are stretchy and easy to get on so there is a lot of thought that has to go into the clothes I wear. But I do feel like the fashion industry is slowly waking up to the fact that we do have different needs, so it’s exciting to see the progress and I’m just taking note of everything. So I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings. Okay, see ya! 

See more: @allisforall

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