Disability & I
Like over 80% of disabled people in the uk, I was not born with a disability. I had a motorbike accident in 1995 which resulted in a brachial plexus injury- essentially the near total paralysis of my left arm and hand.
I lost symmetry: as I can no longer use my arm, the muscles have wasted away over the years and my left arm is now significantly thinner than my right. My left hand has also shrunk in size and my fingers are curled under. I have had many operations, all of which have left scars. I became very adept at hiding my disability, both physically and aesthetically.
Clothes presented me with a double challenge: on the practical side I needed to be able to dress myself unaided and on the other I needed to feel confident about the way I looked. I had always expressed my individuality through my clothes, and therefore I was no prepared to give up on style for the sake of practicality or ease of dress. At the time of my motorbike accident, I looked like I had just stepped out of the 1950s. I used to set my hair in curlers, and I realised very quickly that it was a challenge too far to attempt it one-handed.
I soon found out that back zips were the enemy and that shoe laces were to be avoided... and I discovered the almighty power of the pocket. My left arm used to be limp and I could not hold it in a vaguely normal position. I used to feel very self conscious as it was important to me to look as 'normal' as possible. pockets became my saviour: they gave me my confidence back.
In 2003 I had my triceps grafted onto my biceps which together give me enough strength to hold my arm up. It has made a huge difference to how I carry myself, and how I view myself.
It has taken over 20 years to feel confident enough to publicly show the physical impact of my injury, and embrace my differences: I am disabled, I am different, I am imperfect and that makes me stronger.
Top & bottom photos by Kristina Varaksina.