I’m not protesting. I don’t really have a political agenda. It’s such a simple thing, but it’s so socially deviant — just to spend a day traveling without the aid of a mechanical device.
–Interview, the day before
The car door opens. A young woman places her feet outside, then drops to the ground. She begins to crawl, alone, along a sidewalk.
A skateboarder rattles past, then people appear. Students. It’s a long sidewalk, a big university. She stops to rest occasionally, rearranging her legs and body into a sitting position and smiling at the passersby. Then she crawls.
It’s not an ablebodied crawl. Gretchen Schaper crawls like the para she is, doing all the work with her arms, feet splayed behind her. More students. They can’t seem to see her. There’s a groundskeeper. He can’t see her. She’s invisible, untouchable. A cyclist glides past. People flow by.
Once I got the idea of going to school like everyone else, wheelchair-free, how could I resist? The piece was an experiment and an opening for discussion — not about Gretchen crawling like a pre-toddler to college but about the unexpected, about speed, height, disability, endurance, strangers, pain and the human condition.
In crawling, I was exhibiting my disability in full.