In mainstream media, disabled and chronically ill people are rarely if ever spotlighted. With Able Zine, Claudia Walder intends to change that. Claudia formed Able in 2018 after receiving her own diagnosis and realising that there were very few examples of diversity, creative opportunities or communities that included disabled people. “Representation is just one of many ways we can tackle ableism,” she says, but representation isn’t the end goal for Able. “I want to be able to work with clients and companies around the world, consulting, curating and content-creating,” she says, “but I also hope to develop supportive practises that protect disabled people from exploitation and ignorance, whilst simultaneously elevating them.”
Claudia’s work has already been featured on Dazed, and acknowledged by the likes of Tate Modern and the BBC. As a stylist, she has worked with two past Dazed 100 names – Stormzy and Munroe Bergdorf – as well as on various editorial shoots. Her work highlighting ableism, educating able-bodied people, and providing a much-needed space to “bridge the gap between disability and creative culture” is vitally necessary, and will continue with the upcoming Issue Two of Able Zine.
When it comes to your work, what are you most proud of?
Claudia Walder: I’m proud that I open people’s eyes to the inequality and injustices that are taking place in my community. I’m proud to spotlight artists whose work is powerful because of their health experiences, not in spite of their health experiences.
How do you want to influence the future?
Claudia Walder: I hope for a legacy in which I’ve made disability an interesting topic to engage with, rather than something awkward and uncomfortable that people want to avoid. The hope for each day is to increase awareness in one more person’s mind so that disabled people are freer to do and access all the same things that non-disabled people can.
How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you, your work, and your community?
Claudia Walder: Coronavirus’s impact on my community is devastating and insurmountable. Everyone with long-term health issues has a personal experience and I can't speak for everyone. What I do know is that, for some, their routine healthcare provided by hospitals and practices has all but stopped for an ongoing period of time that knows no end. The anxiety and issues this will create are mammoth. It’s worth noting that most people with chronic illness have to fight to access healthcare. For me, none of the conditions I've been diagnosed with have made the news. I’ve had zero contact from the NHS and several members of my family have struggled to receive acknowledgement for their disability or been able to access support. This means care packages, priority access and similar things for ‘vulnerable’ groups isn't sufficient, and vulnerable people are slipping through the net.
For others that employ and rely on care workers, the impact of social distancing may have already affected their regular care schedules, while the economic impact for individuals with disabilities and care needs is likely increased, as some have had to buy protective clothing for staff, ingredients to make their own sanitisers, fabrics to make their own masks. Plus stockpiling, hoarding, and overcrowding delivery services directly impacts both disabled people and healthcare workers the most, so as a society we need to create ethical forms of priority to ensure people have access to what they need to survive, not to just be satisfied. Most disturbingly of all, people deemed ‘high-risk’, ‘at-risk’, ‘vulnerable’ with pre-existing or underlying conditions are falling to the bottom of the pile, both in real-life care settings, ICUs and through language and ideologies adopted by governments, the media, and by society.
“I come from a long line of revolutionary disabled people and activists who have fought their whole lives for inclusion and basic human rights” – Claudia Walder
What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?
Claudia Walder: With the £10,000 grant money, I would have the resources I need to develop an online website for Able Zine, one that is accessible and inviting for all. One of the limitations of a physical publication is the time and limited space available. A website would give our community the empowering platform it needs to educate and thrive in a consistent and universal way.
I come from a long line of revolutionary disabled people and activists who have fought their whole lives for inclusion and basic human rights. There is a thriving online community of sick and crip people who continue this fight every day. They give me hope of a better future, one where ‘ableism’ is in everybody’s vocabulary. Having my work highlighted on a platform like Dazed and to be featured on Dazed 100 with such talented fellow creatives, will surely give a spotlight to issues that are so rarely discussed in the types of media I consumed as a formerly able-bodied person. Allowing young people and future change-makers to learn about diversity and different body types is essential to the development and advancement of our societies. It could genuinely change lives and minds for the better.
Portrait of Claudia Walder by Christian Cassiel