The accessibility activists in GIL, the Göteborg Cooperative for Independent Living, are once again on the warpath. This time they are armed with dildos, fake vaginas and a three kilo “Fist of Adonis”. The message? People who need assistance have the same needs as everyone else and should not need to see their lives reduced to a mechanical, institutional process.
Dressed in the role of the particularly unsympathetic assistive technology company Secreta AB, GIL is aiming to properly shake up the visitors to this year’s Leva & Fungera assistive technology exhibition in Göteborg. With disability-friendly vibrators and a disturbingly superior attitude, they paint a clear, if satirical, image of what life can be like when you are dependent on others.
“Sex is simply a tool for us to gain publicity. It could just as well have been about scheduled toilet visits or other abuse,” says GIL’s Anders Westgerd. “But sex combined with a visible disability is ridiculously taboo, and thus pure dynamite from a communicative perspective.”
Anders Westgerd knows what he’s talking about. As head of operations at GIL, and its public face, he has won many awards for his work on highlighting the structural faults that make life difficult for people with disabilities. Or functional variations, as Anders prefers to call them.
“Me being unable to walk is really comparable to someone else not being able to run 100 metres in less than ten seconds,” says Anders. “Whether someone has a disability or not is decided by where society places the norm, not the physical ability.”
The people who are upset by GIL’s sometimes challenging campaigns are almost always people who do not have a disability. Anders believes that this is a clear indication that the campaigns work as they are intended to.
“I’m completely capable of speaking for myself if I am offended, but many people experience the fact that I’m in a wheelchair as if it gives them a green light to treat me as if I’m a child,” clarifies Westgerd. “In some way, otherwise intelligent people get hung up on the idea that disabled is the same as incapable. It’s an incredibly frustrating phenomena.”
Leva & Fungera will be held 14-16 April at Svenska Mässan in Göteborg. More information about GIL’s campaign can be found at secreta.se, or you can follow the project on Facebook.