|International Access Symbol |
crocheted by Jodie
Australians are mourning the loss of a most remarkable woman, Stella Young, a passionate disability advocate, activist, knitter and blogger who died suddenly in December 2014.
To say that her influence was significant is an understatement and Australia (and the world) is poorer for her loss. If you don't know who Stella Young is (and I mean 'is' as her legacy lives on), you must read at least one of these articles to discover how clever, funny, witty, strong and passionate and colourful she was (in clothes and language but don't let that dissuade you) about the rights of people with disabilities and more...
- Much Loved Disabilty Activist Stella Young Dies Suddenly at Age 32
radio & online article
- Stella Young TED Talk live stream and transcript
- Stella Young's Letter to Herself at 80 Years Old
- 17 Things Stella Young Wanted You to Know: Each of Stella Young's quotes in this has a link to a longer article on each topic so this is good to read if you haven't already read her articles on ABC Ramp Up.
Stella Young was Editor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Ramp Up–Disability, Discussion, Debate website. If you haven't already, please visit Ramp Up to introduce yourself to the disability issues of the day and to challenge your thinking about disability.
Craig Wallace, the President of People with Disability Australia, was also involved with the development of Ramp Up and worked with Stella on many articles. He has given his personal reflection of Stella in his article:
- "Stella Forever" in Starecase (an online magazine "for people with disability by people with disability").
Sadly, Ramp Up's funding was cut during 2014. It is such a shame that Ramp Up was closed due to lack of funding - disability advocacy is such important work and voices of disabled people (previously stifled for many years) need to be heard on a national platform like the ABC. Shame on you Auntie ABC. Shame on you, government bean counters. The news of Ramp Up's closure left me with a heavy heart, but not as heavy as the thought of a world without Stella Young leading the way as only she could.
Stella Young lobbied for, and was involved in, the development of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). After her death the Chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency published this statement:
A Misguided Tribute?
Many people are making tributes to Stella Young in their own ways. Some knitters decided to pay tribute with a yarnbomb because Stella Young was also a knitter. I am sure a keen knitter like Stella would be enthusiastic about doing something as funky, colourful and creative as a yarnbomb, but I am concerned that the activity might be a little misguided. The event that they devised, to be held on 20 December 2014, was "Yarn bomb a wheelchair ramp for Stella" to "to knit (or crochet) a little yarn bomb to be placed on a wheelchair ramp near you, in her honour." Can you think of any problems with this idea?
It's great that they are organising a tribute for Stella Young that involves knitting but participants need to know that by yarnbombing wheelchair ramps, handrails, etc. they would be doing the opposite of what Stella would want - making these access devices useless for those of us with disabilities. This fact was not mentioned anywhere on the event description that I could find.
Yarnbombing a handrail means that people cannot get a grip on the handrail and for those of us that need it, we hold those rails for our dear lives. Putting yarn on a ramp will upset the traction for wheelchairs and walkers, the yarn threads have potential to catch between small castors and on people's feet. We use mobility devices because we are not stable and do not need to trip on yarn under our feet!
People with visual impairments and difficulties with depth perception will have trouble with a different texture under their feet. If the railings are yarnbombed in the wrong colours, the visibility of these important pieces of urban safety equipment will be changed and it may become very dangerous for many people.
Not to mention the unpleasantness of dripping wet yarn after a rain shower. Yarn gets heavy when wet and can stretch out of shape and take a long time to dry. Who wants to have soggy yarn against them? Not ideal for a handrail.
So while I am sure these yarnbombers' hearts are in the right place, maybe they should vary their compaign to use knitting in a different way...let's yarn bomb the offices of the policy makers who are too slow to instigate change or too deaf to hear the voices of those with disability! Make a 'blanket' call to action! hehehe
|Single-granny square blanket in blue with yellow contrast and red accent stripes.|
The difference between flowers on the street and yarnbombing an access ramp is that the occasional obstacle on a busy street is inevitable for both disabled and able-bodied people but obstacles on an access ramp–not acceptable!
A single bunch of flowers stands no chance against an electric wheelchair or mobility scooter and is pushed out the way relatively easily if necessary, preferably before one has tripped over it! On the other hand, a yarn bomb permanently attached to an access fixture with sewing and knots is not so easily removed (unless one is carrying scissors or thread cutters).
When trying to use an access ramp, to have one's progress impeded by something as preventable and unnecessary as yarn or any other obstruction is hurtful to the person using the ramp and shameful on the part of the person(s) who caused the obstruction. It prompts the feeling of exclusion that I mentioned in Access All Areas: Online Too. Obstructions on access ramps give the message "You are not welcome here."
|Colourful skeins of silk mohair in a row:|
brown, blue-green, purple-plum, red-pink-orange, violet-indigo, greens, red, orange etc.
I love crochet, knitting and yarn crafts. (You may have noticed! [tongue in cheek]) I enjoy a good yarn bombing as much as the next yarncrafter, (have a look at Stitch for Summer: A Colourful Rhythm) but we have to be mindful that our bit of fun, artistic statement or tribute does not inadvertently create bad consequences.
Next time you see a door handle*, hand rail or wheelchair ramp yarnbombed (or any other urban equipment), consider the utility of that equipment in the built environment, think of Stella Young, and take action to remove these barriers to access that people with disabilities face every day.
Most of the time people (like these yarnbombers) don't mean to put up barriers; many able-bodied people simply don't recognise the barriers for people with disabilities. How can they if they don't live it? Often it is because they have no knowledge or experience with disability so it is important to educate and point out these disability access issues to well-meaning supporters.
Please do your part to make our communities truly inclusive and accessible for all whether they are visually impaired, deaf, autistic, users of wheelchairs or other mobility aids, living with mental illness, male or female, bi- or heterosexual, transgender, gay, lesbian, tall or short, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or of any other religious persuasion, Australian, American, European, African or Asian, old or young etc.
That is what Stella Young would have wanted.
|Stripes of rainbow colours in tricot stitches: (in purl) blue, (and simple stitches) yellow, orange, pink and violet.|
- Stella Young's Memorial Service was held in Melbourne and broadcast live on ABC News 24 and the live stream video is available to watch on ABC's iView service (thank you, ABC). I am not sure how long it will be available on iView. In my opinion the messages conveyed within the memorial service are so important that they ought to remain available online for years to come. (Are you reading this, Auntie?)
- Stella is listed in Daily Life's Women of the Year 2014 at No. 2. All of the women in this list are amazing and doing valuable work. If your daughters are seeking inspiration, show them this list.
I am looking forward to seeing the new wave of people who will seize Stella Young's passion and enthusiasm for human rights and lead the world.
* It has been claimed that the current yarn bombing trend began with a door handle in 2005 when artist Magda Sayeg created a blue-and-pink yarn cozy for her boutique's door handle in Houston, Texas, USA.
ABC, Ramp Up–Disability, Discussion, Debate, website, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2011–2014: http://www.abc.net.au/rampup/
ABC iView, "Stella Young Memorial", live stream video, 19 December 2014, [accessed 22 December 2014], ABC News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation: http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/abc-news-special-stella-young-memorial/NS1446H001S00
Bonyhady,Bruce AM, "Statement by Bruce Bonyhady: Stella Young", December 2014, National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), www.ndis.gov.au: http://www.ndis.gov.au/document/1231
Carbonelli, Rachel, "Much Loved Disabilty Activist Stella Young Dies Suddenly at Age 32", radio/online article, The World Today, ABC News Radio, 8 December 2014, Australian Broadcasting Corporation: http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2014/s4144242.htm
Daily Life, "Daily Life's Women of the Year 2014: the full list" photo gallery, 18 December 2014, www.dailylife.com.au: http://www.dailylife.com.au/photogallery/dl-women-of-the-year/daily-lifes-20-women-of-the-year-2014-20141217-3mq6a.html
Dunn, Matthew, "The Ups and Downs of Ramps and Stairs", originally published in Voiceworks magazine, <voiceworksmag.com.au> Issue 92; republished on Crochet Between Worlds blog, 20 January 2015: http://crochetbetweentwoworlds.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/the-ups-and-downs-of-ramps-and-stairs.html
Liddy, Matthew, "17 Things Stella Young Wanted You to Know" ABC News, 8 December 2014, Australian Broadcasting Corporation: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-08/17-things-stella-young-wanted-you-to-know/5950814
Palenzuela, Karen, "Questioning Assumptions on Disability", online article (includes transcript of Stella Young's TEDxSydney talk, ABC Ramp Up, 2 May 2014, Australian Broadcasting Corporation: http://www.abc.net.au/rampup/articles/2014/05/01/3996019.htm
People with Disability Australia (PWDA): http://www.pwd.org.au/
Sayeg, Magda, Magda Sayeg, web site: http://www.magdasayeg.com/
TEDxSydney, "Stella Young", live stream, 26 April 2014, TEDxSydney.com: http://tedxsydney.com/LIVE/?UUID=AE23EBCDE27BB6E30AD4D1B0142DDBC2&#&panel1-1
Tinkler, Jacquie, "Yarn Bomb a Wheelchair Ramp for Stella" online event, www.wherevent.com: http://www.wherevent.com/detail/Jacquie-Tinkler-Yarn-bomb-a-wheelchair-ramp-for-Stella
Wallace, Craig, "Stella Forever", Starecase [online magazine], www.starecase.weebly.com, Issue 6, December 2014, p. 41: http://starecase.weebly.com/uploads/6/0/4/5/6045073/starecase_2014_preview.pdf
Wollan, Malia, "Graffiti's Cozy, Feminine Side", The New York Times, 18 May 2011: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/fashion/creating-graffiti-with-yarn.html
Young, Stella, "Stella Young's Letter to Herself at 80 Years Old", Sydney Morning Herald, newspaper article, November 2014, reprinted December 2014 [this is an edited extract from Between Us: Words and wisdom from Women of Letters, curated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire. (Viking, $29.99.)], : http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/celebrity/stella-youngs-letter-to-herself-at-80-years-old-20141122-11llol.html
Related Posts on Lupey Loops
"Access All Areas: Online Too", 12 December 2014: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/access-all-areas-online-too.html
"Stitch for Summer: A Colourful Rhythm", 23 February 2013: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/stitch-for-summer-colourful-rhythm_23.html