Inside Outside: Pieta Bouma

Hi everybody The reason that I’m blind is because a gypsy woman cursed me. My disability means everything just takes a little bit longer. The wheelchair and iPad and headwand don’t define who I am. Great. That’s what we want on film. Hi my name is Pieta Bouma I’m 19 years old and I’m a student at the University of Auckland I used to do a lot of adventure sports, like surfing, and skiing, and hiking, and anything active and outdoorsy.

Last year I was in Ecuador volunteering and I fell off a rope swing. I fell about six or eight metres onto a concrete path and I broke my back, which gave me a spinal cord injury from T-10 level which is about my belly button. My sister lives with me and she keeps me on track, she’s very real. She was actually the one who spent the most time with me at the spinal unit, and she would come in and be like “it is what it is. [ __ ] happens”. I can still go on adventures and get outside and do sports as much as I can. It’s important for me to keep that part of myself alive.

This is my flat. The people who owned it before our landlords–one of them was in a wheelchair, so it’s already made nice and accessible–it’s got these on the corners so I don’t bump into the walls and smash them. This is the kitchen it’s made with gaps under the stove and the bench so that a wheelchair-user can roll up right under them. The kitchen is super accessible. I love being home I really feel like all my flatmates see me for who I am and not for how I get around, or my difference and my disability they just know me as Pieta. The main support I need for myself mentally and emotionally is just the people I have around me. So I’ve got Marayke to do it for me. First thing I do in the morning is usually stretch because I can’t really roll around naturally in bed a lot. It takes me a lot longer to get ready in the mornings now.

  Fishing from a wheelchair (Bulletproof: Sam)

So I used to get ready in maybe half an hour, and now I really have to allow at least an hour, or an hour and a half. Getting ready in the morning takes me a little bit longer than it used to. I’ve had my jeans tailored for me so when I have to pee during the day I don’t have to take them all the way off. Got this little zip in the crotch which is quite sneaky. I always try to put my jeans on by myself made it a goal of my own to put jeans on while sitting in the chair so I can do that. I get a special section here. Priority seating for wheelchairs and i can just park with my brakes on. Today we’re taking the bus to uni, I’m with my cousins–how good is the bus? I find that a lot of the time I’m sort of naturally accounting for other people’s discomfort about my disability and so I feel like I have to minimise it, and I have to joke about it. I should get an e-scooter so I can catch up with you. You have working legs, you have no excuse not to keep up! I’m studying a conjoint in Health Science and Global Studies. This lecture theater doesn’t have a fold-out desk for me so I usually sit in the doorway. Excuse me, could you please move one seat over? I’m lucky that I’ve got the ability to transfer well.

There’s an elevator at university which is all glass right at the main entrance to the library which really makes me feel like I’m absolutely on display, like “hi look at me, I’m disabled”. Lovely glass elevator again. Everyone just watch me struggling to figure out how this stupid thing works. Dumb. Do not like this elevator. Gets like, three out of 10. Because it’s glass. And because it’s always broken. Not what we want. Would it work if I press the button down here? People will go out of their way to help me and if people can see that I’m having struggles strangers will often ask “oh, like can I do anything for you, can I help?” We had both good and bad examples of um, people trying to help. Thank you, Pieta: Thanks I’ve got it, you can go. Thank you–no you can go–no Man: I’ll hold it Pieta: Oh, no I’m fine, you can go Man: Just go Pieta: Please, just go. Please. Thank you. And we’re off on a mission to find an accessible toilet. Sometimes I feel like my disability means everything just takes a little bit longer.

  Determination of a war refugee

Finding toilets, getting ready in the morning, getting in the car. I can do it all, but it just takes a little bit longer than it would if I was able-bodied. We have finally found an accessible toilet. Like, this is the first time I’ve really been in a minority group. I’ve never really felt like I’ve experienced discrimination before, or I’ve been an “other” until I was in a wheelchair, and I’m very conscious of the fact that this is the first thing people see about me is my disability, and my wheelchair. There needs to be more representation of disabled people and it needs to be less limited to the pity or inspiration narratives. I’ve always been quite passionate about social justice and now that I’ve suddenly had this disability thrust upon me and I’ve become part of the disabled community I feel like it is my responsibility to help dispel ableism in my community because lots of my friends and the people who follow me on Instagram-

-I might be the only severely disabled person they know or the only person in a wheelchair they know. Being signed on to an organization, All is For All, which is an inclusive fashion brand which has been really cool–that’s been a huge part of sort of the positive view I have of the disabled community because there are other young women who are positive and they’re beautiful and they’re ambitious and they are thriving with their disabilities–that’s really been a big source of positivity for me just to see that the disabled community isn’t–it’s a cool thing to be part of.

  My Perfect Family: Melody

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