Interview with disability visibility advocate Rue

Interview with disability visibility advocate, Rue

Interview with disability visibility advocate and model Rue has been the most captivating one we have done since a long time. She has been battling with her her disabilities, since a young age, trying hard to “fit in” but has found her tribe on Instagram where she shares her looks. While her feed is full of very interesting and colorful images and her style is no doubt appealing, its her struggle and bravery that attract people towards her personality. She talks about her battles, how she conquered her demons, the issues she along with other disabled people still face in the society and what still needs to be done. check it out.

I think people are afraid of wearing colour. It makes you stand out and sets you apart. But that’s what we need! Maybe the world would be a kinder place if we all embraced our differences and didn’t feel like we had to do things a certain way or hide who we are or how we feel.

  1. You loved fashion as a child but ended up trying to “Fit in”. What made that change and was that just your disability or you find it more as a general occurrence in the society?

My disabilities certainly played a part as I didn’t want to be seen as ‘less than’ and that’s how I felt disabled people were seen back then. And there  is more of an expectation to conform as you leave your early 20s. There are workplace expectations, colleagues to fit in with, bosses to appease. I became a parent and you need to make friends with other parents for your child to be part of a social circle. I definitely found myself trying to dress like others around me and I was trying so hard not to be the weird one. It didn’t work but I tried.

  1. What were you first experiences in the world of fashion and where did you find your inspiration from?

I was a teen in the 90s and vogue magazine was my secret joy that I’d spend my part time job wages on. Flicking through the vivienne westwood creations, seeing Kate moss and Naomi Campbell and the grunge era. I loved all of it. But it wasn’t for the likes of me.

My first real life encounter with fashion came when I lived in Texas years ago and worked at a friends vintage store. And it really was  a game changer for me. Suddenly I could wear these 70s gunne sax lace wedding dress style outfits to work and nobody batted an eyelid. My weirdness became something that was appreciated. My individual style was commented on with praise. Rather than “what are you wearing that for?”. And I found my fellow weirdos. The creatives that valued my uniqueness and that really helped me find my feet. I joined Instagram and a whole new world opened up to me of likeminded people I could share what I enjoyed with and vice versa.

  1. Are you happy with the progress we are making as a society in terms of de-stigmatizing disability? What changes would you like to see ideally?

I think people are trying and I am absolutely loving seeing more representation in media as it’s such an influential platform but we still have so far to go in terms of equality and accessibility in a world that others can take for granted. Imagine not being able to just go into any shop or pub or entertainment venue whenever you wanted because you can’t get up the stairs and they don’t even have a portable ramp! Even hospitals and doctors surgeries have work to do in terms of providing accessibility for patients. These are the places you’d think would make this a priority.

But often disabled people are not receiving basic care such as cervical screening for cancer from their own GP as the surgeries don’t have a hoist. I heard about a pharmacist who had to quit her job when she became disabled because there were no staff disabled toilets and you just can’t fit a wheelchair into a regular stall. You have to leave the door open! And that is just not ok. Disability is one of these things society fears, we all know it could happen to anyone one of us at any time but until it does we don’t make it our concern.

  1. Now that you have overcome the demons of uncertainty. Do you find disability as your strength or weakness?

Ha! This is a complicated one! I had to work hard to over come my inner ableism and how I viewed disability due to social conditioning and I had to fight those demons first. See my neurodivergence or autism as a strength. I see and interact with the world differently and I appreciate that now. According to me i think it enables me to be the creative, curious person I am who is always thinking outside the box.

My physical disabilities make life complicated but I have an array of amazing mobility gadgets that are my strength. I got a stair lit recently and my life is so much better for it. But imagine the stigma I had to overcome to do that at 44. I’ve got my all terrain wheelchair so I can climb hills now. That’s been a game changer! I can now navigate our horrific pavements in the U.K. that are often very steep, slanted and bumpy and I can get up and down kerbs with it. I was going to a hospital appointment yesterday and because I assumed I’d be on flat ground I used that one. However, all the disabled parking at the hospital had been taken, and I’d say more than 50% were not displaying blue badges.

I have an average powerchair too and that poor baby just can’t handle a lot of pavements here. This pisses me off. People using wheelchairs need the extra space created around those parking spaces to get wheelchairs in and out of a vehicle. Think how hard it can be to even open a car door here in a tight spot then imagine having a whole wheelchair to get in. Anyway we parked further away and I had to navigate sloped, uneven paths. My wheelchair couldn’t handle it and lost control and veered into the road into traffic which was terrifying!

I also have chronic illnesses though and I’ll be honest these suck! Definitely 0 star review for those. I have chronic fatigue and there is simply nothing you can do but ride a crash out. You just have to rest and wait it out. And it’s boring. To anyone who thinks I’d love to not work and stay in bed all day, be careful what you wish for!

  1. Colours, why are they important to you and why do you think we need more colours in our wardrobes?

I think people are afraid of wearing colour. It makes you stand out and sets you apart. But that’s what we need! Maybe the world would be a kinder place if we all embraced our differences and didn’t feel like we had to do things a certain way or hide who we are or how we feel.

  1. You have always loved Vintage fashion. What is it about it that you find missing in the modern fashion?

It’s like old architecture that just has so much more detailing and panache. Things were made to a high standard. I’m still wearing pieces made and worn one hundred years ago. Yet I own modern clothing that literally starts to fall apart in a few years. The craftsmanship in vintage is just top notch. It’s why if I’m wearing modern. I prefer smaller indie brands who genuinely care about the product. They are producing as well as the ethics of making it. Those are the vintage pieces of the future. Not the fast fashion garments made quickly. Cheaply and at a horrific price to the people who actually make them and the environment.


  1. If you could meet you younger self, what advice would you give her/yourself?

Invest in apple stocks 😆 ha ha I really don’t know. I’m quite literal and every time I think about this I just think younger me would freak out that someone was claiming to be from the future, disbelief me and not listen anyway. And would likely swear a lot at me. My dad always told me we get where we are going by going where we have been. I’m not sure I could lie to my younger self either and say “don’t worry it will be ok” because it won’t! At times it will be shit. But that’s life isn’t it. I’ll just let younger Rue figure it out herself.

  1. Apart from physical disability, you also have to deal with Neurodivergence. Can you explain what it is, how it impacts your daily life and how have you learned to cope with it?

I was diagnosed as being dyspraxic in my 20s but now twenty odd years later I think Autism is a better fit. And the world has learned more about that and how it affects women differently. But the waiting lists are years long and so many practitioners are still using old assessment methods and to be honest I just can’t be arsed with more medical appointments. So it’s not confirmed. But dyspraxia and autism overlap at points any way.

I’ve learned to cope with the nuances of it by learning about it and discovering why I am the way I am. I’m all about the rules, routine and repetition. Left to my own devices I will eat the same foods every day, do the same tasks in order on the same days and generally would be happy. But life doesn’t work that way. Change is my biggest nemesis. But if I can prepare for it and create options to deal with it I can cope with it better. I’m a sensory creature and your chewing, breathing and farting will drive me insane. I have super sensitive hearing, sense of smell and I spot patterns in everything.

I can picture everything in my head and I love being a visual thinker. I’m not very tactile though and I will get very abrupt if I think you are hovering near me, watching me do something without participating or standing to close to me. I cannot control my facial expressions and this makes it hard for me to lie. Also I hate lying and will tell you immediate after I even exaggerate something! I will not make a phone call or zoom call even if it was to save my own life.

I’m curious about everything. I will ask you why things are a lot and what you think about it. And I get tics when I’m happy that I tried to control but ended up with me doing a strange combo of an arm fling ending in a clap, so now I just roll with it. It’s complicated and there is so much more. I’m still not sure how to condense it.

  1. Instagram seems to love you. Have you found acceptance from the fashion circles as well? Have you done any catwalks or campaigns for fashion brands?

I love my Instagram fam. The vintage community have been my biggest cheerleaders on my road to self discovery. And I’ve always felt accepted for exactly who I am. And now I’m getting to know all these amazing independent designers who genuinely want to make a positive impact in the fashion world. I’m loving all of it. I’ve only just started becoming comfortable taking my own pics in public. I hated walking down the aisle at my own wedding with everyone looking at me! Plus chronic illness means I can never predict how my body will cope on any given day. But in an ideal world I’d love to do those things.

  1. What are the misconceptions about disabled people that still exist? Are there any current attitudes towards disabled people that you think should change?

The pity and shame has to go! I saw a video clip recently of a kid with disabilities wrestling with another kid who was holding back and everyone in the comments was praising the non disabled kid for being such a good sport and holding back and letting him win. Meanwhile the disabled kid was going for it. He came to wrestle. We have disabled Olympians for goodness sake. They know what they are capable of. His muscles are stiffer, so he’ll have to work harder to take you down. On the flip side not every disabled person is Olympian material either. I can’t overcome my disability to do that shit and I don’t want to either 🤣

  1. You did not get into expressing yourself freely until you reached your 40s. Do you think that getting older can also be liberating rather than being depressing?

I mean I’m autistic and Scottish so I’ve always said whatever I’m thinking! But in terms of fashion, absolutely. Turning 40 was like some kind of switch flipped and I just thought fuck it. Who knows how long I have left. I’m going for it. Ageing is truly a gift that not everyone is lucky enough to experience.

  1. What is the best life advice that has been given to you that helped you?

Who knows! People dish out advice all the time don’t they but I think you have to learn for yourself.

  1. What are your future plans and how do you want to accomplish?

I live on a week by week basis and as someone who rarely leaves the house I don’t have big plans. Just want to be happy and enjoy the little moments with those I cherish.  I think maybe that’s my disabled strength. Appreciating that life doesn’t go to plan and being able to roll with it.

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