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JOY TANEY the multi-talented artist including bodypainting which will be featured on the Skin Wars spin-off Fresh Paint joined me on this well-attended panel at GSCF. Joy was disabled for 12 years of her life (from 14-26) and has found a regime that helps her have a creative life. Mural painting is so physically demanding that it’s been another way for Joy to keep in shape and keep her pain under control.

Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy

Missing from the panel was Elsa Sjunneson-Henry who had to be out of town, but there’s information about her and her writing in this podcast. Both Joy and Elsa have been on Vodka O’Clock in the past so you can go back to the archives for those.

I moderated and co-hosted the panel to talk about mental health and invisible conditions. I also took time to address building fictional characters with disabilities.

“The disabled community historically has not been well served by popular fiction.” ~Joy Taney

We covered convention experiences (clear signage, elevator/escalator locations, sign language services, quiet rooms), long work days, and advantages of freelance work when you have disabilities.

While some large cities with old buildings are difficult to navigate in terms of accessibility, Joy works for HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy where she says they have thought of every possible challenge to address and excel at making their building accessible.

A lesson learned from being a model is that a truly great artist can make any live human subject feel safe in whatever kind of body they have. Joy also has the unique opportunity of painting different bodies in her work, using them as canvasses.

One of the areas that I talked about from using knowledge I learned from Elsa’s blogs on Feminist Sonar was the area of cosplay and dressing up as characters who use disability aides. In a nutshell, don’t use the disability aides for anything other than photoshoots; please don’t fake disabilities around convention floors just because your character would need the device.

At GSCF, I was dressed as Madame Web from Spider-Man. Madame Web is a hard character to pull off. She’s not supposed to be walking, but I designed the dress so that I could comfortably walk around a convention. She’s blind and usually has glasses or a blindfold over her eyes. In my research, she’s only been shown as standing once in a comic. When it came to on-the-floor casual cosplay photos, of course I’d be standing from walking around. During “pro” photos, there were benches and I felt it was appropriate to sit.

“I strongly believe that fiction changes the world.” ~Joy Taney

Characters who deal with trauma are being approached better today than ever before. From Tony Stark having panic attacks to Jessica Jones and Barbara Gordon living with their PTSD in completely different ways.

“Part of that challenge is (and we can talk about self care if you want), the fact that freelancers and pretty much most people nowadays are responsible for their own health insurance and coverageRecent ER visit, so staying healthy is your job, like it’s literally your job as a human being living in America.” ~Amber Love

Follow on Twitter #SpoonieSpeak threads and @SpoonieSpeak account for conversations on healthcare and self care. Joy explained in this episode that her self care is the equivalent of a part-time job. Among our list of things we do for ourselves: epsom salt baths, home cooked healthy food, mental breaks, playing with companion pets, watching favorite TV shows, and physical therapy or exercise.

Some people mean well in their attempts to be encouraging, motivating, and inspirational. Unfortunately, it often misses the mark.



Read through my recap of the rest of Garden State Comic Fest and see the gallery of cosplay photos.

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