when I was a little girl when I was about five & I was going to start going to school… when you are a kid you don’t really know much about disability or you don’t really know that there are other people like you & when I did see other people like me it was always in the frame of like the children's hospital. I never really saw like me in a positive view or empowering view. But then my Brother he was watching Star Wars & I was saying how I was scared to go to school kids were going to make fun of me for having one arm & he was like oh come & watch this & it was where Luke gets his arm cut off. He looked at me & he was like you know you don’t have to be scared because you are a Jedi. So when I can’t do anything or when I think someone is going to make fun of me I just remember that I am a Jedi… & that is how I see myself. Hahaha! Yeah! There are still viewpoints on disability that are still like there is a worthlessness to it. People with disabilities are constantly under recognised or under represented or treated very differently & certainly I do sometimes feel like I am a little different. But then I do think I am like a Jedi. As long as you have that positive view of your body then it should be OK. I am not saying that all my days are fabulous & positive because.. Sometimes I look in the mirror & I am like oh fuck. I forgot. Haha. How are people going to find me attractive? & are they going to like me despite of my disability? Or because of my disability? & is my partner sacrificing something because I am not what girls look like or what women look like in magazines. But then on the same hand I don’t have the pressure to look like women in magazines because no matter how much spray tan I put on.. Ha! Or you know? Highlights I get.. I am not going to grow an arm back am I? So I think it’s a gift & a curse. You get crippling self doubt but you are also removed from this expectation of looking perfect & being perfect. I started Crips & Creeps because many things.. A lot of my friends wanted to come to my comedy shows & some of them have physical & intellectual disabilities & they couldn’t come. Just physically some people couldn’t come into the venue because of stairs with no lifts & some people with intellectual disabilites who get overwhelmed really easily. Sam who was in the first show of Crips & Creeps is a wheelchair user & previously he physically had to climb up stairs. Like dump his wheelchair & crawl upstairs to be on stage. No one should have to do that for their work & to do something that they love. I was also motivated by just being a woman because it is not always safe for women to do stand up & I think producers need to step up. Your performers & your audience safety & wellbeing shouldn’t be just when they are in your venue. You should be considering how they are going to get home. So I set up Crips & Creeps so that people could come & watch comedy. I thought that it would be much better for me to open a place rather than ask room runners to make things more accessible & I think for able bodied people you don’t really notice how accessible it is. Because you know? It doesn’t really affect you. People with disabilities people certainly appreciate these things being available. We also have our Get Home Safe thing where any audience member no matter your gender can get someone to walk with them to a bus station or whatever. I was reading the Royal Commission out at the moment & the rates of abuse is extremely high with support workers & even family members. It is almost guaranteed. They say something like nine in ten women with intellectual disabilities are sexually abused. It is a lot. So I really wanted to make a place that we know we can go socially with our friends & feel safe. People with disabilites have a lack of social interactions simply because it’s not accessible. Really wanted to chip away at in my own way & it was surprisingly easy. I have never run a room before this is the first thing I’ve ever done. I’ve only ever done stand up & I’ve never run a business I’ve never run events. I can barely make a birthday party for myself! Haha! So I just was like I want to do this & I just made it happen.
Madeleine Stewart is a comedian, producer and proud 'Crip'. She is passionate about creating accessible and inclusive spaces that everyone can enjoy and feel free to be themselves.