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Blog - Michelle Baharier

Dyslexic artist reporting from lockdown


Here’s Michelle’s first blog in a while, reflecting on Covid, and life with dyslexia, her first vlog.

The video is captioned (you have to turn them on in YouTube’s settings), but a transcript is also available below.

Hello, my name is Michelle Baharier. I’m a visual artist and

I’m also a poet so I’m multidisciplinary, I was fine that

you know how to explain when you practice in more than one art form. Here’s a painting of Tiddles my cat by me. And, yes, I’ve been experiencing COVID-19

but I’m here I’ve been blogging for Disability Arts Online. However, I haven’t done anything during COVID. And I didn’t apply for the grants either. Because my partner was in hospital when the grants came out, and I have dyslexia and didn’t have anyone to help me and I also was not in the right frame of

mind that this book and diagnosis hysteria, prescription hysteria was an anthology I put together of women poets, who all had some kind of mental distress.

And it has a poem in it that I wrote about reading, and I wanted to share that with you because of my dyslexia. And because of what once I learnt to read meant to me and some of the things it opened up for me as a person, however, I still don’t read perfectly and I certainly can’t spell.

But never mind. That’s dyslexia for you, but quite often I’ve been asked to describe what’s it like to be a dyslexic? Ah, what’s it like? I don’t know what it’s not like to be dyslexic. So I’d just like to plant that thought, because

I guess I’m not the only one. Disabled person who when people ask you, what kind of thing, but what’s it like for you? You know? I mean, yes, I have access issues. I have been given things on the computer to make life easier.

However, dyslexia did not become a disability until 1989. I finished school, college, and I was lucky enough to go to university. I’d finished all that by 1987.

So 1989 I was out in the real world, being unable to survive because there was no support for Dyslexics, and there still is actually no support for adult Dyslexics. Apart from an Access to Work package, which you know, whether you’ve learnt computers from day one or not your supposed to just automatically be able to use all this stuff anyway.

That’s my rant on Twitter. I am dyslexic rant. It is spelt wrong, but you’ll get the notes at the end of this little rant. So I want to read to you my poem ‘Reading.’

Reading. opening his book was like walking through into a time I always knew. through stories I’ve been told stories firmly implanted into my memory by my ancestors. It made me feel the urge to write by hand. I too remembered writing letters. The letters I want to write,

the ones I received, not like an email. They were in an envelope through the door with a stamp and they smelled,

not a blip where someone can’t be bothered to talk to you, even though they’re sitting next to you.

A real handwritten letter, a craft lost to bygone age. Bye bye.

I remember my first pen friend, how I anticipated letters from her. I treasured the paper she wrote on because it was coloured and patterned. My mother was furious. I had chosen a German. How could I, a young Jewish girl.

I was fascinated how a group calling themselves a race had been so obedient. I was intrigued at the scale to which this group of humans has despised people, such as myself. I was curious to solve the problems of the world which of course At nine, you can do my hope and desire to do so was strong, I was proud, and I was going to be victorious. So, as a dyslexic, having a pen friend and writing letters without any autocorrect or anything else was actually quite difficult and took quite a lot of time. But my desire to want to do it and my desire to want to do what everybody else did, because I didn’t learn to read until I was nine.

So both reading and writing are really a struggle for me and

and I can do both now, but can’t spell I can’t do grammar I can’t do you know, I just been taking part online in a in a high fu project. And none of high fus got chosen because I couldn’t quite get it.

quite get how you you have to define the rules. And maybe I should actually set up a high fu for Dyslexics, so that we actually have the opportunity to do that. If anybody wants to do that contact me. Maybe Disability Arts Online could help help with that as well. Because although my pictures got accepted, none of my words did. And oddly, somebody tried to reword my words to make them fit.

And, and in a ableist world, you know, it’s kind of like, Okay, how can we squeeze dyslexia through the door to fit our model of normality? But But it wasn’t done in that way. It was done out of kindness and and everything else. However, it shows how exclusionary we still are. And and dyslexia is an mental health both

invisible disabilities. So of course, people look at me and go,

well, what’s disabled about you then?

I put my hands up. Of course, a lot of disabilities are not visible. Probably the majority of people’s disabilities are not visible. But were still excluded. Because the line is a very fine line. And also, it’s diverse, what I experienced what my access needs are, I’m not somebody else’s access needs. And, and I think society, as a whole could learn a lot from disabled people.

Because we have to share things with each other. We’re all fighting towards the same thing which is access.

And, yeah, my great aunt. She was 111 on the 17th March. And she died this year on the 26th of March. She was a wheelchair user. She’d been disabled all her life, but it was caused when she was born by

the hospital. Anyway, I won’t go into detail too much about that. But she went to a special school like I went special classes. And so she wasn’t taught properly. She was

made to do sewing and seamstressing to make clothes for rich people. You know, she was 111 and it’s 2020. Right? So, so her life experiences is very different. And she was supposed to go away and just make clothes for rich people. Instead of which she got a job in a dry cleaners.

And she worked all her life. She had a job. She wasn’t supposed to.

Wasn’t supposed to have kids, she had kids, she had sex. She had relationships, you know, and, and she’s been a great inspiration for me as another disabled woman to learn from, you know, and

I hope I hope this blog is useful. If you like the poetry in this book, this book is for sale. And I am starting to write some stuff.

I shouldn’t use the word stuff, my art, I am beginning to put together

some writing that I’ve been doing because I think it’s really important.

And let’s see where it goes. I’ll be doing more vlogs through video because it’s quicker for me than writing. And

actually, it’s probably good for me to learn

How to use new new technology not new but this technology that empowers us in a different way. So thank you.

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