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Un Magazine 14.1

WHY I WRITE SO LITTLE (My limited access to the print world)

Sam Petersen

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5/20

Article

This will take a lot out of me.

But it has to be said.

My dyslexia is my third disability.

I used to think I was lazy; my reading and writing could improve if only I applied myself. But I found it all so hard. Mum would say you need to learn to read because it is the most important thing. This would always serve to scare the reading part of my brain back inside its shell.

My dyslexia has never been diagnosed, but undeniably it’s there.

So much of the information in our world is print based material, magazines, instructions, textbooks. I simply cannot access it easily.

I would look at pictures for ages and divine a story from them because often I could not make sense of the text.

I would have pursued more physical things in life, but I have significant physical disability too. Partly why I chose to study visual art was because I thought fuck what else can I do?

You can have people read things to you, but that requires the kind of voice and kind of person that for me has proven hard to get and their time is limited.

This has made study even harder for me. I really need a voice actor to provide all the pauses and emphases.

When I was at uni, if I was lucky, I could get the Word doc. version of required reading and get my screen reader to read it to me. But they had to get through copyright laws so I would end up getting them a few weeks later than my classmates. And often they would have a bunch of nonsensical words and I would look back at the print version of the text to find a picture there.

Physical disabilities can mean an inability to hold most printed matter. Even this magazine, I had serious misgivings about doing anything for it because I cannot physically hold it open. But therein lies the perfect space to talk about my situation. In something I cannot hold.

There’s the internet, and yes, un Magazine is on the internet, but I cannot hold it how it was intended to be held. I know I am missing out on something. And there is so much crap on the internet that I find it impossible to sift through it all.

Ninety per cent of what I know is from what other people have told me. As a consequence I write mainly about myself, because I don’t have to do research on myself.

I’m writing, that I’m writing — that I am writing.

Sorry, it’s been said before.

However, I have found much to write about within myself, my experiences. Far too much for me to write about.

I am eternally frustrated about never being able to communicate enough in my daily life. You see, part of my physical disability is that I can’t talk. So to
say anything I have to write it out. I can’t simply quickly say anything. So there is a lot of extra required writing I have to do.

Then there are all my supports that I have to write about in detail, otherwise they will turn to shit very quickly. There is so much misunderstanding about disability. Having to write words to prove my autonomy.

Then my dyslexia slows me right down.

And my physical disability slows me down even more.

I can’t write as much as I need to. My head is teeming with information and I simply can’t let it out and my life suffers as a consequence.

I am being silenced.

Again, do I have time to write this?

But if the world has a better understanding of me, then I will have to write less words.

This has taken a lot out of me, as it always does.

Sam Petersen is a Naarm-based artist. Her work is about the political self.