"Could a Wheelchair Fit Through That?" and Other Questions Able-Bodied People Should Be Asking


There’s no question that the world is built for the able-bodied, and no question that the world simply must change. Until a mere 29 years ago, it was legal in the United States of America to discriminate against people with disabilities, and companies were not required by law to accommodate any non-able-bodied person. In 1990, with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public” became obligated to be accessible. And if they weren’t accessible, there would be a monetary penalty.

That’s why handicapped parking spaces and bathrooms exist. That’s why closed captioning exists and why theatre performances have sign language interpreters. But accessibility goes far beyond that, and even the parking spaces and bathrooms are severely lacking. 

As an able-bodied person, it’s so easy to overlook the reality of accommodations for people in wheelchairs or with other special needs. Especially because we’re taught that it’s rude to stare, and so we don’t. But in our swiftness to be polite and politically correct, we are also willfully ignoring an already predominantly invisibile population, thereby increasing stigma and discouraging both conversation and any kind of needed change. 

And if we’re not avoiding eye contact passing a disabled person on the street, we are getting all up in their business like we have a right to it. A few years ago, I tore a ligament in my foot and had to spend ten weeks in a walking boot. I was shocked to find the number of strangers who felt entitled to ask why I was in a cast—in stores, in elevators, in bathrooms. After I would begrudgingly tell them what had happened for the sake of being polite, they’d immediately follow it up with, “How’d you do that?” I didn’t want to get into a conversation about why my body had a cast on it, and I only had to put up with that for a few months. People with lifelong disabilities are subjected to these kinds of questions every day.

And that’s assuming we are even aware of a disability, as many disabilities are invisible (knee problems, back pain, chronic health conditions, etc.). Get in any elevator and you will see how quick we are to make assumptions about a person’s laziness, because god forbid anyone take the elevator to go up or down one floor.

But whether we, as a society, are expecting people with disabilities to answer all of our nosy questions, or choosing to act as though they don’t exist, we still aren’t creating basic accommodations beyond the bare minimum. And when you step back and look at the world through the point of view of non-able-bodied people, you’ll be forced to acknowledge the myriad ways we are still failing to build a world that all of us can successfully navigate.

I can’t even tell you how many aisles I’ve walked down that I could barely fit my cart through, let alone a wheelchair. Places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond cram as much merchandise as possible into every square foot of their store, placing sale racks directly in the center of the aisles. Everywhere I go has a handicap bathroom, but not every handicap bathroom has a bar, or even the ability to spin a wheelchair around upon entering. (And don’t even get me started on how many able-bodied people choose to do their business in the bathroom reserved for individuals with disabilities.) I’ve been in bathrooms where there’s a handicap-accessible sink, but the paper towels are way up on the wall, completely out of reach for anyone who cannot stand. 

And so, a challenge! Wherever you go, pay attention to the level of accommodations you see. When you enter a building, is there a ramp, and is it easy to access? Or would someone needing the ramp be forced to take a roundabout way to get to it? Does the building have handicap doors? Is the button to open those doors easy to reach (and is it even working)? Ask yourself as you go down store aisles—could a wheelchair really fit? Are elevators working? Gauge how many handicap parking spots there are in relation to the size of the building. Do crosswalks beep to let a seeing-impaired person know when it’s safe to cross? How about if sidewalks are adequately cleared of snow in the winter? When going into a bathroom, picture yourself in a wheelchair and ask whether you could easily use that bathroom. 

You will most likely be shocked, as I almost always am, to find that the answer to these questions is often “no.” If that’s the case, speak to a manager, contact corporate, take pictures and share on social media. It’s unacceptable if laws aren’t being followed, and despicable if companies are simply doing the bare minimum to comply. The only way to make change is to recognize where we fall short, and to demand that we all do better. 

And on a side note, be sure to call out the places that are accessible. The ones that do comply, or even go above and beyond to accommodate all. It’s important to highlight the successes, as well as call out the failures.

Let us all work together to ensure that the world be accessible for all.

By Kaitlin Konecke
Photo by Camila Falquez for Teen Vogue

Dream Girl

This mini-series plays with fantasy and self-perception by subverting the viewer’s gaze and challenging them to redefine their view of the subject. I wanted to visualize a constant shift and transformation from one thing to the other.

Within the project, I wanted to explore the relationships we keep with ourselves unconsciously, as well as the interplay between what we are and what we have the potential to become; I wanted to engage the viewer in this same evaluation, and implore them to question their own cognitive interpretations of the subject and their inner complexities. Self is neither singularly defined nor fixed.  

As an eighteen-year-old girl, I’m learning to accept that my sense of self will shape itself in the context of experience and time, bending shape and twisting form. Our more formative years are usually punctuated by uncertainty and insecurities, our sense of being unmoored and adrift. It is all too easy to find yourself swept away in the current, hapless to the powerful tides of a reality you have less and less control over. 

There is a fear there, a fear in letting ourselves go in a way that makes us vulnerable in our self-exploration. But there is also a great relief in finally breaking through that self-imposed barrier. 

Humans are like the rolling waters of the oceans. Visualizing these saturated tides, we take the form of dripping hues and shifting planes of self-awareness; we become color and coalescence and sundering. Our eyes take in the tides of our self in a kaleidoscope; we are prismatic, we are refracting light. 

By Erin Davis
Modeled by Isley

This Is What It Looks Like to Be Trans

One saying that many trans people unfortunately have to hear is, “You don’t look trans!” But what is trans even supposed to look like? The truth is that trans looks like many different things. Every person in each of these photos is transgender or non-binary. Some of these people are good friends of mine, and some are kind strangers I met at Pride festivals! 

As these photos suggest, every trans or non-binary person looks and dresses differently. No matter what someone’s gender is or what their pronouns are, they should dress to be happy, comfortable, and confident. There's this toxic idea that trans and non-binary people need to get surgeries and undergo hormone replacement therapy to “look” like their gender. Most people choose not to make physical changes to their body, though; some others can’t afford to transition or don’t have the resources to do so. With that being said, whether or not a person physically transitions doesn't change who they are, nor does it make them any more or less trans than others. The concept that trans and non-binary people need to look or dress a certain way needs to end.

By Jay Trinh

The Best Bright and Neon Makeup for a More Colorful Summer

Many of us live our lives in a bizarre fear of color. We know it’ll make us happy and brighten up our day, yet often it’s far too tempting to head back down the road of neutral browns and beiges. It’s so silly! While color can be intimidating, it’s really nothing to fear—and it can actually be easier to integrate than you might think. By going for a pop of neon brightness on your eyes, lips or cheeks while keeping the rest of your look more neutral, color can actually be cool. Here are the bright and neon makeup products to know.

In my opinion, the gold standard when it comes to neon is the Viseart Editorial Brights Palette. It’s a pricey one, sure, but the quality is second to none, and the fact that it gives you every bright color you could possibly need makes it worth the purchase. My personal favorite is the chartreuse shade, which looks surprisingly subtle as a wash of color across the lid.

If you want a similar effect but are balking at the cost of the Viseart, a reasonable alternative is the NYX Cosmetics Ultimate Eyeshadow Palette. It’s a little less smooth, pigmented, and blendable in the formulation, but for the relative cost, it’s well worth it—particularly if you’re just dipping your toe in color for the first time and not sure about a big investment.

More affordable still are the L’Oreal Paris Infallible 24-Hour Eyeshadows. These are a true unsung drugstore gem and are often found suspiciously low down at the bottom of the display. But they’re worth squatting for—they’re a cream-powder hybrid that can be smeared on with a finger for a foiled effect that lasts all day. While the range is neutral heavy, there are usually some limited edition brights which are totally worth scooping up.

Another drugstore gem? The NYX Vivid Brights Cream Colors. If it’s bright shades you’re after, this is the range for you. They’re essentially little tubs of paint, which can be applied to eyes, lips, or cheeks for an opaquely bright effect. The shade “Sugar Rush” is a uniquely beautiful pastel lilac, while “Get Money” is a stunning grass green. Honestly, there isn’t a dud in the whole collection, and if it’s color you’re after, you could do a lot worse than bagging the whole lot.

The NYX Cream Colors tend to be matte, but if you want a neon shimmer, check out the Milk Makeup Eye Pigments. Again, these have a paint-like effect—they even come in cute little tubes. They’re completely opaque in a single swipe and last forever (or at least until you go in with an oil to remove). The shade “Mermaid Parade” is a perfect vibrant green, while “Rave” is a royal purple.

If you want to introduce color to your makeup but are feeling scared of opaque shades, you might want to consider going for a glitter. And if you’re going for glitter, there’s little better than the Lemonhead Spacejams. They tend to be more neutral and metallic in tone, but there are two color options that are amazing for beginners to the bright makeup scene. “Seapunk” is a beautiful seafoam green, and “Paradise Cove” is a bright warm gold with rainbow sparkles throughout. The best part, though, is how easy these are to apply and remove—a rarity when it comes to glitter.

Another fabulous way to subtly introduce a hint of color to your makeup look is through a kohl liner. You can draw a subtle wing across your lid for a barely-there flash of brightness that’s far more low-key than a full neon shadow look. The Glossier Play Colorslides have something of a controversial reputation, as they’re harder and less “glidey” than some other bright kohl pencils. But, in my opinion, this is to their benefit, as it means once they’re on, they aren’t going anywhere. “Early Girl,” a unique duck egg blue, and “Nectar,” a mustard yellow, are amongst the most unique shades.

Of course, color need not be kept solely on the eyes. A fun way to introduce some brightness to an otherwise more “natural” makeup look is through a wash of bright blush. Two fabulous formulas to achieve this subtle neon flush are the Tarte Amazonian Clay Blushes, and the Nars Blushes. “Dollface” and “Captivating” by Tarte are the perfect bright orange and pink respectively, but if you want something a little more daring, Nars’s “Exhibit A” (a matte, fiery red) is absolutely incredible.

There are an abundance of bright lipsticks on the market. In my opinion, though, the Fenty Beauty Mattemoiselle Lipsticks offer some of the most unique shades. On top of this, their formula is truly out of this world—somehow simultaneously matte and long-lasting but still flattering and comfortable. 

However, you needn’t really drop a dime on a bright, matte lipstick. Among the best on the market are the Wet ‘n’ Wild Megalast Lip Colors. At around $2 a pop, they’re an incredible way to build up a brighter lipstick wardrobe without having to spend too much. They’re similar in formula to the Fenty, too—though a little dryer and more draggy to apply, they offer comparable lasting time and comfort. 

If you’re looking for an offbeat way to add some color to your look, though, consider a temporary dye. The L’Oreal Colorista Wash Out shades have options that can even show up on darker hair. Changing up your hair color can make you feel (temporarily) like a whole new person—and these offer the option without too much commitment.

While color can be intimidating, taking small steps to integrate can make the process easier. Sticking to just one colorful aspect can help you avoid slipping into “clown” territory and ensure you still look cool—just a little bit brighter!

By Annie Walton Doyle

The Far East

For me, representation means being proud of my identity and where I come from. Knowing your background is essential to keeping cultural traditions alive, as nowadays we live in a world where modernization equals Westernization. In this series, I shot three girls of Asian ethnicity. Being Asian myself, I felt like it was extremely important to speak to the my community’s diversity. Many people think of the word “Asian” and automatically think of a certain look and a few certain countries, but in reality Asia is a mixing pot of similar yet completely different customs.

By Syahirah Harun
Edited by Miguel Limon

Let's Talk About Taiwanese Women

I am a Taiwanese woman.

Growing up between Taiwan and China, I always found it difficult to navigate my identity. In China, Taiwanese women are labeled “homewreckers” thanks to our seemingly helium-tainted voices. Taiwanese women are equipped with high-pitched, slurred voices, bearing a high resemblance to aegyo—cute, juvenile mannerisms conducted in a flirtatious manner. Because of this, many Chinese people criticize Taiwanese women for their supposed efforts to sound desirable.

Unfortunately, Chinese culture pretty much always enforces this. In the video for the Chinese hip-hop track “Trickery,” a rapper actively pursues a Taiwanese woman who seems unfazed yet amused by the rapper’s pining throughout most of the video. Ultimately, though, she gives in to his obviously empty promises—suggesting that Taiwanese women are easy. As the title suggests, the rapper makes promises and excuses in order to trick the girl into being with him, knowing she’ll eventually give in.

Even here in Taiwan, a country renowned as one of the most progressive countries in Asia, many people are still conservative at heart. Women are highly regarded here: we have our first female president in office, and we’re encouraging girls around the country they can be anything they want to be. But more often than not, I feel like women are held at a higher standard than men in Taiwan and are consequently expected to become jacks of all trades. Women in Taiwan are expected to be so much, to the point where many found themselves babying their children throughout adulthood, going out of their way to create the best life for their children. They’re expected to be “上得廳堂下得廚房,”—to uphold appearances as a perfect wife with ease while supporting their family. In Taiwanese TV shows and movies, women are perfect in every single aspect of their lives: they tend to their husband and family, are well-spoken and well-educated, and never makes mistakes.

And so, Taiwanese girls like me often feel trapped. We aren’t sneaky, seductive, and superficial, nor are we the perfect women everyone at home wants us to be. By creating stories about stereotypical Taiwanese women in popular media, damaging stereotypes keep being enforced. I don’t remember the last time I felt represented on television. Hell, I felt more connected to Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird than I ever did to Giddens Ko’s Shen Chia-Yi.

There’s a popular Taiwanese saying that “The most beautiful scenery in Taiwan is the people.” That’s pretty flattering, considering Taiwan is famous for its mountains and seas. But here in Taiwan, we’re never encouraged to be ourselves—we’re afraid of being too much or not enough. I was lucky enough to grow up with great female role models, like my mother and my grandmother—because they’re the only kind representation of Taiwanese women I had. 

We can talk about the inaccuracy of representation for Taiwanese women all we want, but it’s more important to actually start making changes. Bringing diversity into writers’ rooms to create more realistic Taiwanese characters can be game-changing for the entertainment scene in East Asia, and it might just humanize my country’s women.

By Wen Hsiao
Illustrated by Hannah Kang

The In-Between

I really cherish my friendship with my mate Tash, whose creativity feeds into my own. She’s a yoga instructor, schoolteacher, barista, hospitality queen, tattoo enthusiast, and my muse.

In the indoor garden we shot in, we balanced Tash’s natural warmth with a cool green. Here in Perth, we’ve just transitioned from Djeran to Makuru, which are the Noongar seasons between autumn and winter. We created this series to exist in the in between.

It doesn’t take much for me to call in sick to work, so I decided to skip my shift and spend time with an old mate. (Granted, I wasn’t feeling 100% either.) Tash and I traded tales over lunch and sipped coffee in between short-exposure camera shutters. After a sunlit afternoon of taking photos, my intuition was telling me that creativity was perhaps the cure to my ailments.

I’m grateful to have friends that make me forget when I’m feeling like shit. And realizing that at 28 it takes me three weeks to shake a cold. I’ve decided that I want more shared creativity and less time in between collaborations with integral homies. I’m holding that sentiment close until the next lemon and lozenge stockpiling.

Photos by Cole Baxter
Modeled by Tash

Queer Art Goes to Die in the Gray Area in Between Instagram’s Community Guidelines

My name is Mitchell Allison, I’m a visual artist with a specific interest in queer identity: the politics of sex, desire, and the body.  

I was raised in a very conservative and modest household in the south, where talk of sex was taboo, desire (straight or otherwise) was restrained, and the shape and size of my body was regular discussion. As I grew older I found freedom in reveling in the sheer “otherness” of my queer identity. In my work I often use whimsy and absurdity to question the standards and  moral guidelines I was raised under, with the intention of spurring the same questioning in the mind of my audience. In one photo series I used glass vases filled with water to distort the human form into something un-sexual—an objective blob of limbs and joints void of desire. In another I used practical makeup to turn the thirst trap on its head, taking something erotic and making it unsettling. No matter the angle I come from, my intention is to evoke the same conflicting feelings of confusion, intimacy, and power. I collaborate heavily with the models I shoot with to reach a final image that shares a piece of each of us, and that autonomy of my subjects is a part of what I love about the images I create.

All of this is to say, I was surprised to wake up the other day and open my phone to Instagram to see this: 

I scrolled to see if there was any further information—what had been taken down? And what had it been reported for? Is it possible to appeal this decision? The page was brief, iterating that my postings must abide by a standard “appropriate for a diverse audience”— no intercourse, no genitals, no female nipples, no nude children. If I violated these rules again my account would be taken down.

There was only one button at the bottom of the page: “OK.”

My initial response was that of confusion. Beyond the politics of body policing and the opaque sexism behind the statement “female-presenting nipple,” I was unaware of what I had done to violate these guidelines; anything posted to my feed begrudgingly already had large bars over genitalia or female nipples. I also couldn’t find any more information regarding the decision for my work to be removed, or any channel to appeal said decision. I cross-referenced my page with my archive and photo files on my computer, but between the hundreds of photos I’ve worked on, I couldn’t pick out what had been removed. I went to the Help page and reported two problems: one as “General” and another as “Something Isn’t Working,” both stating that I was requesting more information as to what had been reported. Eventually I couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer irony that my photos on the absurdity of the sexual gaze had been reported for pornography.

So I turned to the internet for guidance, and the internet had plenty to give. “Instagram deleted my post,” says an anonymous post on a forum, “How do I find out what they removed and why?” The general answer? You don’t. “If you have used any content which is the copyright of some party then Instagram may remove your post,” one user says. “They have very strict community guidelines. We are the premium partner of Instagram and they won’t even allow us to post a picture that doesn’t fit with their community guidelines,” says another. One person tries to help with the advice of reaching out to Instagram’s Facebook page. I finally came across one response that seemed substantial, saying that Instagram has essentially a vague blanket set of guidelines, and they enforce them strictly with a large gray area for interpretation. Further, whenever Instagram removes a post from your page “they also immediately shadow ban you,” the post states. “Shadow Ban is the case of Instagram suppressing your posts from being seen by many others. This is technically known as your impression. As your impressions are suppressed, the less likes your posts get.”

I did a bit more digging and found a TechCrunch report from a few months earlier regarding Instagram’s guidelines and how they are enforced. In a quote from the report, Instagram’s product lead for Discovery, Will Ruben, states, “We’ve started using machine learning to determine if the actual media posted is eligible to be recommended to our community.” So what does that mean in terms of daily use of the app? The report goes on to say that Instagram is training its content moderators to label content that is “borderline” in violation of guidelines, so that those labels can be used by an algorithm to learn what is and is not “recommended.” What constitutes “borderline” content? That question is left vague beyond stating that it is in effort to reduce content that is "inappropriate but [does] not go against Instagram’s community guidelines” of no sex, no genitals, no female nipples.

So the issue then becomes, who makes that call saying what is and is not “appropriate”? While regulating spam and illegal content is crucial, if a post abides by community standards, Instagram using its platform to suppress content via moderators, or worse, an algorithm, is a lazy and dangerous precedent to set. It would be one thing if the process to appeal these mistakes were transparent—as platforms such as Tumblr have (somewhat unsuccessfully) attempted, but when I reached out to friends and other artists to hear their experience with moderation and censorship on Instagram, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“The photo was of me in a robe with nothing underneath,” says Kevin Poole, regarding a photo he posted on a private Instagram page with only a few of his close friends following, ”and then the next time I tried to log in, it told me my ‘account had been disabled for violating our terms.’” Poole says he reached out to Instagram Support multiple times with no response, and he is unable to log into any account on Instagram, including a business account he runs as a social media coordinator.

Two others—McKenzie Goodwin and Miny DuPonte—had issues with sponsored posts and stories being removed or not circulated. Goodwin, the cohost of a live comedy show titled Two Dykes and a Mic, says she’s had multiple posts and stories that feature the title of her show removed, and her multiple requests for appeal have been left on deaf ears. “We are an LGBTQ inclusive and safe show and have even performed at multiple Pride events, but it hasn’t helped our cause at all,” says Goodwin. Miny DuPonte, a lesbian-identified musician and songwriter by the stage name Miny, states she had a promotion for an upcoming show denied multiple times with no explanation as to why—her only guess being that she used the phrase “Calling all gays” in the promotion, which may have been flagged.

Well, if you’re going to enforce vague community guidelines and suppress “borderline” content, this moderation should be uniform across the board, right? Not necessarily, says Andrew Harper, who runs the account @gaytona.beach, where he (with consent) posts racy photos sent to him on the hookup app Grindr, photoshopping the conversation bubbles over the bits not appropriate for a “diverse audience.”

Harper says he’s repeatedly had posts taken down, but the frustrating thing is that when he edits and posts again, this time covering up plenty of the body, the posts often are still taken down. On the opposite end, he says, what is and is not taken down sometimes seems completely random, as he was able to get away with posting this photo: 

“It’s so frustrating (and demeaning to me),” says Harper, “that Instagram seems to be very efficient at removing things it deems ‘inappropriate’ under uncomfortably vague guideline wording—I wholeheartedly believe it disproportionately affects the queer community as well.” Harper goes on to point out the arbitrary nature of this moderation, using a recent promotional campaign on Instagram for Kim Kardashian West’s KKW Body fragrance as an example, which features Kim’s body fully on display, with her hands just covering her nipples and breasts: 

Regardless of one’s opinion on how much or how little one should be able to share on the internet, it’s clear Instagram’s vague “guidelines” are failing and disproportionately affecting a multitude of groups that make up their “diverse audience.” Beyond arbitrary and questionable rules on nudity and sexuality, in using algorithmic learning to censor content and control the reach and audience it has, Instagram is painting broad strokes to censor the media featured on its platform, and in doing so it’s failing the creators who use it—specifically those of marginalized communities whose content is more likely to be flagged as inappropriate for nothing other than being of that community.

As of the time of publication Instagram has not responded to my multiple requests for appeal.

By Mitchell Allison