Cat Ears to Crutches: A Glance at Differently-Abled Cosplaying

From time to time, I do meet some great cosplayers.  This woman I met at Anime Boston 2011 was just charming.  I took a picture of her and I was like “Wow”.  We’ve kept in touch since then, and I asked her to write an article on being a cosplayer with a disability, and how it doesn’t stop her.  Enjoy. 🙂

“Cat Ears to Crutches: A Glance at Differently-Abled Cosplaying” – Amanda Knightly

The term cosplay is derived from the combination of the words “costume” and “play.”  It involves a person dressing up as a beloved character, usually from a video game, comic book, or anime.  And it is very common for people to bring their own differences and qualities to the person they are portraying.  This includes hair color, skin tone, and even physical ability.   Being a cosplayer with a disability means adding extra accessories to a character, such as an epic mech wheelchair or colorful pair of crutches.  In my eyes, such things do not take away from the character but instead bring a whole new dynamic to the table. 

I still remember getting ready for my first convention: putting on my blonde wig, applying loads of eyeliner, and wheeling out the door.  I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the car window and did not see the girl I see everyday.  I saw Misa Amane, the blonde leading lady of the popular anime Death Note, but I couldn’t help but wonder if others would see the same.  As I entered the doors to the hotel, any fear I had was dismissed in an instant, as I was greeted with smiles, hugs, and shouts of “Misa!” so often that I responded to it almost as quickly as to my own name.

I can only wish that everyone who has cosplayed or has ever wanted to get into the hobby will have an experience as magical as the one I had that day.  Conventions give people with similar interests the opportunity to meet and enjoy activities the entire weekend in an environment that is as accepting of differences as it is fun.  From the start, I was drawn to the convention scene for this factor.  In the geek community, it is nothing out of the ordinary to see robotic limbs in sci-fi programs or exotic alien species from galaxies far, far away.  So, I suppose, compared to such extraordinary things, a girl in a wheelchair can be viewed as nothing more than normal.  And it becomes easier to accept a person for their talents rather than questioned for their differences. 

In my own experiences, I have also found that the cosplay community is also quite welcoming to those with physical disabilities, like myself, and anyone willing to put in their best effort to bring their favorite characters to life.  When choosing a character to portray, I rarely let the fact that I use a wheelchair influence my choices.  To me, a wheelchair is something as mundane as hair color yet as dynamic as an over-sized sword.  The only character with a physical disability that I have ever cosplayed is Barbara Gordon AKA Oracle from Birds of Prey.  It was awesome to portray her, as both a fan of her character and fellow woman who doesn’t let not being able to walk keep her from kicking butt.  I would love to see more characters who use wheelchairs in video games and the media, where the focus is on the things they do rather than zooming in on their medical condition.     

The thing that inspires me the most is all of the happiness that comes from cosplaying.  The happiness of putting on a wig and having a blast posing for photos.  The happiness of all the smiles that go along with recognizing one’s favorite character.  The happiness of sharing my costumes with the world and meeting so many wonderful people.  I cosplay for those around me just as much as I cosplay for myself.  For the people who inspire me and give me a million reasons to smile.  Being able to bring joy to others, while doing something I love, is the greatest gift I could ever ask for.

So for anyone who has ever wanted to cosplay but has chosen not to, due to race, body shape, or disability, I want you to try it at least once.  And please, have fun.  Be creative!  Turn a wheelchair into a powerful mech or a cane into an ancient walking stick passed down from your elven ancestors.  Put your fears and insecurities aside, and let your passion for the things you enjoy override any doubt you may have.  Love what you do, and the world will love you!

You can check out Amanda’s Facebook Page here –

DJ Ranma S

DJ Ranma S is cosplay veteran. He has won numerous performance awards with his friends over the years. He has staffed conventions in the past, ran panels, judged a couple of masquerades, a jack of all trades. He's worked dealer's room too! Running this site is his way of giving back to the cosplay community. He feels that it's his turn to give a future cosplayer their fifteen minutes of fame.

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