The Body Is Good

The body is good. The body works. I will respect my body. I will respect your body.

mantra by Jessica Skintges Wallach

Jessica Skintges Wallach (she/her) is a Washington, DC-based photographer and accessibility advocate. “The Body Is Good”, is an invitation to reimagine space as a love letter to the body and aims to respect all bodies, as they sustain life, and through that respect promotes accessibility and equity. Jessica refers to herself as “an artist with a disability and a disabled artist,” which both appreciates the person-first verbiage, acknowledging an individual is more than their disability, as well as emphasizes the exclusion and obstacles confronted by people with disabilities.

Typically when we think about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and more specifically the role they have to play in health equity, we think about population level identities–age, sexual orientation and identity, race, gender, socioeconomic status. Often absent from this conversation is accessibility and/or consideration for individuals with disabilities. However, accessibility cuts across identities and thus is central to combating health inequity.

Ableism is incredibly prevalent in medicine to the point that the body is often used as an excuse for mistreatment. The framework of healthcare today is built on the idea that the body is in fundamental need of repair or improvement. This is a myth I wanted to interrogate. I want people to remember that the body, in all its diversity and complexity, is good.

Jessica Skintges Wallach

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 4 adults in the United States live with some type of disability; making it exceedingly likely that you–the reader–either live with a disability or know someone who does (regardless of if you are aware they do).

Separate from the health implications from any specific disability, individuals with disabilities disproportionally experience a number of chronic medical issues. For example, compared to individuals without disabilities, those with disabilities are:

  • Three times more likely to have heart disease or experience a stroke or cancer
  • Two times more likely to smoke or have diabetes
  • One and a half times more likely to have obesity.

From a healthcare systems standpoint, compared to individuals without a disability, individuals with disabilities are less likely to undergo cancer screening (e.g. breast cancer and cervical cancer screening), less likely to receive flu vaccinations, less likely to have healthcare coverage, and less likely to receive preventative dental and primary healthcare due to cost.

Jessica’s artwork explores the lived experiences of being disabled in the 21st century as a way of creating a love letter to the body, as a way of pointing out that the body is good, disabled or not. By modifying the frame of her lens with handcrafted stencils she draws our attention to everyday objects and creates fluidity by superimposing the stencils onto large, colorful soap bubbles. Her work calls us to challenge our perceptions such as: that disability is a fate worse than death, and disability automatically is unhealthy, that Black folx feel less pain, that women’s minds can’t be trusted and that men are always strong.