The makeup artist from Adelaide, Australia, was born with arthrogryposis — a disability that disturbs joint development and limits limb mobility. Despite her condition, Van Leuven leads a full and meaningful life. Simple pleasures, like taking a bath, however, are far and few between.
Having a bath was “always without a doubt my favorite thing when I was little,” she said in an Instagram post. “The warmth, the bubbles, the weightlessness of the water. It was a safe space and a space which provided relief from chronic pain.”
But by the time she was 10, her soapy sanctuary was no longer practical. “By this time I had become too heavy for mum and dad to carry safely, so bath time stopped,” she said.
Close to 15 years later, Van Leaven made the return to her happy place. She shared the moment with more than 24,000 Instagram followers earlier this week.
When art students see a fun wall. ♿️ Disability Awareness Month ♿️ I want you to see my wheelchair. I want you to see my disability. My disability does define me, and that’s okay. My disability does define me, and so do many other things. I love my wheelchair. I love my disability. I am proud to be disabled. Please respect this. Comments like “I don’t even see your disability” or “I didn’t notice your wheelchair” are not compliments. I AM DISABLED AND CUTE #disabledandcute #disBABEled #cripplepunk #disability #disabilityawarenessmonth @supreme_concept_ . . . [Image description: Ruby is sitting in her wheelchair front of a bright patterned blue, yellow, red and pink wall. She is wearing a blue floral sleeveless tie-up front shirt, a sheer blush-pink skirt, rainbow striped socks and black lace up boots. She is holding a pink hand back with a blue pom pom.]
A post shared by Ruby Allegra (@rvbyallegra) on Oct 27, 2017 at 7:19pm PDT
Yesterday. Yesterday was a milestone day for me. I had a bath. Seems simple, I know. But it was everything, and more. Bath time was always without a doubt my favourite thing when I was little. The warmth, the bubbles, the weightlessness of the water. It was a safe space, and a space which provided relief from chronic pain. Up until probably about grade 4 or 5, my parents used to lift me manually into and out of the bath. By this time I had become too heavy for mum and dad to carry safely, so bath time stopped. Almost fifteen (15) years later, I have been loaned a lifter with a sling (pictured in the second image), which allows me to be hoisted in and out of the bath with ease. Bath time is back!! Last night I shared a three (3) hour bubble bath with one of my beautiful best friends @emillie.jayne and it was glorious and warm and bubbly and sparkly and magical. Rest assured bath times will now be a regular thing. I’m coming for you @lush_ausnz 2018, the year of accessibility. ♿️ #accessibility #cripplepunk #mobilityaids . . . [Image descriptions: Image 1 – Ruby is sitting in the bath, covered in bubbles. They are looking down with a big smile and holding a glass of red wine in their hand. Image 2 – Ruby is in the bath in a sling attached to a hoist, with a huge grin across their face. Image 3 – Photo from the side of Ruby sitting in the bath playing with the bubbles. Image 4 – Ruby is resting their head on their arms over the side of the tub, with their eyes closed. The bath water is blue and sparkly.]
A post shared by Ruby Allegra (@rvbyallegra) on Feb 20, 2018 at 3:08pm PST
“I have been loaned a lifter with a sling, which allows me to be hoisted in and out of the bath with ease. Bath time is back!” she captioned the images.
“Last night I shared a three hour bubble bath with one of my beautiful best friends @emillie.jayne and it was glorious and warm and bubbly and sparkly and magical. Rest assured bath times will now be a regular thing.”
@destinydonart made a me pls go check our this talented being ✨ [Image description: Illustration of Ruby sitting in her wheelchair with her head tilted up and a grin on her face. She is wearing a red headscarf and a blue tshirt with white text reading “The Future is Accessible”. The background of the illustration is green, with white roses behind Ruby’s head.]
A post shared by Ruby Allegra (@rvbyallegra) on Nov 2, 2017 at 9:04pm PDT
Van Leaven has never allowed her disability to dictate her destiny. The 23-year-old made headlines earlier this month while pushing for disabled visibility in the beauty industry. The art student and activist, who has long been vocal in the fight for equality, dedicates her life to inspiring others.
The trailblazer closed her post by declaring “2018, the year of accessibility.”
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