Monday, July 21, 2008

NPR's Weekend America

In June, John Moe of National Public Radio's "Weekend America" ran a story that included a report on actors with dwarfism and the images they portray. Moe has a five-year-old daughter with dwarfism, and in the piece, Moe comments that, as the parent of a child with dwarfism, he can't tolerate movies such as Michael Myers' The Love Guru, because of how Verne Troyer's character is objectified as a little person. Moe's story also includes an insightful interview with Mark Povenelli, an actor who is a little person and has probably experienced the full gamut of roles available to people of short stature in Hollywood. The Weekend America Broadcast is available online at:

I think the piece is especially interesting in the context of the entire Weekend America program that particular day. Earlier in the program, a different reporter interviewed two contractors currently living and working in Afghanistan. The reporter asked the contractors what they do for fun. The contractors told a story about throwing this party, for which they wanted to hire two Afghani midgets (word used by the contractor) for entertainment. The reporter responded in a joking, amused tone, "You wanted to hire two midgets?" Then something like, "were you able to find the midgets?"

After listening to the entire program, I emailed Mark, saying something like, "Wow, this is interesting. You have John Moe, an NPR reporter completely troubled by objectification of little people in popular culture. But earlier in the program, you have a different NPR reporter talking about hiring little people and casually using the word midget as if both are completely acceptable and common." Mark wrote back, telling me that a disclaimer at the beginning of the program warned listeners of offensive language, i.e. -- midget. He quickly added though, that just a few years ago, the very same National Public Radio ran a review of The Dollhouse, a stage production starring Povenelli and two other little people as the three male leads, which threw around the word midget as casually as Jimmy Kimmell would.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

National Forum on Presidential Issues

On July 26, the American Association of People with Disabilities will host a National Forum on Presidential Issues (visit The forum is an opportunity to hear from the Democratic and Republican Presidential Nominee on issues critical to the disability community. Nearly one thousand representatives from the disability community are expected to attend the event. Thousands more will participate via video conference.

The event is historic for Little People of America as well. As a sponsor of the event, LPA has taken an important step in terms of coalition and community building with other members of the disability community.

In 2007, Andy Imparato, the President of AAPD, attended the LPA Conference in Seattle. At the General Assembly, he said that as a disability specific membership organization, LPA has the opportunity to wield important influence within the larger disability community. I agree. I think the July 26 Forum is a chance for LPA to follow up on his comments -- to raise our voice, express our concerns, and lend our support. Hopefully, July 26 will be just one of a series of events in which we participate with others in the disability community.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Disability Pride Parade -- July 26, 2008

The Disability Pride Parade is scheduled for Saturday, July 26 -- the 18th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is the fifth year of the parade.

Last year, Tom and Laureen Lash, of the Windy City Chapter of LPA's District Six, organized the first ever LPA Parade Contingent. My girlfriend and I marched with the contingent proudly wearing our "Dwarf Republic" Tshirts, (thanks Ben Sailor). There were only four or five of us in the group, but I felt as empowered as ever I had before with a group of people with disabilities. I wish I had organized an LPA group back in 2005 or 2006. Though I won't be in Chicago for the parade this year, I hope Tom, Laureen and others represent LPA.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Little People of America Conference 2008--Looking Forward

For one week near the end of June, more than 1900 members of Little People of America, their families, their friends and their supporters, gathered in Detroit, Michigan for the annual national conference.

As an adult who has spent many years with LPA, I feel the conferences grow stronger and stronger. The strengths and weaknesses of individual conferences may vary from year to year, but as we get older, most people of short stature change our perspective. The idea of a conference changes from "what will this group do to help me?" to "what can I do to make our communities a better place for people of short stature?"

The week-long conference is a prime time to share these ideas and brainstorm about ways to confront the physical, social and systemic barriers that stand in the way of people of short stature.

Moving in to my second term as Vice President of Public Relations, I am excited that two new members have joined the board. Members who I met when I was a young adult within LPA and who I have shared a friendship with for many years. Along with the entire board of directors, I am very excited to implement our strategies for the coming three years. Strategies that will strengthen the board, increase support and communication among the membership, and increase awareness about people of short stature throughout the at-large population.