Monday, December 22, 2008

Last week, news broke about Governor Patterson of New York and his response to a sketch on Saturday Night Live. The sketch came in the wake of the Illinois scandal surrounding Governor Blagojevich and his sale of President Elect Obama's Senate seat. In the sketch, Patterson was asked about the soon to be vacated New York Senate seat of Hillary Clinton. Rather than poke fun at the personality of the Patterson, or the ridiculous state of politics in Illinois, Saturday Night Live focused on Patterson's disability. I wanted to write something about the way Patterson responded to the sketch, I response I found very enlightening and helpful to other people whose disability may sometimes be the subject of jokes, but my friend Joe Stramondo has already published a very good essay on the subject. So, rather than repeat what Joe wrote, I invite everyone to check out his blog at

On the subject of politics surrounding the new presidential administration, last week, President-elect Obama announced Arne Duncan, the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, as his choice for Secretary of Education. Similar to many other communities around the country, much of the disability rights community rallied around the election of Obama. His victory on November 4 sent a wave of excitement through the community, particularly when Obama said the words disabled and non-disabled in his acceptance speech.

Since the November 4 victory, also similar to many communities around the country, the disability community has been furiously organizing in an effort to voice the concerns of people with disabilities when it comes to presidential appointments and policies. As Obama fills out his cabinet, concern lingers. While I am not a political expert and don't know the politics of most people tagged by Obama, my work in Chicago has exposed me to the politics of Duncan.

Though Duncan has earned a national reputation as a reformer through his work with Charter Schools, the record shows that disability reform has lagged behind.

My hope is that, with pressure and with help from the disability community, Obama, and members of his cabinet, including Duncan, will fulfill the hopes of the community raised during the election.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A good essay by Bill Bradford

In my experience within the community of people of short stature, I've observed that some individuals internalize societal prejudice against communities that are physically different compared to the mainstream community. For example, a few years ago, on the dwarfism yahoo bulletin board, a woman posted about her struggle to find a job. In the posts, the woman described what happened at a number of interviews. Based upon the description, to me, it seemed there was a good chance that the woman was discriminated against because of her height. Others on the list serve disagreed, for one reason or another(from grammar mistakes in the woman's original email to poor interviewing skills) placing responsibility with the woman for failing to land a job.

Because many people of short stature spend a good part of our lives isolated from other people of short stature, we are raised to adapt to the challenges and obstacles of the world around us, rather than organize with others who share a common struggle to make the world around us more accommodating. While these skills are useful, they indirectly encourage us to shoulder the responsibility when things don't go our way, even if in some cases the responsibility lies with an intolerant or inaccessible community in which we live, not with us. On an individual basis, these skills may allow us to get by, but they don't empower us to thrive, or to make positive systemic changes to the community.

With these thoughts in mind, I was happy to read a recent essay by Bill Bradford, Little People of America's Vice President. The essay, Column: Reaction to dwarfism shows that low glass ceiling still affecting us, made the case that societal barriers to acceptance and barriers to success for the community of people of short stature are very real, pointing to unemployment rates, salaries based upon height, and the lack of positive role models in the public and political spotlight.

I think it's important for leaders within LPA to make such public statements, statements that challenge people of short stature to make positive reforms to a society that sometimes is biased toward difference, rather than encourage people of short stature to try to change who they are.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fair and Balanced

In October, "Good Morning America" ran a story about limb lengthening surgery, a procedure that allows people of short stature to lengthen their bones, and gain from six to twelve, or more, inches in height.

The issue begs a lot of debate within the community of people of short stature. The problem with the "Good Morning America" story was that it eliminated any debate. It failed to present the depth of the issue and in so doing supported the idea of changing our bodies in order to fit in with the world, rather than working to create a more inclusive world in which we are not pressured to change our bodies.

On Sunday, November 30, the Washington Post Magazine ran a new story about limb lengthening. Though, similar to the "Good Morning America," the Post story focuses on a young girl who decides to undergo limb lenghtening surgery, this story is very comprehensive, covering all sides of the issue, including interviews with a young woman who chose not to have the surgery.