Here is a link to a story that appeared this week on a Chicago blog called Gapers Block. The story covers the 2010 Disability Pride Parade. I was a part of the parade and remember the reporter hanging out at the Open Mic the night before the parade and at Daley Plaza the day of the parade. She included many quotes from a wide selection of people who are part of the disability community. This made for a pretty good story because it offered many perspectives, with disability pride and unity being a common thread. I spoke with the reporter over the phone a day or so before the open mic event. In my conversation, I told her a story that I once shared on this blog, about someone, without permission, taking my picture while I rode my bike. I said one of my biggest fears is an authorized video or picture of me showing up on the internet. Countering that fear, the great thing about the Disability Pride Parade, similar to a Little People of America Conference, is that you can do what you want, and be who you want, in an environment of equality, without fear of judgement, and without fear of vindictiveness based upon prejudice.
Though concerns about unauthorized photographs still run through my mind, I don't them stop me from doing what I like to do. I still bike several times a week up and down the lakefront and through the busy streets.
With that in mind, the last part of the article about the disability pride parade was a little tough to read the first time. At the open mic, my wife Katie read a story about an evening we spent listening to music in Millenium Park. At one point, Katie got up to dance. I stayed on the blanket that we had spread out on the lawn. My refusal to join her had nothing to do with any fear of youtube and it had little or nothing to do with dwarfism. It had everything to do with not wanting to dance in front of thousands of other people who sat on the park grass. My guess is that hundreds of other people in the park that night (who were not people of short stature) weren't dancing for the very same reason I chose not to dance.
The reporter heard Katie's story at the open mic. In the article about the parade, she made a connection between my refusal to dance and my fear of an unauthorized appearance on youtube. I was a little angry at first. Not so much because what she wrote is incorrect. More so because the story made it appear that my life is governed not by what I want to do, but by fear of what others will think and do. It's only human to be influenced by the opinions and social pressure of those around us. Both those to whom we are close and strangers. But I, and many other people with disabilities, have worked hard to battle social stigma in order to impact an inclusive world, and we've worked hard to avoid being forced into an inaccessible world. That's why, in an article celebrating the disability pride parade, it was disappointing to be portrayed as someone whose decisions are influenced by a fear of unacceptance.
Nevertheless, it's still a very good article. And no matter what any writes or does, I hope I will keep riding my bike. And I probably will occassionally dance, but only in my apartment when no one else is around.