Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dwarfism Awareness Month Event -- Follow up

It is not like any thought that putting a lot of effort into Dwarfism Awareness Outreach would eliminate the need to do more dwarfism awareness outreach  But it can be a little discouraging when you are reminded about the critical need for awareness in the midst of, and very soon after, a fabulous dwarfism awareness event.  Last post I talked about traveling to New York for the Dwarfism Awareness Month Launch.  The event was empowering and the event was infused with pride, no doubt about it.  But the event wasn’t without its challenges, from a public awareness stand point.  At one point in the event, a group of about 50 or 60 of us gathered on 42nd Street, in the middle of Times Square, for a photo opportunity.  The photo opportunity for Little People of America soon turned into a photo opportunity for any random person on the street.  While we lined up for pictures, many strangers, passing by on the sidewalk, un-surreptitiously stopped walking, pulled out their cameras, and snapped a photo, sometimes in the midst of a giggle.  It got so bad, at one point, the average stature people in our group formed a human barricade around all the little people.  This didn’t really work.  It kind of added to the chaos.  It was a nice gesture though. 

LPA and others in Times Square
We should of, and probably did, expect as much.  After all, it was Times Square.  But it was a little difficult to swallow.  We were like, “Come on, give us a break.  We are launching Dwarfism Awareness Month today!” 

The second setback came two days later, when Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush used the m-word on MSNBC.  During a conversation about school reform on “Morning Joe” he said something like, “It is like being in the land of midgets and calling yourself a giant.”  Again, we have to take it with a grain of salt.  Not everybody knows the impact of the m-word.   But come on, you used to be governor.  

Hopefully, it won’t happen again with Bush.  A member of Little People of America who knows a person who is close to Governor Bush was able to get a message to the former governor just a few days after the MSNBC episode.  The message expressed the dwarfism community’s concern and disappointment with the Governor’s comment. Soon after the note was delivered, the Governor sent an apologetic email.  

Who knows what the strangers who saw Little People of America members on the streets of New York last weekend think about people of short stature.  But at least one former Governor will think a little differently from now on. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dwarfism Awareness Month Launch

Congratulations to the members of Little People of America for a successful "Dwarfism Awareness Month Launch 2012" event this past Sunday, September 23 in New York City. Back in 2009, LPA launched the first Dwarfism Awareness Month.  The launch was an effort to raise awareness around dwarfism in order to address common misconceptions about little people and to promote the message that people of short stature desire to pursue social, educational, and employment opportunities on equal footing as everyone else.  To deliver this message, LPA members pushed state legislators for resolutions recognizing October as Dwarfism Awareness Month and aggressively pursued media opportunities in conjunction with awareness month.  Over the first few years, LPA members around the country generated some media coverage for district regionals, which often fall in October, successfully partnered with Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Delaware, and Indiana to pass awareness month resolutions, and organized creative ways to promote Dwarfism Awareness Month, (The Puget Sound Chapter partnered with a local coffee chain which included Dwarfism Awareness information on its cups in October 2011). 

2012 promises to be a successful year for Dwarfism Awareness Month.  Earlier in the Year, New York passed a resolution that identifies October as Dwarfism Awareness Month, and California and New Jersey will soon issue a similar resolution.  

About 70 people gathered in New York City for awareness month launch
To launch this year's awareness month, members of LPA gathered in Times Square on Sunday, September 23 for a kick-off event.  LPA chose Times Square because since July of 2012, CBS has been running a 15-second Public Service Announcement that promotes awareness.  LPA planned a Times Square event to promote the public service announcement and generate enthusiasm for the upcoming awareness efforts in October.  The event on Sunday included a media conference, at which LPA leaders, LPA sponsors and supporters, and Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun (who sponsored the New York Resolution) spoke to local members and media representatives.  After the media event, which was hosted at the Hilton Times Square Hotel, LPA members went outside onto 42nd Street for a photo opportunity with the CBS Jumbotron and the Public Service Announcement in the background.  This was followed by a reception back inside the hotel. 


In my opinion, though it is clearly biased, this was a great way to kick off Dwarfism Awareness Month for 2012.  We brought attention to issues that impact people with dwarfism, we generated excitement among the membership, and we worked with other groups in order to make it happen.  Without the sponsors outside of Little People of America, we never could have organized the event.  This was important, not just because the support made the event possible, but because it sent the message that Dwarfism Awareness Month isn't just about LPA, it's about the entire dwarfism community.  In the end, all the groups that work within and on behalf of the dwarfism community, want the same thing -- opportunity, support and resources for people with dwarfism.