The second step in my change of thinking came when I started to work for a non-profit disability rights organization. Early on, I was indoctrinated with a philosophy called the "social model." The philosophy revolved around how one perceives disability. Unlike the medical model, which looks at disability through the lens of a condition that needs to be fixed or cured, the social model portrays disability as a natural part of the human condition that will someday impact everyone. In order to create a community that is inclusive of people with disabilities, the also is not to fix the disability, but to fix the inaccessible aspects of the community. I've worked at the same non-profit for nearly 14 years. Even on a day to day basis, much of my job deals with sharing that social model philosophy with members of the at-large, non-disabled population.
The philosophy has its critics, even within the disability community. But the social model way of thinking has become ingrained in me to such an extent, it applies to me not only while I am at work, but all the time. I am also thinking not about what happens, but about how to frame what happens. For example, 2012 was a great year for me. I accomplished many things of which I am proud. But when I think of the most significant highlights for me in 2012, nothing I did stands out. What stands out is Peter Dinklage winning the Golden Globe and Andrew Solomon writing Far From the Tree. Those events are more significant because they had a more intense impact on how I perceive myself as a person with dwarfism, and how other people will perceive individuals with dwarfism.
Some people may think the video and the speech hogwash. They may roll their eyes and mutter, "whatever." That response is fair enough. But to me, the video is very important. It reminds me that I need to look at what happens to me from multiple perspectives. As a person with dwarfism, this is particularly critical. I, along with many other people, have to deal with a lot of unnecessary stuff sometimes. How to frame the unnecessary stuff makes all the difference. It helps me realize that my dwarfism is not the problem. And it helps me realize that the perpetrators of the "unnecessary stuff" may be sympathetic. I don't want to justify mistreatment of people with dwarfism, or the mistreatment of anybody. But sometimes it's helpful to try to understand why they do what they do.
Sadly, David Foster Wallace died by suicide in 2008. I always been familiar with his name, but have never read anything of his. Even if I never read anything of his, I am thankful for his effort to reinforce the message of perspective.