The majesty of the Arch wasn't my significant takeaway from my weekend in St. Louis. On Saturday afternoon, as I left my hotel room to head for a meeting on the 17th Floor, one floor above mine, I ran into two young women. One of the women, when she saw me, said, "I'd love to take you home." Perhaps that sounds flattering but she didn't mean it in a 'you are very sexy' kind of way. She meant it the way a person browsing an animal shelter might want to take home a cute dachshund. I wasn't too amused. I let the two women pass then followed them to the elevator. I stared at the woman who made the comment until she got in the elevator going down. As the door was closing, she told me, "You should smile more."
Today, I thought about both of the run-ins that I had in St. Louis. I thought about them because the media and popular culture spend a lot of time reminding people with dwarfism, and in general people with disabilities, that they are deformed, that they have defects, that they have disorders, and that they suffer from this or that. But in reality, most people with disabilities, and most people with dwarfism, are pretty average. We go about our ho hum lives just trying to get by, getting an education, finding a job, finding a place to live, and if we are lucky, finding a little bit of love and some happiness. The biggest difference between people with dwarfism and others isn't who we are and our lives, but rather the lens through which people without dwarfism view and treat us. We are regarded as being much different than we actually are. That's why popular culture portrays us differently -- and many people buy into what popular culture sells.
The way other people regard us often causes us many more problems than the dwarfism does. That must be why dwarfism was included in the original Americans with Disabilities Act under the "regarded as" protections, protections which I believe were reinforced and strengthened with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
|I am using this image because I like Peter Dinklage |
and I like this picture and I couldn't find the correct meme.