Connie Feda wanted to create an educational, engaging, and relatable doll for her 13-year-old daughter Hannah, who has Down syndrome. With the goal of capturing “the beauty, vivaciousness and spunk of kids with Down Syndrome,” Connie created Ellie, a doll with Hannah’s almond-shaped eyes and button nose. She soon realized that other kids could benefit from a doll that looked more like them, so she created Dolls For Downs, a new line of dolls for children with Down syndrome. Keep reading »
Sue Austin is a performance and installation artist based in the UK. She has been wheelchair-bound since 1996, and dedicated her artistic work to “finding ways to understand and represent my embodied experience as a wheelchair user.” Most recently this goal has led her to team with scientists and diving experts to create a self-propelled underwater wheelchair. Using fins and a propeller, Austin is able to steer the machine with her feet and navigate a beautiful underwater world that was previously off-limits. Seeing her move through the water with ease and grace is both unexpected and powerful. Check out the video to see for yourself. [YouTube via Smithsonian]
If you’ve not previously encountered Aimee Mullins, she’s a pretty extraordinary woman. Born without fibulae, she had her legs amputated below the knee as a toddler. She went on to become a track and field star, a model and muse for designer Alexander McQueen, and performed in artist Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster 3″ movie. In a recent interview, she discusses McQueen’s death, how she “uses her birth-given disability to make others see what is possible when they rethink their notions of beauty and opportunity,” and what makes her a lucky girl. [Of the Minute] Keep reading »
I don’t watch “Maury,” so I missed this remarkable video when it aired, but if you can work the pole better than Lil’ Mama, aka Amber, who likely has one less leg than you, seeing as she only has one, and you probably have two, I’d like to see it. According to the accompanying story, Amber was on the show to meet up with an old flame, her high school sweetheart, and she wanted to show him how she could work it, work it as a dancer. I don’t know how that romantic reunion panned out, but TV Squad reports, “she didn’t let her prosthetic leg get in the way of her hot body action.” You go, girl! [TV Squad] Keep reading »
If you watched HBO’s most recent episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” you met Kyle Maynard, 24, an athlete and congenital amputee born without forearms and lower legs. It’s a pretty amazing story. The show first profiled Maynard several years ago when he arose to national prominence as a college wrestler with a 35-16 record — no easy feat when you’ve got 50-percent less in the limbs department than your every competitor. Since then, he’s written a best-selling book about his life, opened a gym, became a motivational speaker, and started competing in mixed martial arts cage matches. Next, he plans on climbing Mt. Everest. On top of all that, he’s a hottie. Check him out on “Larry King Live” after the jump. Keep reading »
Photographer Holly Norris says on her website, “Rarely, if ever, are women with disabilities portrayed in anything other than an asexual manner, for ‘disabled’ bodies are largely perceived as ‘undesirable.’” To combat that perception, Norris has chosen to spoof the highly identifiable American Apparel ads, which the company claims feature “real women,” though only real women who fit a very specific look — young, thin, and uber-sexual. In her series “American Able,” Norris has photographed Jes, a disabled woman, in American Apparel clothes and in the style of AA ads, in order to “reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are invisibilized in advertising and mass media.” Norris’ photographs are beautiful and I love the positive and forward-thinking mission of the work, which doesn’t just criticize mass market thinking but also presents an alternative. As for Jes? Her photographs have more personality than all the AA ads I’ve ever seen put together. Take that, Dov Charney.
Check out a few more photos after the jump and then check out the entire series on Norris’ website. [Holly Norris] Keep reading »
A Chinese mother has carried her son on her back for 35 years in order to give him a more enriched life. Xiong Mingqiang was born with a deformity that has caused his head to grow disproportionately large for his 80-centimeters-tall (31.5 inches) body, making him unable to stand. His mother chose to carry him in a bamboo basket, so he says he’s more familiar with the back of her shoulders than her face. For decades, Wen Qizhen hauled him up stairs and slopes with her hands on her knees for more strength and her body bent forward for balance. She’s transported her son to village fairs and other events and taken him to visit friends and relatives in order to widen his view of the world. “Because I’m dying to see what’s there outside. If I had sealed myself up in home without learning, I would even be mentally disabled,” said Xiong to China Daily. But Wen, who says she was advised by neighbors to abandon Xiong for his sake and hers, says any mother would have done the same thing. [China Daily via Impact Lab] Keep reading »
Do we really need yet another modeling reality TV show clogging the airwaves? I was seriously disturbed when I heard about BBC America’s new reality TV series, “Britain’s Missing Top Model.” The show gives disabled models a chance to compete for a spread in Marie Claire UK. The premise of the show seems cruel and unusual to the core—to boost the acceptance of disabled women in an industry that is based solely on physical perfection. Can you say “pleading for rejection and humiliation”? This merciless irony plays out in the show over and over again. A photographer says of contestant Rebecca, a 27-year-old with a prosthetic leg, “Rebecca’s disability didn’t cause me any problems. It was just the fact she’s not really in shape.” So, aside from learning to model with a prosthetic leg, Rebecca must also be crazy thin? And it gets worse. In a scene where a contestant with a stump models lacy lingerie in a store window, a young man comments, “She’s beautiful, so she’s got nothing to hide.” But a middle-aged woman adds, “But if it’s to sell something like lingerie I think people are going to be troubled.” Keep reading »
I recently met David through my blog. He was charming, witty and funny. After a bit of friendly Twirting (flirting via Twitter, the equivalent of computer footsie), he said he thought I was pretty funny too and even admitted to being a bit intimidated when I told him how strong my physical disability, Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, had made my arms. This bone and muscular disorder has resulted in more than 26 surgeries to correct joint contractures, scoliosis and to straighten my leg muscles. You’d be amazed how strong my arms could get just from using a walker for 20+ years. They’re like giant muscles of steel, only smaller and dotted with cute freckles.
Well, this was a first, so feeling a bit bold, I asked him to guest-post from the male perspective on a question that has nagged me since my days in high school when I’d look at other girls and how the guys easily flocked to them. The question: Why are guys so reluctant to date – at the very least, approach – a woman with a disability? Keep reading »
Would a guy date a woman with a disability?
That’s not the sort of question guys are expecting to hear amidst the typical flurry of getting-to-know-you questions. But it’s nonetheless an important – even critical – one for me. It’s at the top of my list, actually. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself since high school when my peers so easily began to couple-off, and I watched from the sidelines. It all seemed so natural and effortless for them, yet I couldn’t help but feel as though the Dating Gods had forgotten to “cc” me on their Dating 101 memo. I’m sure the memo talked about the basics: courting, flirting, maybe even some tips for hiding those tiny flaws and insecurities on the first date.
But what about those not-so-tiny flaws? What about those insecurities you can’t simply hide with a cute jacket or a thick layer of Maybelline foundation? Keep reading »