VIDEO: Does your Halloween costume marginalize people with disabilities?
With Halloween just around the corner, let’s have fun, but also let’s take a moment to consider the negative stereotypes some costumes can reinforce about people with disabilities.
Want to know more about Cuquis Robledo, narrator of the video? Here is her story, in her own words:
When people first look at me, the first thing they notice is that I am short (3 ft 4.5 in to be exact). Sometimes people stare at me, point at me, and occasionally use the word “baby” to describe me.
My name is Cuquis Robledo (pronounced “cookies”), and I am a Little Person. There are a lot of other people who are little like me, or have dwarfism. The kind of dwarfism I have is called spondolyo-epi-metaphyseal dysplasia (SEMD). That means that my bones just grow at a much slower rate than most. As a result of my dysplasia, I’ve had two spine surgeries to correct a 100 degree scoliosis – a curvature in the spine – and a leg surgery to give me a bit more length in my legs. The purpose of these surgeries were to help me be more independent in the future. Because of these surgeries, I am now able to reach and see over the top of the table and countertops, open a door, and use a toilet without a stool.
Despite being a Little Person and undergoing multiple surgeries, I don’t let it inhibit me from doing what I love. I was raised in Houston, TX, and am about to be a junior at Duke University studying psychology. I’m part Cuban, part Mexican, so naturally, I love to Latin dance (specifically salsa dancing). And in my spare time, I also enjoy writing, traveling and doing art. At Duke, I am president of an organization called Duke Disability Alliance (DDA) which promotes disability awareness and fights for increased accommodations on campus.
Growing up, I have learned how important it is to be an advocate. For the longest time, my mom was (and still is) my advocate. She taught me how to defend myself from the kids on the playground who would tease me and push me around because of my size. She motivated me to keep walking when my first spine surgery resulted in me becoming temporarily paraplegic (the surgeon accidentally overstretched the spinal cord and I had to relearn how to walk again) She even was up late at night with me cleaning the wounds on my legs when I had my leg surgery.
Now it is my turn to be an advocate. I am learning the importance of asking for help, such as asking someone to help me reach an object off a high counter, or how to respond to people who make fun of my size. But the people who I surround myself with – my friends and family – are the people that support me and encourage me to strive every day. I know I will always be a Little Person. But that is me. That is who I am. And I accept myself as I am.
Rooted in Rights is publishing a series of articles in October, written by Cuquis during her summer internship with Disability Rights Washington, as part of Disability History Month. The first of those posts is about the history of posttraumatic stress disorder and its treatment. Stay tuned for future posts about the controversy surrounding limb-lengthening surgery, and about the origins of the term “Little Person.”