What are we talking about?

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What are we talking about?

This week I researched high and low in order to keep you updated on current events in the community of people with disabilities. Hope you enjoy!

1. For once, mannequins that actually reflect real-life people were displayed in several Switzerland storefronts for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In one of Switzerland’s high-end shopping avenues, models based on real-life people with disabilities could be seen showcasing the latest fashions. The project, called “Because Who Is Perfect? Get Closer” was part of a campaign by Pro Infirmis, a Swiss activist organization for people with disabilities. As part of the making of the mannequins, models such as Jasmine Rechsteiner, a Miss Handicap winner, whose spine is malformed, were measured and photographed so that the mannequins would be accurate representations of them and their disabilities. The idea behind the project was to shock shoppers into reflecting on the acceptance of people with disabilities in society and to recognize reality instead of focusing on the goal of perfection. Said Mark Zumbuhl of Pro Infirmis, “Often, we cling to [the] ideal instead of accepting life in its diversity representations”. This recent project is just one more step in the constant campaign for the world of fashion to recognize body diversity.

See the video of the mannequin construction process, and the reaction of passersby to the diversity of the mannequins at “‘Disabled’ Mannequins remind us that beautiful doesn’t mean ‘perfect’”, on the Huffington Post.

Learn more about other projects by Pro Infirmis at “Mannequins depicting people with disabilities in ‘Because who is perfect?’ campaign goes viral” at Global News.


2. As we move further into the 21st century, changes to the gaming world are beginning to make it more inclusive – however, there is still much work to be done. According to the recent Americans with Disabilities report, almost fifty-seven million Americans have a disability, or 19% of the population. The Able Gamers Foundation has estimated that there are thirty-three million gamers with disabilities. Currently, the Xbox One console seems to be the most accessible for gamers with disabilities, due to the extensive voice control options, though the system does not support sign language. The multitude of accessibility features that mobile devices such as iPhones offer – the voiceover, assistive touch, and guided access – has pushed designers to create games that are not only easier to use, with less equipment required, but also friendlier to gamers with disabilities. One such game is BlindSide, which was released last year to great acclaim. Available on Mac, PC’s, and iPhones and iPads, the game is entirely audio-based. The horror genre game, in which everyone has been blinded, forces the gamers to rely on audio cues to navigate their surroundings and complete the game. BlindSide was created by Michael T. Astolfi and Aaron Rasmussen, inspired by a childhood accident of Rasmussen, which resulted in him being temporarily blind and permanently grateful for his sight. Together, the pair raised the money for the program on Kickstarter in 2011 and built the game the following year. Although they were forced to exaggerate the audio cues in order for gamers to successfully interpret them, the game is fairly authentic. BlindSide appeals to both gamers with disabilities and gamers without disabilities, proving that despite the lack of visual stimuli, the game can be just as engrossing as more mainstream games. The game has been downloaded thousands of times, received an innovation award from the Games for Change Festival, and has inspired the creation of additional programs accessible to people with disabilities. According to Astolfi, “There are gamers out there who are anxious for more accessible content, and very little, if any, of it is coming from established publishers. People with disabilities are a group that has, in general, not been targeted by major video-game releases. But as the indie game movement continues to grow, I think we’ll see more games designed specifically for this audience.”

Read more about the development of games accessible to people with disabilities at “A video game that you can’t even see” at the New Yorker.


3. This fall, for the first time, two-year-old Malerie Pena was able to pedal her very own tricycle all on her own. The toddler, who has cerebral palsy, had been unable to freely move around before she received the toy specially designed for her. The tricycle was built specifically for Malerie’s body type and abilities, and allows her to maximize the strength of her leg muscles when pedalling. It was a gift from Cinemark Theaters and Variety, the Children’s Charity of Texas. Variety’s President and CEO said that, “this is our basic purpose: to help with the part of life that people take for granted”. According to Malerie’s family, she loves the tricycle.

Learn more about Malerie’s new toy at “Special tricycle offers gift of mobility” at Socialreader.com.


4. Recently, a New York “fashionista” has come under fire from the New York Post. In the article published by the NY Post, titled “Fashionista has leg amputated so she can wear high heels” Mariah Serrano’s motivation for amputating her leg is described as a desire to be able to wear more fashionable footwear. However, Serrano’s story is about so much more than that. Serrano, currently 21 years-old, was born with a club foot. Throughout her childhood, she had several operations done in an attempt to relieve some of her pain and make walking easier, to little avail. After the latest round of surgery in 2009, Serrano contracted a staph infection which doctors were unable to cure. After much thought by Serrano and her family, and on the advice of her doctor, she made the decision to amputate her leg. Now an assistant designer for a clothing brand and a social media manager for Meg boutiques, Serrano believes she made the right decision. While being able to wear high-heeled shoes is a bonus for Serrano, who also runs a blog titled “Confessions of a One-Legged Fashionista”, it was by no means the deciding factor in her life-changing decision. Of the decision to amputate Serrano stated, “Obviously I was scared, but there was a certain amount of relief to feel like I could finally have an answer, an opportunity to participate in my own life and not be in as much pain.”

Read more about Mariah Serrano’s decision at “NY Post sneers at “Fashionista” who has club foot amputated” at Gothamist.com.


I’ll leave you with our quote of the week:

“We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.