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As a 33 year old woman living with achondroplasia, which is the most common form of Dwarfism, I was recently asked what I'm passionate about. I wanted to share my answer with all of you.
As an advocate for diversity and inclusion on a global scale, I'm passionate about advocating for improved representation of people with physical differences in the media, while working towards greater inclusion and acceptance of people with all abilities. It's a proven fact that those who watch positive portrayals of characters with physical differences are more likely to recognize discrimination and less likely to say they had negative emotions when encountering those people. There are an estimated 30,000 people with Dwarfism in the United States, and an estimated 651,700 around the world. Percentages of those living with Dwarfism in the global population are much lower compared to that of the USA. This means that most people may not come across a little person in their lifetime. A majority of perceptions, whether negative or positive, of our community comes from the media. Positive portrayals will lead to more acceptance for the up and coming generations of little people who come after me.
I also wanted to share what I consider my greatest achievement, while following my passions thus far. In November 2013, I was asked to skip Thanksgiving with my family and travel from Boston to Kenya, in order to help launch a little people organization. Before I made my travel decision, a little person in South Africa reached out to say that she wishes that she could have the confidence that I have. For my confidence, I give full credit to my parents and how well they raised me. I wish that this woman had the same amount of encouragement from an early age. In Africa, and several other countries, parents are known to hide their children if they have any sort of physical difference. When I received that message, I saw it as my calling to take action. On December 3rd, 2013, 500 people, including the families who were known to hide their children's differences, came to celebrate the launch of the Kenya Association of People with Dwarfism. From American Thanksgiving through December 6, 2013, I had the opportunity share my story all over Nairobi, Kenya. I shared my experiences in newspapers, radio stations, television talk shows, and on stage. I did this in order to restore faith in the community and remind them that anything is possible. Nelson Mandela passed away on my last night in Africa. This was pretty ironic, since his words of "it always seems impossible until it's done" were strikingly similar to the message I had passed to the Kenyan Dwarfism community.
Everyone who has the opportunity to live on this earth should feel accepted and included in every aspect of their life. I sincerely believe that anything is possible for everyone, and there is no reason that anyone should be limited or prevented from accomplishing any goal they set in life. My advice for all of you is:
Thank you for reading, and for sharing this journey with me.