Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

Lee Kitchens

Audio transcript: On little people identifying as disabled
Date: 3/24/2002
Interviewer: Sharon Bonney

Note: Transcripts have been lightly edited; therefore there may be slight discrepancies with audio clips.


Bonney:
Early on, and maybe even now, did little people see themselves as disabled? Did they identify with that?

Kitchens:
No, a lot of people totally ignored it, "I am not disabled." Many of them would not even get handicapped license plates because they didn't want to wear the label. But Section 502 and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Public Law 94-142, if I can remember all of these good numbers, they did define short stature as a limiting condition. My argument was if you are going to be labeled by the public, take advantage of it and go ahead and get the handicapped tag as repayment for all of the stuff you have to put up with. As time goes on, getting a handicapped label is not as negative a thing as it used to be. Now you see handicapped parking placards on all kinds of cars, and you see people getting out of the car and thinking, "Are they handicapped?" Well yes, there are a lot of handicaps and then there are a lot of frauds. So it's all an education and a perception thing, not only in the minds of the public but in the minds of the disabled community.

Bonney:
What do you think has helped the little people disabled community begin to identify as disabled?

Kitchens:
Well, as the organization [Little People of America] has gotten large enough to be recognized as a viable group, as we have gotten more and more of our people involved in various movements, as we've become a recognized member on ANSI committees, as we've gotten involved in some issues and have gotten media attention to some of the stupid things that have gone on, as we've gone to bat for people running into problems in the education field, and as more little people have succeeded in the general public on an equal basis, all of those things have helped other little people to see, "Yes, I can do all of this, too." Even though there are some barriers there that are artificial, the organization can help you break down those barriers or show you a way around the barriers. It's pretty tough to do it all by yourself, and if you just want to have a little help I think that's where the organization shines.

We do, now, have members that are in roles that are significant. We have attorneys, doctors, nurses that have some influence based on their position, not on their size. Those people are useful. Plus we've networked with all kinds of other things. Networking helps too. People come to us for help, and we go to other groups for help. It's good that we have high visibility now that we did not use to have.

End of transcript


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