Sunday, May 31, 2009

Aimee Mullins: How my legs give me super-powers

Aimee Mullins: How my legs give me super-powers is a TED talk by athlete, model, actor and activist Aimee Mullins.  She talks about perceptions of ability vs. disability with respect to her prosthetic legs. Her TED bio explains: 

"Aimee Mullins was born without fibular bones, and had both of her legs amputated below the knee when she was an infant. She learned to walk on prosthetics, then to run -- competing at the national and international level as a champion sprinter, and setting world records at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. At Georgetown, where she double-majored in history and diplomacy, she became the first double amputee to compete in NCAA Division 1 track and field."

As you can imagine, over the years Aimee has had a lot of time to ponder statements people would make to her such as, "You know Aimee, you're very attractive. You don't look disabled."

It opened her eyes to a conversation about beauty, body, and from an identity standpoint, what it means to be disabled. She points out, "Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do. Nobody calls her disabled." 

Aimee worked with some fashion designers to make art-prosthetic legs, freeing her from the need to replicate human-ness. She had legs of different heights made, which gave her a new-found relationship with door jambs. When she tested the first one out, a friend who was used to seeing her at a certain height, commented off-the-cuff that it wasn't fair that she could change her height. Aimee states that that's when she knew the conversation with society had changed profoundly in the last decade, moving beyond overcoming deficiency and limitations, and moving instead into potential. 

She's an advocate of making people that society once considered disabled architects of their own identities, which they can change at will, by designing their own bodies from a place of empowerment. Great talk.

I won't ruin the whole thing.  It's not just the words, it's the images plus the delivery. You have to see the 10 minutes of poetry. Enjoy!

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