Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to speak as part of the ReelAbilities DC film festival. Although both leaving my house after dark and speaking to crowds are outside of my norm, I was excited about the opportunity. Who would have thought that I would be speaking at a film festival?
The film shown was a documentary touting the life changing wonders of prosthetic technology. It was well-done, yet I saw it as little more than another attempt to glamorize prosthetics for the able bodied community. (In the disabled community, such videos are referred to as gimp porn.)
Watching the film, I struggled to figure out what I was going to say. Other than to talk about my story and reactions to the film, I was given little direction. As my thoughts swirled, I doubted that they really wanted to know my honest reaction.
When I heard the film narrator declare that amputees were becoming "super human" and would soon be the "envy of the able bodied world because of their technology," I knew I had to address the dirty little secrets behind these "miraculous" advancements. The majority of amputees struggle to access the most basic devices. The bionic devices demonstrated in the movie are completely unattainable.
I began my speech by introducing myself, but quickly parlayed into prosthetic parity. I discussed insurance issues and the real life struggles of the amputee community. The audience was flabbergasted when I revealed the price tags, and the 3 year longevity expectations, of the bionic devices featured.
I spoke about the one limb per lifetime caps in New York state, as well as the complete exclusions in Nevada and Alaska. I relayed stories of local families struggling to afford the copay for a leg for their 10 year old son, who is currently relegated to crawling because the family earns too much to get assistance yet doesn't make nearly enough to afford the 10,000 copay required for the device. When I revealed that I am disabled not by the loss of my limb but through the red tape of my insurance carrier, the auditorium erupted into applause.
I may not have delivered the speech the organizers were anticipating, but the audience was captivated. I could tell that the message was heard when a flurry of hands flew in the air when I offered to answer questions. My 10 minute speech turned into a 45 minute interactive presentation.
Driving home, I couldn't help but ponder the possibilities if the film makers had opted to make a realistic portrayal of limb loss issues. I realize that technology is glamorous, and is touted because it makes everybody feel better. But if the goal is to bring enlightenment, I think that the mark was missed.