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Articles by Lisa Lilienthal

Life August 19, 2011

Three Films Cast A New Light On PWDs

It was a different time back in 1982 when my Home Economics teacher suggested I enter the Miss Berkmar High School contest.  My peers were cheerleaders and dance champs; the overachiever in me loved the idea of being recognized for something other than class president.  And the idea that I could do it – that a person in a wheelchair could be in a beauty pageant – was a novel one.  Miss Berkmar was the gateway pageant – I went on to earn several other tiaras before I earned the best title of all: Miss Wheelchair Georgia. Nearly 30 years later, the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant system still lives on, recognizing women for their accomplishment and potential to use the title to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. The pageant was recently celebrated in a new documentary, “Defining Beauty,” which debuted at the Newport Beach Film Festival in early May. “Defining ... keep reading »
Life March 21, 2011

TV: Where Down Syndrome Is All the Rage

The AAPD (American Association of People with Disabilities) honored the hit FOX series Glee with its Image Award last week. Glee won for its portrayal of not just one, but three people with disabilities.  There’s the darling Becky (played by actress Lauren Potter), Coach Sue Sylvester’s cheerleader/student assistant as well as Sue’s older sister, Jean (charmingly played by Robin Trocki).  Their performances are solid, the disability storyline is just a subtle current, and I love that one day my now 9-year-old (who has Down syndrome) will be able to see someone like him having a good time doing something they love. I’ve always been on the fence regarding the casting of the Arnie character, a student performer who uses a wheelchair, who is played by non-disabled actor, Kevin McHale.  It’s not that I’m on the fence about Kevin – he’s got talent – it’s the idea that the show missed out ... keep reading »
Life March 21, 2011

Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day

I used to think that we didn’t need to know hundreds of people with Down syndrome; we just needed a few good friends.  People with whom we shared more than just a diagnosis; people with whom our family could relate and enjoy, and with whom we could talk about more than delays and milestones, therapists and specialists, teachers and aides. We found them, and we cherish them.  And you know what?  It turns out I was wrong, we do need the hundreds of people with Down syndrome, too. Organizations like the National Down Syndrome Society have a mission to create a society where inclusion and acceptance are the norm.  They represent us, and they celebrate us – the hundreds of families (estimated to be more than 400,000 in the U.S. alone) for whom Down syndrome creates a life of unexpected joy. Today is World Down Syndrome Day.  March 21, or 3-21, is ... keep reading »
Blog January 31, 2011

Proud To Be Token Wheelchair Girl

The other day, I did a photo shoot for a Target in-store ad — a display that will be on the end cap (the end of an aisle display) in Target pharmacies, come April or so. I got the call late on Friday night and it sounded to good to be true. Come to a private house in Beverly Hills, sit for hair and make up, shoot a few pictures and head home after a great lunch and an even better couple of hours listening in on (and participating in) great conversation with super nice people. It was worth it, I thought, to show up and be token wheelchair girl. I did some modeling in my late teens and early twenties, mostly catalog, institutional and corporate stuff. I’d show up and be the pretty wheelchair girl, usually seated in a clunky “old person” wheelchair or slung demurely ... keep reading »

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