Disabilities Can Be Beautiful Too!23 Dec 2009
I would like to introduce you to a lovely young lady; Elvira from Melbourne Australia. Despite being born with Type II Spinal Muscular Atrophy, she has the spirit of a fighter who never gives up.
At 23, she says she doesn't feel disabled, even though she uses an electric wheelchair full time to get around. In fact, she thinks she needs to remind herself and her friends of the fact sometimes.
Elvira is studying at university part-time for her bachelor in Social Work, and will be begining a leadership course in 2010. She tries to be as independent as possible, regardless of needing help with daily chores that most people take for granted. Catching the train to and from Uni and into the city can be difficult if there is no access but Elvira knows what stations are wheelchair accessible which makes it a whole lot easier for her to get around on her own.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy affects 1 in 10,000 babies and in UK studies, 1 in 50 people are carriers of the gene that causes it. If both parents are carriers, there is a 1 in 4 chance that their baby will develop Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
It is a disease that deteriorates the muscles working its way from the spine out to the limbs, so babies may be born with no sign of it and around six months of age, show signs by not having full muscle strength in their neck ect.
In Elvira's case, she was able to walk a small amount by holding onto things when she was younger, but is now confined to her wheelchair full time.
Sufferers can develop problems with swallowing (which may require the use of a feeding tube), breathing and other respiratory complications. Many babies with the more severe type don't live past 2 years and other types vary, but the general life expectancy is shorter than people born without SMA.
A new show in the UK aired this year, called Britain's Missing Top Model, which is a reality television show similar to the Next Top Model series that began in America with supermodel Tyra Banks. Missing top model has one difference, the seven contestants all have a disability, ranging from hearing impaired to paraplegia. The winner, Kelly Knox, who is 23 and was born without a left forearm, now models through Angel Sinclair's modelling agency.
Elvira began discussions with Angel Sinclair, who founded the group Models Of Diversity. Angel believes that all women, regardless of age, race, disability, height or weight should be able to show their beauty through modelling. She asked Elvira to start a similar group in Australia, which she has done through Facebook.
Elvira feels very passionate about being part of this group, not only being a beautiful girl with a disability, she also used to be overweight and is a strong believer that beauty isn't always on the outside. Elvira, who got up to a size 22 has inspirationally lost all her weight and credits the weight loss to watching what she ate very carefully.
As for Elvira's view on Britain's Missing Top Model, she thinks it's a great concept as it will show the public how people with a disability cope with different problems that arise on a day to day basis. Along with myself, she would love to see a version of this show come to Australia, it is going to be made in the US next so who knows! It may help to remove some of the stigma attached to the public perception of someone with a disability.
Elvira's main goal is to prove to the modelling industry that they should be more open-minded about the types of models they use. That there is beauty in difference. She wants there to be as much recognition in Australia about diverse models as there is in other countries.
Elvira is an amazing young woman and I am proud to call her a friend and have her on my side, fighting along with me for the rights of people with disabilities.
As Elvira said, “I believe that people with disabilities are around for a reason, to teach others about compassion. I want to use my disability for the better and not think of it as a burden”. Well said, I couldn't agree more!
To take a look at the Models Of Diversity group click here - http
To see more about Britain's Missing Top Model, click here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/missingmodel/