Occasionally, readers query about famous people interviewed for this column. Over the years I’ve been asked, Which famous people affected by disability have you interviewed? Who was your favorite? Since 2002, I’ve featured more than 550 people affected by disability, and more than a few have been well known.
In years past, in terms of my most favorite person interviewed, I would have answered: Chris Burke, who was born with Down syndrome and played Corky Thatcher on the hit ABC series “Life Goes On,” or Boomer Esiason, former Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets quarterback, whose son has cystic fibrosis.
The reason? Burke was a hoot to interview and Boomer was a Bengal, my favorite pro football team. I’ve also interviewed people like Bruce Jenner, Dave Dravecky, Debbie Macomber, and congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.
About three years ago, my whole perspective on interviewing famous people changed. I began realizing that by regularly interviewing these people I had grabbed the interest of some additional readers, informed about disability in general and added an interesting twist to my job, but I had done little toward accomplishing my goal, which was to offer readers an inside look into the lives of everyday people with disabilities.
So I started featuring fewer famous people and concentrating more on the average Joe and Jane.
The United States has about 60 million people claiming a disability and nearly all those 60 million aren’t famous. Most organizations define disability as a significant impairment in at least one major life function, such as walking, talking, eating, driving, seeing, working or thinking.
Many of those 60 million are tucked away and out of sight, in places like group homes, nursing homes, bedrooms, assisted living facilities, alcohol and drug treatment centers, prisons and psychiatric hospitals.
As part of my desire to help everyday people tell their everyday stories, I’ve now begun offering readers with disabilities a special opportunity.
In addition to my regular columns going forward, every now and then I will be giving readers with disabilities the opportunity to write their own column and have that column published here. I will edit for space and clarity. So if you like to write, email for details. You can do it!