SAC hosts diversity talk, explains 'lookism' surrounding disabilities
The sound of the automatic lift filled the room as the man in the wheelchair lowered himself to the sunken stage of Glenn Auditorium at Southeast Missouri State University. With a wide smile across his face, the man wheeled himself to the podium in front of the room and began preparing to speak.
The man is Matt Glowacki, and he was born without legs.
“As you can probably tell, I don’t have any legs,” Glowacki said, beginning his lecture. “But I have everything else and it works just fine.”
Laughter from Southeast students filled the room as Glowacki began his presentation, entitled “Diversity According to Family Guy and South Park.”
Glowacki played clips from the television shows “Family Guy” and “South Park.” These shows are recommended for a mature audience for many reasons, but primarily due to the number of profanities used throughout the program.
The clips from each television show had lessons about diversity hidden among the profanities. In “Family Guy,” the lesson was about lookism, while “South Park” dealt more with racism.
After making several more jokes to lighten the atmosphere, Glowacki talked about how his disability plays a part in his everyday life.
Although it may seem harmless, when people ask Glowacki how he can be happy all the time given his situation, he said it hurts.
The idea behind a question like that implies that no matter what he has done or will do in life, the life of a person with a disability like Glowacki will never measure up to the quality of life of a non-disabled person.
“What I’ve found is that my disability exists in their minds more than it does in mine,” Glowacki said.
A big problem when it comes to diversity is that many don’t know how to have the kind of honest conversations that lead to understanding people who are different, Glowacki said.
Glowacki continued, saying political correctness, although a well-intentioned idea, is actually a problem because it involves us making decisions about people before we even get to know them.
According to Glowacki, person-first identification is a concept that has quickly become the preferred way to address people with disabilities. This way puts the person first in order of importance and then what makes the person different follows as a secondary piece of information.
Glowacki defined lookism as the discrimination of someone based on the way they look and can even be self-inflicted.
Glowacki talked about how diversity is not about walking around noticing differences in people’s skin color, gender or abilities, but rather about listening and learning from the experiences of people who are different.
Southeast’s Student Activities Council hosted Glowacki’s presentation at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.
Student film and lecture coordinator for SAC Katie Bunselmeyer said she found and booked Glowacki at the National Association for Campus Activities.
“We wanted to do something different and about diversity,” Bunselmeyer said. “We took a vote and this is [the lecture] we thought would be the best for campus.”
Senior health management major Keana Henderson attended the lecture as a member of SAC. Henderson said she enjoyed Glowacki’s presentation and learned more about how to talk to different kinds of people.
“Being conscious of how you interact with people is important, even people you think you know,” Henderson said. “If you do offend someone, try to take the time to figure out what you said wrong.”
Glowacki is the owner of three different companies. Glowacki started MOGO Wheelchairs to design “custom sports equipment” wheelchairs for Olympic athletes after designing his own. Glow Music is a mobile disc jockey company and entertainment service created out of Glowacki’s love for music. Finally, Myriad Communications is the speaking and consulting company that allows Glowacki to travel across the country and speak to students, young adults and businesses.
“Disability is off-putting, difference is off-putting,” Glowacki said. “What I’d like to do is give people a real experience with someone who is relatively different than they are so the next time they’re not scared.”
SAC meets weekly at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays in the Redhawks Room of the University Center and all are welcome to attend the meetings. SAC also is accepting applications for the Executive Board. The deadline for the applications has yet to be determined, but students are encouraged to pick up an application in the Campus Life & Event Services office.
For more information on Matt Glowacki, visit his website at http://mattnolegs.com.