Things so ridiculous, even cows would laugh

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Things so ridiculous, even cows would laugh

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Kim Sang-yoon feels uneasy using an ATM. It’s not that someone might be looking over her shoulder, it’s that everyone can see over her head. How does a dwarf ―Ms. Kim is just 130 centimeters (4 feet, 2 inches) tall―protect her password?
But her problems do not end there. The kitchen sink is too high, the washer and dryer are too large. At restaurants she needs a booster seat and in stores she can only reach the lowest shelves.
“But the world says that’s standard. That’s what’s ‘normal,’” writes the activist / counselor in her latest book, “Now, By Our Appearance and By Our Voice.”
The 60-page picture book discusses her daily thoughts about living as a dwarf in Korean society. Organized as a series of two-page anecdotes, it also contains incidents involving other disabled people Ms. Kim has met in her work as a counselor at the North Chungcheong provincial branch of the Seoul civic group Differently-Abled Women United.
She started the job as a volunteer after graduating from college, but made it her full-time work after finding plenty of problems to resolve for disabled women, who are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual assault. She talks to females who are physically or mentally challenged, and visits their homes regularly to watch over them.
The sad and heartening stories in her picture book portray circumstances so ridiculous that, as the old Korean expression goes, even a cow would laugh.
In one story, she talks about a blind woman who keeps her four children tied to her wrist constantly so she won’t lose them. In another, she complains about a biased lawmaker who idiotically questioned out loud why one should help disabled women get drivers licenses “when they have difficulty driving anyway.” In several of the illustrations, a cow looks on from the side, laughing at the absurdities.
She also deals with personal incidents. During a medical exam, a male doctor once snickered and asked whether she had “special feelings” for him when he heard her rapid heartrate through his stethoscope. She bit her lip hard, trying to contain her anger. Her rapid pulse is typical of dwarfs, whose organs are “stuffed into a short torso,” she wrote.
“Why is it that people think I would eat less because I am short?” she repeatedly asks in her book. “Why do they think we can’t love anybody? Why do they think our hearts and our minds are disabled because our bodies are?”
Ms. Kim was talented enough to do the colorful illustrations used in the book as well. But she is modest when complimented.
“It’s just a small booklet about disabled people,” Ms. Kim, 30, said in a telephone interview.
Differently-Abled Women United publishes books mostly on gender issues. In 2004, the group dealt with sexual harassment; in 2005, it was domestic violence. The book is not for sale, but it will be distributed in schools, to advocacy groups and to facilities for the disabled.


by Lee Min-a
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