Norman Kunc to give speech at Mount Holyoke College
In a speech to be held this week titled “A Life Beyond Compare: Disability, Normalcy and Transformation,” Norman Kunc will discuss the habitual ways that society perceives peoples with disabilities. Kunc (pronounced Koonz) will be advocating that society needs to include people with disabilities as a part of human diversity so that they may begin to be recognized as valued and contributing citizens.
Kunc’s speech will be held Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Gamble Auditorium at Mount Holyoke College. This free event is open to the public, is handicapped accessible and will have a sign language interpreter present throughout. The speech should run for about an hour and will include a question-answer session at the end.
Kunc will be speaking from his own personal experiences as someone who was born with Cerebral Palsy, a non-curable disease that inhibits physical body movement and muscle coordination, often resulting in stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes. Because of his disability, Kunc attended a segregated school until grade seven. It was upon his integration into a regular high school that he realized his desire to change the general view society has of disabled people.
Kunc is now a well-known advocate in the disability rights community worldwide. This year alone he has lectured on disability rights in many states all over the country from California to New Hampshire. He has gone as far Egypt and South Africa to speak at conferences on the matter.
“He has the ability to capture everyone in the audience. He really is an excellent and very funny storyteller,” said Emma Fialka-Feldman, a Mount Holyoke student who proposed that Kunc speak to her five-college classmates after remembering a moving speech she had seen Kunc deliver years ago.
“There’s a story that he told about going to a therapist,” Fialka-Feldman said. “They made him exercise by walking up and down these stairs, and he thought, ‘Why am I walking up these stairs? They don’t go anywhere. Why don’t I walk up some stairs that will be useful?’ He evaluates how therapists should help people with disabilities and why are we trying to help them in the first place.”
Kunc is not only a public speaker on the matter of disability rights but is also the founder of BroadReach, a company based out of western Canada with a mission statement to help individuals with disabilities and their families live rich and meaningful lives in their communities.
“The big idea is that disabilities are not deficiencies,” Fialka-Feldman said about Kunc’s message. “He says that it is something that people need to overcome and that there are ways of valuing people with disabilities. These are people that we can talk to, that we can build relationships with, and we need to start seeing them as people who do have huge contributions to make.”
Along with his message of acceptance, Kunc will be promoting the idea that disability is just an element of human diversity, just as race and gender are elements.
“People with disabilities are everywhere. They are in our families, in classrooms and in residential buildings,” Fialka-Feldman said. “I hope that the presentation will help others realize that these are people out there and to start seeing people with disabilities in a new way.”
Kunc often likes sum up his view of disabilities by quoting playwright Neil Marcus who once said, “Disability is not a brave struggle or ‘courage in the face of adversity.’ Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live.”
Christa Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.