Cambodian Competition for a Prosthetic Limb

prosthetics Cambodian Miss Landmine

A 2009 Cambodian beauty pageant for disabled women was full of land mines from start to finish. Testing taboos, a Norwegian theater director wanted to draw attention to survivors in a war zone. Twenty women scarred by decades of war were to parade their amputated bodies for the chance at a new prosthetic limb. The organizer had the support of the government’s mine action agency.

Days before the debut of a photo exhibit, a lead-up to the live pageant, there was much indignation and all support collapsed.  The cancelled pageant provoked controversy even in its aftermath.

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Recognizing Ability: A Foot Artist


Daniel Laflamme grabs a water bottle with his foot and bends over to take a sip. Then he adroitly places a paintbrush between his toes and begins to paint.  Deaf and mute, Laflamme, who has cerebral palsy, communicates through his painting. 

In 2006, the Quebec City artist was in Toronto to help publicize an exhibition by Canada’s Mouth and Foot Painting Artists.  The organization sells replicas of the painters’ works on greeting cards and calendars to help the artists live independent lives.

At the organization’s headquarters on St. Clair Avenue West, Laflamme showed off his prowess as an artist. Bent over like a pretzel on the floor, he painted with authority and skill as he worked on a still life of flowers and a fruit bowl.

Then he stopped to get more paint. He used one foot to bring the palette of paints closer to him.  Holding his paintbrush between his toes, he dipped his brush in the paint and then began once more to delicately apply color to his masterpiece.


Quoting: Debra Black, Toronto Star, July 7, 2006

Photo by: Rick Eglinton, Toronto Star, July 7, 2006. Photo Source:

Redefining Disability: On Track to Succeed


Loretta Claiborne was born partially blind and could not walk or talk until she was four. Officials recommended that she be put into an institution—a common treatment for America’s “defectives” in the 1950s. Her mother refused.

Today Ms. Claiborne has 26 marathons and a black belt in karate to her name.  She travels the world to speak for people like herself. Her purpose is to exemplify and to usher in a fresh understanding of ‘disability’.  Definitions change over time: the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls disability an “evolving concept”.


Excerpts from:

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A London Marathoner’s Stellar Effort





 Thirty-six thousand runners completed the 26.2 mile marathon course in London in 2012. So did Claire Lomas. 

The paralyzed 32-year-old conquered the course of uneven sidewalks using a bionic suit to control her legs. Her effort took around 40 hours, averaging between a mile and 2.5 miles spread over 17 days. Claire is a former chiropractor and competitive cross-country horse rider.  She broke her spine after being thrown from her horse five years earlier.

Claire’s is an overcomer. From strenuous athleticism to immobility; from a wheelchair to a pioneering bionic suit called ReWalk which gives her mobility through motion sensors, battery operated motors and an onboard computer system. She can stand, walk and climb stairs. When her daughter was learning to walk, Claire joined her – one for the first time, the other for the second time around.

She completed the race with her husband in tow.  Tourists, supporters and family clapped her along to a marathon success.

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Mephibosheth: Feet Under the Banquet Table

Mephibosheth is introduced in 2 Samuel chapters 4 and 9 as a grandson of King Saul. He was lame in both feet, having fallen as a child.

At that time, the Kingdom of Judah was in turmoil. Mephibosheth assumed that newly crowned David was his enemy and went into hiding. Unexpectedly, King David sent for Mephibosheth, asking his servant to carry the lame boy back to the palace. Mephibosheth misunderstood the king’s purpose and cowered in his presence. To the boy’s surprise, David honored him as a member of the royal household – no conditions attached. David treated him as a son with every right to be at the banquet table.

Mephibosheth’s lame feet were tucked under the “all you can eat” table as he tucked into the feast. But, his eyes were fastened on the king.

Pastor and author Charles Stanley (1) suggests that the Mephibosheth story parallels the one in the Garden of Eden. The comparable “fallen” condition of Adam and Eve prompts them to hide (Genesis 3:8). They and their descendants (you and I) depend on God’s rescue and restoration to His family. Like Mephibosheth, we are invited to dine at the table of the King of Kings. Our celebration of Holy Communion foreshadows this royal banquet. We, like Mephibosheth, have a rightful place at the table when relationship with the King is restored.


Adapted from:  Sandhu, T.J. (2013). Walking with God: Praying through footwork metaphors in scripture. Unpublished manuscript.


(1)           Charles Stanley,  Mephibosheth, lame on both feet or, the Kindness of God (Bible Centre; 2006 Oct. )

Reaching the Pedal

 “Re-narrating Disability” through Musical Performance (by Stefan Sunandan Honisch)

Honisch is a concert pianist in British Columbia who has Spina Bifida.  His contributions to music go beyond being a musician with a disability. By example, he has paved the way to greater recognition and participation for physically impaired musicians.

 On this journey, Honisch experienced both positive and negative responses to his own performance.

He writes: “When I was in Salzburg to participate in the Internationale Sommerakademie of the Mozarteum, the director Alexander Muellenbach observed that I played as though there were no “disability” present. In particular he complimented my pedaling, perhaps the single greatest source of struggle for me from both a technical and artistic standpoint. He expressed interest in how I achieved a variety of effects with the pedal, but contextualized his remarks within a larger discussion of interpretation. In that space, and in that moment, I ceased to be “disabled” even though my physical condition was readily visible to the audience. It seems that a musically convincing performance can indeed allow audience perceptions of physical “otherness” to recede into the background in certain public performance situations.

 A rather extreme example of the reverse, that is, an inflexible hyper-awareness of my physical condition, comes from my childhood. After I had performed in a class recital featuring the students of my second piano teacher, a woman came up to me and asked me how I managed to operate the damper pedal without proper foot movement. Somewhat embarrassed by her blunt fixation on my pedaling technique, I explained that I had devised a way of pedaling by lifting my entire leg in order to allow my foot to operate the pedal. After several more questions about the specific nature of my condition (Spina Bifida) and about my restricted leg movement, she walked away. I do not recall her asking me about the music I had performed, or attempting to engage in a discussion of interpretation. Instead her anxiety about my ability to fulfill the task at hand (rendering a given work in a convincing manner) clouded her ability to evaluate whether or not I had, in fact, succeeded.

 The collision of these vastly different reactions to my playing not only with each other, but with my own views of the relationship between my physical impairment and my music-making illustrates the complexity involved in identity-construction.

 My single greatest concern when performing on an unfamiliar piano is the damper pedal. These pedals vary widely in size and shape, and also in their distance from the floor. Because my right leg does not fully extend outwards, I sometimes have to sit uncomfortably close to the keyboard, in a physically cramped manner, in order to reach the damper pedal. Of course, this impacts my overall playing technique, since muscular relaxation is essential to good tone production and fluent mechanics. It is unpleasant, and psychologically disabling to realize that my inability to use the damper pedal on a given piano can have a significant, even drastic impact on my technical fluency and could therefore impact the overall artistic quality of my playing.

 In an effort to deal effectively with this situation, I have had designed a number of external devices which can be attached to the damper pedal. The principal aim of these devices has been to serve as an extension to the pedal in order to accommodate my restricted right leg movement. However, these mechanisms, while initially promising, have ultimately proven ineffective since their design does not allow them to remain firmly attached to the pedal for a significant length of time. During practice sessions with these devices, I have had trouble maintaining contact with my foot, and have also noticed that these devices invariably slide either right or left after a few minutes. Also, these pedal extensions require an involved effort to attach them to the damper pedal, requiring movements such as bending down, and crouching, which are beyond my range of physical ability. Although I am happy to seek assistance when necessary, I would prefer to have a mechanical pedal extension which is designed in such a way that I can attach it to the pedals myself.

 The most significant break-through in my pedaling technique occurred after I stopped wearing my leg-braces during performances. Without the added bulk of these braces, I have been able to slide myself slightly further underneath the keyboard, and closer to the pedal. Furthermore, the absence of my leg-braces during performances has had the pleasing psychological effect of allowing me to feel physically ‘able-bodied.’”



Thursday, April 26, 2012 Rick Hansen Competition Results: 

Stefan Honisch has been awarded the prestigious Rick Hansen “Man in Motion” Fellowship in 2012/13.


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