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Speaker Matt Glowacki Uses Humor to Discuss Disability Awareness

By Heather Cuellar / Log Staff Writer
On April 20, 2012

"I think people like me because I'm in a wheelchair," joked Matt Glowacki as he spoke to a packed house at Salem State University on April 10.

Glowacki is a public speaker on a mission to educate people about different forms of diversity and about how to interact with people who have disabilities.

In person, Glowacki is cheerful and instantly likeable. He does a "shake" in his wheelchair to show off the fact that he doesn't have legs.

"I want you to know that I know that I don't have legs," he joked.

"If you shake my hand your legs will not fall off," he added. Using visuals from popular television shows such as "Family Guy" and "South Park,"

Glowacki shows how media is teaching kids about diversity in subtle ways.

He designs and sells his own wheelchairs, or as he describes it, "my wheelchairs are my shoes." Glowacki was born a healthy baby with no legs, but that hasn't stopped him from doing what he loves.

During senior year of high school, he started his own disc jockey business as a way to meet girls and make money. His father always told him to find something that he loves, and to see if he could make a career out of it.

Now Glowacki travels the world, speaking at more than 250 shows a year at colleges in eight different countries.

"It's perfect, because I've always liked to talk," he said with regards to being a public speaker. He also said that he loves it when children walk up to him and ask where did his legs go.

"I get to decide what kind of person I want to be," he said.

'"Sometimes I like to lie to children because they'll believe anything I say. I tell them 'I was staring at someone without any legs.'"

Glowacki is full of jokes and has a constant smile on his face, but it's not always children that approach him; it's adults, too.

'"They say, 'You're amazing!' and I ask why, and they say, "because I was feeling bad this morning but if I was like you I'd have to kill myself.' I tell them if I was ignorant as you walking around I'd kill myself too."'

He says that the words thrown around to describe handicapped people, such as "crippled," "invalid" and "handicapped," all set up lower expectations about what a person can do before people get the chance to meet him or her.

During his presentation, Glowacki showed a clip from "Family Guy" about changing the way you look to please others.

In the clip the main character, the father, Peter Griffin, undergoes plastic surgery only to find out that his family loved him the way he was before the surgery, because afterwards he no longer looks like himself.

Another clip shown was from "South Park," where the question of political correctness was brought up over the N-word.

Glowacki was very passionate about the stigma attached to certain words.

"The N-word was used in literature and it wasn't until the late 1800s and early 1900s that white people added stigma to it," he said. "I choose not to use it, because I believe that language is the agreement of the meaning of words when people assign negative value to it, as it gives another group of people another weapon to use."

Hugo Urena, a senior at SSU, said that he had been looking forward to hearing Glowacki's speak.

"I was surprised to learn the history of the N-word, that it didn't start off bad," Urena said. "He was a great speaker and seems very happy," Abeba Wildes, a social work major at SSU added.

Glowacki's presentation was sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Program Council.

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