Dating, fashion and wheelchairs: Video series explains life with a disability
'We have a lot of the same hopes and dreams as everyone else,' says Alexander Peeler
Alexander Peeler is tackling the stigma around living with a disability — all from the bedroom of his Bridgewater, N.S, home.
This spring, the 25-year-old filmmaker launched a YouTube series about life with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. He's now produced more than 40 short videos in which he discusses everything from the best adaptable clothing, to his reluctance to try accessible online dating apps.
Peeler was born with duchenne muscular dystrophy, a chronic condition that weakens his muscles over time and has forced him to rely on a wheelchair.
He's no stranger to advocating for greater accessibility, but says over the years, he's noticed people shy away from talking openly about disability issues.
"I guess for some people it's a bit taboo, not because it's a bad topic per se, but because it's something they're uncomfortable talking about," said Peeler who runs Squeaky Wheel Productions.
"I think it's important to put myself out there because I think other people with disabilities and even able-bodied people have a lot to learn from that."
Peeler was diagnosed with duchenne when he was 13 months old, a condition that affects about one in 3,500 men. The doctors told his parents he might not live past 20, he said.
Peeler has since finished college and started a career in media production. He says he's used to defying people's expectations.
Last year, Peeler filed a petition with the federal government calling for greater financial supports for medical equipment so people with disabilities can live independently.
The federal government is in the process of introducing new disability legislation, which it expects to pass by early 2018.
Peeler sees the video series as an integral part of his advocacy work.
"The goal is to educate as many people as possible and really get the message out and to slowly change people's perspectives on disability," he said.
And through his research, he's learning almost as much as his viewers.
In one of the videos, Peeler talks about why he's been nervous to date, and lists some of the online dating sites designed for people with disabilities. He also discusses the expense of owning wheelchairs, visible and invisible disabilities and how video games are becoming more accessible.
In his most-viewed video, Peelers shares some of the challenges he faced growing up with duchenne.
"I guess it's upped my confidence a bit," said Peeler. "So it's made a topic that I might have been a little uncomfortable talking about in the past, a lot less uncomfortable."
His viewership is still small but he has big dreams of growing the series beyond the borders of Nova Scotia.
"I just want to get the message out ... that people with disabilities are here and that we matter and that we have a lot of the same hopes and dreams as everyone else."