Calgary

Calgarian Alvin Law defends Paralympics music video featuring people with disabilities

Calgarian Alvin Law's feet are kind of famous. They're the focus of the opening shot in a controversial music video that's been viewed by millions of people worldwide and criticized in the media as "inspiration porn."

Video challenges the status quo in a positive way, says Law

Calgarian Alvin Law is featured in a now controversial music video promoting Britain's coverage of the Paralympic Games. (Channel 4/YouTube)

Calgarian Alvin Law's feet are kind of famous. 

They're seen in the opening close-up shot of a controversial music video that's been viewed by millions of people worldwide and criticized in the media as "inspiration porn."

As the camera zooms out of a drumroll, the audience catches a glimpse of a big toe, then two ankles, and gradually it clues in: those aren't hands. 

The inspirational video, titled We are the Superhumans, features musicians and athletes from around the world, some of whom are in wheelchairs, some who wear prosthetics and some who don't.

"They are not embarrassed about their stumps," Law told CBC's The Homestretch.

"We're very proud of what we can do."

Created to celebrate Britain's coverage of the Paralympic Games, the video features one-legged tap dancers and race car drivers, armless piano players and pilots and Paralympians competing in everything from archery, to fencing, swimming and sprinting.

But a University of Ottawa PhD candidate recently criticized the video for propagating unrealistic expectations of what people with disabilities should be able to accomplish.

"Once you get something big enough and it has enough views, there's always going to be people that are detracting," Law explained.

"I started doing audacious things like this in 1981 to show people an extreme to get them to move to the middle. That's exactly what this project is all about," Law said.

"This isn't making a public society and our state of the union affairs address," he said.

"This is simply a video promoting the Olympic Games to get people to realize that, in my opinion, the Paralympians are just as talented as the 'real ones.'"

Hit the 'jackpot' with adoptive parents

Law was born in 1960, and was one of Canada's first so-called "thalidomide babies" — infants born with birth defects caused by a drug that was meant to alleviate morning sickness.

At just four days old, Law was put up for adoption and eventually "hit the jackpot" with his adoptive parents, he said. 

"My mom taught me to sew buttons on rags with my toes, including threading the needles, tying the knots when I was three years old. Who does that?" 

His father taught him to skate, and as with most kids, Law fell flat on his face the first time he took to the ice.

"Instead of dad scooping me in his arms and taking me for an ice cream, it was like, 'Get off your butt. You're making a mess!'"

Law demonstrates eating a hamburger for CBC host Doug Dirks in studio. (CBC)

Law said society has "come light years" with regard to inclusion and awareness for people living with disabilities.

"I remember what it felt like to be looked at all the time, to be stared at all the time, to be given these looks of, 'Oh my God, you're disgusting,'" said Law, who grips his hamburgers between his first and second toe to eat.

Today, the most common thing he hears when he's out interacting with people is, "Wow, that's cool man," he said.

"When I was 16, I wasn't feeling real cool. Now I am."


With files from The Homestretch

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