Twenty-two-year-old with rare spine deformity challenges perceptions
Rebecca Dann knows just how hurtful words and looks can be. The 22-year-old from the UK has been on the receiving end of teasing and staring since she was a child simply because she looks a bit different.
Rebeccas suffers from kyphoscoliosis which is a condition that causes abnormal curvature in the upper part of the spine. When she was diagnosed with the disease at the age of four, she had no idea how much it would affect her life: not only did she suffer physical pain caused by the condition, she also endured teasing and bullying from kids at school. Because Rebecca looked different from the other children, they would often exclude her and call her names like "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
The disease cast a shadow over Rebecca's childhood. An operation on her spine would have been too dangerous because she was far too thin. And as if her life wasn't already difficult enough, when she was nine, Rebecca found out that the abnormal curvature of her spine was eventually going to damage nerves and make it impossible for her to walk. She would soon be restricted to a wheelchair.
Despite everything that Rebecca has been through she still refuses to the let her condition control her life. After finishing school she went on to pursue her dream of becoming a photographer. She began studying art in Farnham and as a student she focused on a topic very close to her heart: the ignorant and dismissive view that society has for people with disabilities. This culminated in an impressive photography project in which she put herself in the spotlight.
Rebecca calls the project "I'm Fine" — a series of self portraits in which she reveals her body, including her deformed back, with confidence. "I originally started the project exploring dating with a disability, and it slowly turned into a project about me accepting myself for who I am," explained Rebecca. "[It's] also a mixture of challenging people's perception of beauty and disabilities as well as telling people that 'I'm Fine.' I won't break and I am just like everyone else, even with my disability."
The talented young photographer entered her project in a photography contest called "A World of Unfairness" and nobody was surprised when she took first place. And along with the prize she also won many people's hearts. She has even received an award for her courage which was presented to her by the famous physicist Stephen Hawking.
"Don't look at me and see my back and dismiss me," says Rebecca, "I'm just like you!" And it's a statement that has become something of a motto. It's great to see someone like Rebecca standing up and shouting to be heard. Let's hope her message gets through to those who need to understand that people with disabilities have just as much a place in society as any of us.