image of a neon outline of a face with the words open inside the brain

Different strokes for different folks.  A motto I live by in such a critical world surrounding us.  We are so quick to make snap judgments on what we think is appropriate, what we agree with, what we are personally comfortable with, etc.  We are shaped by our experiences, cultural upbringings, belief systems, and values we were raised with or developed in our adult lives.

This leads to so much conflict in our own selves, with people we care about, and within our own social constructs we create.  As human beings we each have our own biases whether they’re unconscious or conscious and this leads to incredible friction in life.

graphic with words about bias, decisions, judgment, ethnicity, etc.

Each and every day I have to check myself when I’m listening people’s stories, opinions, or thought processes.  I stop and try to meaningfully put myself in the shoes of the person I’m speaking with in regards to their personal perspectives.  It is only natural to have opinions and thoughts on different topics, but we too frequently close off our ability to think outside our own box of values and beliefs.

All this is to say I engaged in a Quirky experiment over the last several months because I was merely curious and didn’t want to judge.  If I’m going to have a brand called the Quirky Quad with a tagline of “Normalizing Disability through Dark Humor and Determination,” I most certainly need to consistently question my own biases when presented with a new experience I may not be familiar with or necessarily comfortable with.

image of Ali and wheelchair user in white pants, purple sweater, grey earmuffs on the street at a Christmas market


With that said, and I’ve touched on this in articles in the past, there are people out there who are attracted to people with physical disabilities.  These people are called Devotees.  There may be a sexual element to it, but also a psychological.  You can read all about it on Wikipedia.  I’m not going to dive into the philosophical discussion on this topic at the moment. I will say I am approached on a regular basis by individuals who seem to be attracted to me because of my physical disability.

I have men who want to date me, see pictures of my feet, speak sexually to me, or are merely just curious about my disability like my paralyzed hands or feet.  Again, judgment aside on how you feel on this I am always open minded to learn about pretty much any topic.

For many years I have been propositioned for a range of pictures, but most of them have been requests for pictures of my paralyzed feet.  No, I don’t know why.  Yes, I do have some pretty great looking paralyzed feet if you ask me, but I’m not sure what the attraction is.  I’m just not a foot person in general.  If you are, that’s great, just not my “jam.”  However, I find eyes particularly attractive in different human beings, so each to their own.

picture of Ali’s feet over the sand on a beach chair

In any event, I had one individual several months ago who wanted to offer me $200 for a simple picture of my feet.  As I am a scientist in my own life and I like to experiment I decided to engage in conversation with this gentleman.  I asked him what kind of photo he wanted of my feet and he didn’t have any specific parameters around the photo.  He offered to Venmo the money first to show me he was serious in good faith and I, in return, would then send him a photo of my feet.

Honestly, I had a medical bill to pay and I thought to myself “what harm would it be to send a picture of my feet?  People send photos of so many more provocative body parts, so why not?”  Now, I didn’t really want to think about what he wanted to use my feet for and I still would like to keep those thoughts out of my mind to be honest.

In true Ali fashion, I found a photo in my Google gallery of my feet exposed from swimming in the summer.  He sent me the money and I sent him the photo in return.  It took me five minutes.  I had $200 in my pocket, which covered my medical bill.

image of Ali in a floaty toy relaxing in the pool

Leaving Judgments at the Door

I felt so delighted with myself for earning such easy money.  I was then propelled to think more deeply about this transaction from a business perspective.  During Covid I read a New York Times article where folks out of work were signing up to these semi soft core porn sites like Only Fans where people were making quite a lot of money selling videos, pictures, etc. of themselves.  It may not seem as devious or graphic at first glance. 

These types of sites are similar to Facebook in that the more successful you are depends on the number of followers you attract.  You have to work for your following.  You can have your public facing page and then offer different services like videos or photos to regular paying clients.

While my brand and businesses I work with certainly would not look kindly and likely very judgmentally on this type of side business due to all of my advocacy efforts and professional consulting gigs – I contemplated a potential new business venture.  I thought about setting up one of these sites without my face and just selling pictures of my feet alone for those who desired them.  While I likely won’t pursue this as I am overly taxed with the amount of work I have on a daily basis, disability is really expensive.  Every dollar counts and so many of us are struggling systemically on a daily basis.

I wrote about my experience on Facebook and was surprised how many comments I received with respect to people asking me where they could be connected with these people who wanted pictures of their feet or hands or other body parts. The comments were overwhelmingly focused around how so many people were desperate for money and would do anything to a degree.  Selling a photo of their feet seemed like easy cash.  Frankly, it is.

cartoon image of an elephant with six different people representing different perspectives of what they see on the elephant

Historical Perspectives

There’s a market for everything these days and always has been historically until people catch up with the changing times of what’s acceptable.  For hundreds of years, it was socially acceptable to have a wife and multiple concubines in China.  This was the norm.  Nowadays, in most countries anyway, it’s frowned upon to have multiple partners at the same time. 

Take polygamy – think about the judgment surrounding families that walk down the street with multiple partners.  Unfortunately, we live in a society where the unknown is frowned upon, the taboo is judged, and certain ethical standards according to mainstream media are scrutinized if they don’t fit neatly into what everyone in a community finds acceptable.

Let’s look at disability for a moment.  While the focus of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in business is an extremely hot topic right now, as it should be, it certainly wasn’t a few decades ago.  Disability inclusion in the DEI game is still lagging far behind as compared to women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ with respect to equitable employment.  However, the game is slowly starting to change, but for decades it wasn’t even a conversation because people with disabilities were, and to a large extent still are, seen as “lesser” with respect to their professional abilities.  This is, in large part, due to the fact that many of us just need technological or physical accessibility accommodations to do our jobs efficiently.

cartoon image of rainbow with white circle in the middle saying: we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”

It’s no different, and my opinion, with respect to Devotees wanting pictures of people’s feet.  It has not become accepted in mainstream society yet, but who’s to say it won’t be in decades to come?  Take another example, gay marriage – unthinkable 50 years ago, but now very much commonplace in many states in America.  However, globally, still taboo and “wrong” in many societies.  Being attracted to the opposite sex used to be looked as a psychological condition and still is in many areas of the world today.  However, the majority of people who are not heterosexual would now say it is just “who they are.”  Devotees, alike, and according to many psychologists believe they are suffering from a “psychological” condition.  Who’s to say this won’t be accepted down historical road?

Summing Up …

I’ve learned one thing from this experiment, do not judge others life choices or personal affinities of what they like or don’t like just because it’s not “normal” in many people’s minds.  This should not make it unacceptable.  You may not be open minded or accepting due to your own personal belief systems or values to gay marriage or disability or devotees wanting pictures of people’s feet, but try to remember that we are an evolving society.  As human beings we are on this “Perfectly Imperfect Journey.”

The question remains, will I continue to sell pictures of my feet?  Great question.  I don’t know.  I don’t think I’m going to seek it out as a new business proposition, but if someone approaches me and wants to pay for a picture of my feet, sure, I would do it again!

image of Ali and wheelchair in black pants and tie-dye tank top with arms in the air at a marina in Miami

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