Disabled with severe cerebral palsy, 32-year-old Anne Lamic spends her days in southeastern France mostly in bed, surrounded by stuffed animals and dolls. She cannot speak or walk, and she sometimes has seizures.
Now, Lamic's parents are planning to broadcast her quiet life to
the world via webcam. Their announcement has caused a stir in
France, with many criticizing the plan as an invasion of Lamic's
privacy and asking: How far is too far in the struggle to make
disabled people more visible in society?
In terms of disabled rights on issues such as visibility and
accessibility to public transport and buildings, advocacy groups
say France trails behind Nordic countries, the United States and
Canada, despite a 2005 law designed to ensure their rights are
Lamic's father says he hopes to force people into confronting
their prejudices, even if his tactic startles them.
The webcam "will allow people to see handicaps in ways that are
real, everyday and familiar," Didier Lamic told The Associated
Press in a telephone interview Friday, adding that the videos
"must be watched with tenderness and love."
Advocates for disabled rights say the parents surely have good
intentions, but many are dismayed - especially because Anne Lamic,
whose family says she has physical and mental abilities comparable
to a 1-month-old infant, cannot have a say in the matter.
"How is this young woman going to benefit?" said Monique
Rongieres, president of Group Polyhandicap France. "Will people
peering into this young woman's life be well-meaning? I'm not
Maudy Piot, the founder of FDFA, an association promoting the
rights of disabled women, supports the Lamics' initiative, saying,
"Let's stop hiding people who are different."
Visibility of the handicapped is a problem in France, especially
on television and in the media. A report last month from France's
audiovisual regulator scolded TV stations because a meager 0.2
percent of people depicted on the airwaves have disabilities.
Didier Lamic, who lives in the southeastern village of Tallard,
set up a Web site devoted to his daughter, www.doudouworld.com, in
August, hoping it would make those in her situation "less
Decorated with a background of twinkling stars, it includes
photos of Anne Lamic and news about her life - visits from nieces
and nephews, a bout of scarlet fever. One goal is to reach out to
families in similar situations.
"A lot of families feel their children are excluded, imprisoned
in a world where people don't see them or know them," said Didier
Lamic, who worked in a medical care center before his retirement.
Lamic and his wife Chantal have cared for Anne at home since she
was born. Though activists have asked why they don't take their
daughter out more if they want her to be seen, Didier Lamic says
that's difficult - she has to remain lying down, and an ambulance
collects her for medical appointments.
When he recently decided to add a webcam to the site, Lamic
informed a nearby newspaper, hoping for a mention on the local
The story touched a nerve and went national, even though Lamic
is still waiting for the camera to be delivered.
Lamic says his daughter will not be filmed in private moments,
such as baths. The site, in preparation for the webcam's
installation, includes a warning about her seizures.
Lamic says he has received more than 600 messages, most of them
Jean-Marie Barbier, the president of the Association for the
Paralyzed of France, studied Internet chatter about the initiative.
He says its supporters are mostly people with no firsthand
experience of disabilities.
"They write, 'bravo, I cried when I saw this,"' he said. "But
I'm not sure their crying is something that will help the cause."
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