The Obvious Question | KBIA

The Obvious Question

Get ready to throw your assumptions about disability out the window!

In “The Obvious Question,” Madi Lawson, a 21-year-old journalism student who has two rare forms of muscular dystrophy, takes on the assumptions, misconceptions and just plain ignorance others have about people with disabilities.

But this isn’t your typical conversation about disability. In this podcast Madi talks with co-host Becky Smith and others about fashion, friendship, dating and more – challenging all the things you thought you knew about disability, but haven’t had the chance to ask about before.

You’ll explore the glam and not-so-glam life of the real-life Wheelchair Barbie. So, buckle up – it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Can you work?

Feb 17, 2020
Provided by Gretchen Maune

“It already feels like when I get there and the application isn’t accessible online, that they didn’t want me in the first place.”

In this episode, Madi talks with her friend, Gretchen Maune about the difficulties and discrimination that can exist for people with disabilities when looking for employment – and how struggling to get appropriate accommodations can sometimes make figuring out how to accomplish something more difficult than the task itself.

Gretchen offers interesting insight into the topic of employment, as she went blind in her 20s and has been in the workforce both as a disabled employee and as an able-bodied worker.

Do you have friends like you?

Feb 8, 2020
Madison Lawson and friend Noelle Hazel sit next to each other for the first time in June of 2019, in New York City. These fashion forward friends met on Instagram years ago, and have since spent hours together, FaceTiming from across the country.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

“Social media allows people that can’t necessarily always leave their homes to be social.”

In this episode, Madi addresses the isolation that can come from being the only person you know with a disability, or at least your disability, and about how social media can play a role in allowing folks to connect across the county and world.

Madi speaks with two of her best friends, Kayleen and Noelle. She met both of these women through social media, even though they live states apart. Madi adds that she considers Noelle her little sister – together they navigate the confusing world of boys, friendship, fashion advice and the barriers that having a disability can create for them. While there might not be a manual on how to deal with these things, for now, they are just happy to have each other.

How can you be a journalist?

Jan 31, 2020
Jessie King

“If you were to take the disability out of the equation, would you still have a story?”

In this episode, Madi sits down with Mark Hinojosa. He is one of her former professors at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, but more importantly, is one of her best friends. Madi and Mark have had many long conversations because they have both chosen similar careers and are living through similar experiences – Madi, of course, has muscular dystrophy and Mark currently has “terminal, but treatable cancer.”

The two of them take a look at the world of media – both how people with disabilities are represented in the media and what it is like being a journalist with a disability working within the industry.

How do you travel?

Jan 24, 2020
Jessie King

“They Literally Left My Legs in Chicago.”      

Traveling with a disability is not always the easiest task. There are more barriers and logistics and things – like wheelchairs – can often turn up lost or broken.

In this episode, Madi and Becky discuss some of the experiences Madi has had with the airline industry, with ground transportation and more. And they take a look at how experiences like these impact the ability of those with disabilities to travel.

Why shouldn't I say 'lame'?

Jan 17, 2020
Aaron Hay / KBIA

Words Matter.

There are so many ways that language shapes our perception of others. In this episode, Madi and Becky sit down with Becky’s Dad, Dean Smith. He was a teacher and principal at a school for people ages 5 to 21 with severe cognitive and/or physical disabilities for many years.

They spoke about ableist language and the way that influences, both consciously and subconsciously, people’s view of those with disabilities and what they are capable of doing.

For those not familiar, ableist language is when a term that is associated with people with disabilities – things like the R-word, “lame,” or “crazy” – take on a negative and belittling meaning.

What's wrong with you?

Jan 10, 2020
Christopher Shannon stands alone on stage.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

“Pain may be my constant companion since the day I was born.” – Christopher Shannon

Since last season, Madi has found out that she is an ever “rare-er” breed of unicorn, as she got a newer and more correct diagnosis in 2019 that – for a while – shook her sense of identity. Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy.

Ryan Famuliner / KBIA

“You can’t be worried about what other people are thinking all the time. “

In this episode, co-hosts Madi and Becky and executive producer Aaron Hay answer a few listener questions during a recent launch party in Columbia and give listeners a look behind the scenes of “The Obvious Question.”

They discussed the editorial process, how Madi selected her guests, which episodes were personal favorites and what’s next.

The Obvious Question

Sep 17, 2018
A portrait of Madi Lawson.
Jessie King / For KBIA

Get ready to throw your assumptions about disability out the window!

In "The Obvious Question," Madi Lawson, a 21-year-old journalism student who has two rare forms of muscular dystrophy, takes on the assumptions, misconceptions and just plain ignorance others have about people with disabilities.

Can you even have sex?

Sep 17, 2018
Host Madi Lawson poses with Lexi Mortimer in front of a museum exhibit.
Tony Huynh / For KBIA

"Just call me 'pretty'."

In this episode, Madi and Becky look at the world of dating, relationships and...sex. Madi sat down with Lexi, one of her best friends who also has SMA, and Lexi's boyfriend, Tyler, to talk about the way the world perceives their relationship.

Whether it's the world over-sexualizing and under-sexualizing them at the same time, asking their able-bodied companions to talk for them or the physical realties of sex-this is a conversation about disability that you've never heard before (but have probably wondered about).

Tobie Roberts measures and pins a dress on Madi Lawson.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

When was the last time you saw a model with a disability? Or a person with a disability featured in an advertising campaign? On a runway? Or even a mannequin in a store that showcased a different ability? It might be hard to recall even one.

In this episode, Madi and Becky take a look at the world of fashion-Madi's #1 love. She talks with fashion designer Tobie Roberts about how to design for disabled bodies, their experiences working together for Kansas City Fashion Week and what the fashion industry can do to be truly inclusive.

Madi Lawson / For KBIA

More than once, Madi has been asked if her friends-who look nothing like her-are her sister or caretaker.

In this episode, Madi and Becky take a look at the crossroads of friendship and caretakers. Madi talks to her younger roommates, Tonesha and Haley, who are still learning what it's like to have a friend with a disability, and her best friend, Jessie, who's old hat and muses about how being Madi's friend has turned her into a fierce advocate for the rights of those with disabilities.

Hosts: Madison Lawson, Rebecca Smith

How do you pee?

Sep 17, 2018
Madi Lawson / For KBIA

There’s no party quite like a pee party.

In this episode, Madi and Becky talk all things bathroom with her best friend, Sabrina or “Bean.” These girls have been through it all – the rocky road of high school, prom dress shopping and more bathroom trips than either can count. 

Madi and Bean talk about bathrooms, about the way others have asked Madi to make her body more accommodating to them and about the perception of disabled bodies in public spaces. 

Hosts: Madison Lawson, Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Pink. Blue. Icy Blonde. You name a color, Madi’s hair has been it. But what about finding a salon that can accommodate her needs?

In this episode, Madi and Becky explore the multi-colored world of hair salons. Madi and her stylist, Amber, talk about their relationship, working with clients who’s needs are different and about what salons can do to be more welcoming to all people of all abilities.

Hosts: Madison Lawson, Rebecca Smith

Reporting By: Taylor Kinnerup, Rebecca Smith

Stephanie Cosenza / For KBIA

Madi says people often feel sorry for her for the wrong reasons. It's not the fact that she has SMA or uses a wheelchair that make her sad, it's the same things as any 21-year-old: boys, school or simply a bad hair day. 

In this episode, Madi and Becky take a look at the world of disabilities and mental health. Separated into two different chunks, the first part of the episode questions the assumptions others have about the mental health of people with disabilities through reflections on a local TEDx talk done by Hayden, a friend of Madi's.