This blog is about reconciling the two worlds of disability understanding. On one side are the strong voices of activists in the disability community. On the other is the well meaning but naïve/ ignorant able bodied population who see disability as something pitiable. As an able bodied person who has realized the very compelling and interesting arguments about society and life coming from the disability community, I am compelled to referee the exchanges between the two sides. Often times it seems that everyone is speaking so loudly and with such great conviction that the other doesn't even listen. Since I am not personally motivated by either side, I can weigh both sides of the arguments and hopefully facilitate an open and accepting space for both sides to express themselves and learn about each other. Please join the discussion!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

So Courageous! Disability in the Media: Act 6 On the Front Lines

Thanks to Ruth at Wheelie Catholic for this story about being interviewed as a disabled tennis player. She recounts her frustration with never being seen as more than a disabled person that played tennis. Reporters weren't interested in the rest of her life or who she was.

"There was no way, it seemed, to get across the real story which was that I played wheelchair tennis as a weekend warrior, competing at tournaments during the spring and summer for short two or three day trips, while working. The reporters didn't want to hear about my other life - the real job I had and all the other things I did with my life.

Such mundane facts seemed to put them on overload. One reporter put his pen behind his ear and just stopped writing. Another held up her hand and asked "Do you all play tennis or do you have a job? Which is it?" as if I couldn't do both. The resistance to any real facts or information was pretty strong.

Somehow no reporter ever managed to write a story about who I was over the decade I gave interviews. I guess that story just wasn't inspirational enough.

You see, I'm not really a wheelchair jock. I practically flunked gym in school. The only reason I have a wall of trophies for wheelchair tennis is because after my hands were paralyzed and I couldn't play classical guitar any more I got so mad I duct taped a racket on and started hitting tennis balls around one day. A coach saw me. He mistook my anger for athletic aspiration and set me up with lessons. And the next thing I knew I found myself competing in a tennis tournament.

That's the real story.

Oh, except for one thing. I managed to win a cross country skiing event too one year. How did that happen?

Don't even ask. But there is an article about it somewhere. And you can bet it was very inspirational."

Its great to have the subject's perspective on the So Courageous Phenomenon. Reporters don't really want to get to know them, they just have a story to tell and need information to support it. I'm sure most reporters do this with all their stories, not just with those concerning the disabled, but it's kind of scary to think that we can all be so quickly reduced to cleanly packaged inspiration and hocked on the media markets to attract viewers.

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites Who links to me?