For months now, I have railed against the media for what I see as the limited, ignorant, and harmful way peoples with disabilities are often portrayed in the media. I wanted now to offer a simple vision of how things could be.
Principle 1: The media offers great power to increase awareness; use it. Peoples with disabilities should be frequently presented in media stories. Media offers a valuable channel through which to make the general population familiar and comfortable with, the visual indicators of disability. This principle is already widely accepted, and peoples with disabilities are frequently presented in the media. This should continue.
Principle 2: Educate through example. If we want peoples with disabilities to be treated the same as everyone else, then we must present them in the media the same way as everyone else. Stories should be about something notable or interesting they accomplished to further (or detract from) their community or a particular idea, or any subject that portrays the person as more than just a disability.
I was very pleased to find an example of my vision already realized in the world, and I wrote a post about it a while ago. Kudos to Crains Chicago Business for hitting the nail on the head. This story is about a man opening a new bank that would be designed to serve disabled people or those who have trouble leaving their homes. It is presented as a new idea which might find a strong market. It is also mentioned that the entrepreneur has a disability.
This story is a great example because it treats the man with respect and dignity by calling attention to him for his good idea. It is also a good example because by no means does it skirt around the issue of the disability. By so doing, the story sets an example of treating members of the disabled community the same as everyone else. It also gives visibility to this community which subtly educates the able bodied population. The story shows by example that we are all more the same than we are different, that our differences do make us who we are, but that we are still fundamentally human beings and should never be reduced to anything less than that. Oh, that all media could be like that... maybe in the future...
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!