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!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Good Disability Coverage

The New York Times had an article about the state's new governor, and I was pleased to see good coverage of a person with a disability.

"Mr. Paterson spent the weekend drafting the speech, rehearsing it and committing it to memory. Because he is legally blind, he does not have the luxury of being able to read from a teleprompter. So his remarks will be partly memorized and partly improvised, aides said."

This is good coverage because this was really the only mention of his blindness in the whole article. It doesn't gloss over it, but it also doesn't make it a big deal. The same is true of the article in the Chicago Tribune.

"ALBANY, N.Y. - David Paterson was officially sworn in as New York's governor on Monday, becoming the state's first black chief executive and vowing to move past the prostitution scandal that has rocked the state Capitol. Paterson, who is legally blind, was interrupted at several times during his address with thunderous applause. Before he gave his inaugural address, lawmakers in attendance gave him a two-minute standing ovation and chanted his name: "David! David! David!"'

See media... that wasn't so hard, was it?

In an article entitled "So What about the Blind Thing" in New York Magazine, they notice the lack of disability centric coverage.

"So far, David Paterson's blindness has really only cropped up as an aside in news stories about New York's soon-to-be governor. They're all, 'he's 53 and he's an adjunct at Columbia and he lives in Harlem and he is African-American and oh, yeah, also he is legally blind.' "

I am glad that disability was so overlooked that a publication found it noteworthy to point it out. Its very affirming for me to see. However, this was an easy one. People will always be interested in a new governor. The story doesn't need to depend on disability to make people read it, and therefore disability appropriately fades into the background.

What I wish people would accept is that nobody's story should depend on disability to make people read it. However, for some reason we want to read about people inspiring us, even me, and people with disabilities are easy targets for those stories...
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