Blog [with]tv will be hosting the next Disability Blog Carnival on January 10, 2008. The theme that will be presented is "Disability in the Media: Tell us of your experiences and/or your impressions." What better way to announce this theme than with Valerie Brew-Parrish's post below.
The question for all people with disabilities to ponder is this: Who should be representing us? Actors and actresses, politicians, or how about community leaders? Is it morally and ethically right for others to simulate a disability even when the issue is about access?
It sends the WRONG message. Look closely at this advertisement supposedly touting access. None of the older white men pictured have a disability. Furthermore, the photo op never indicates that non-disabled people can some day become a person with a disability. This is the message that many people with disabilities erroneously assumed. That misperception is simply not the thrust of the ad. A white cane, wheelchair, walker, and a TTY are aids. Can any of you honestly recall at least 10 actors & actresses with real disabilities? Hollywood and the public prefer to see non-disabled people. Perhaps, if they observed us living "normal" lives the fear of us would vanish.
Michael Landon seemingly broke new ground when he featured James Troesch as Scotty. I personally would like to turn on my TV or open my newspaper and see people with disabilities living their lives and promoting access. [with]tv has thankfully recognized this problem and is working diligently to have people with disabilities directing their own shows, and writing scripts that accurately represent our lives.
I am offended when someone pretends to have a disability and I have written extensively on the great harm that disability simulations do to people with disabilities. Although the politicians and community leaders in this ad probably thought they were promoting the Accessible Cities Alliance, their insensitivity speaks volumes. These same men would never agree to appear in black face like the white actors who once upon a time portrayed Amos and Andy. Schools often choose puppets with disabilities to sensitize children about disabilities. I don't agree with the use of puppets and I abhor disability simulations.
One last point about the ad: No where does the ad address the fact that access is the law. State laws in Illinois pertaining to access have been on the books since 1978. The ADA is 17 years old. The time has come for people with disabilities to shout from the roof tops if necessary that simulations are destructive and should be abolished. We need to dissolve the mantle of shame about our disabilities.
Disabled and proud! We are real people and we must unite and make the public accept us for who we are!
Valerie Brew-Parrish, M.S.
The Wrong Message - Still. An article by Valerie Brew-Parrish for A Ragged Edge Online
The International Day of Disabled Persons needs to be recognized and celebrated.