The subject of “Disability and The Media” is a wonderful choice for a theme! It will, I hope, engender a myriad of conversations on a complete gamut of aspects of this topic.
I am convinced everyone in the community of people with disabilities – those with disabilities, those who are friends, relatives, and lovers of a person with a disability, those who provide a service or a product to a person with a disability – has an opinion on the subject. The topic has been around so long, however, and remains such a sore spot in our history that many may feel it is purposeless to voice an opinion. That would be a mistake.
I am equally convinced that many who have no relation to the community would have an interesting perspective to offer as well. Very little separates people with and people without a disability – just the word “with”. That little word, “with” and the implications, perceptions, and actuality it brings with it, however, speaks volumes. That is the crux of the matter.
Here briefly is my take, developed by my life long experience as a person and my 24 years as a parent of a person with a disability.
Disability is a commodity to “the media”, just like any other “topic” – the economy, sex, death, crime, race, war, love, poverty, family, sports, etc. If it sells it has a place. The interests of “powers that be” in media stop right there.
The film and television industry is not interested in the issues and causes deemed important by the community of people with disabilities any more than any other industry is. We in the community may feel it should be, given the perception changing power of popular culture and mainstream media, but such is not the case. It is in business to make money, not advance social causes.
Now certain individuals and entities in the industry might and do wish to use their place in the media to bring about change and raise awareness, but clearly not in any large number nor with any great effect, their welcomed efforts not withstanding. There is remarkable potential though, and I hope to harness it.
The community seems to feel that it has no place and no voice in the media. I certainly feel this way. I also feel it never will until “we” create our own voice. That is why I am engaged in starting [with]tv.
[with]tv as I intend it is not a separate or segregated entity. We are attempting to create a mainstream media voice offering our perspective on all issues of interest to the viewing public. We are not hiring solely people with disabilities, but rest assured we will leave no stone unturned in finding, training and hiring talented people with disabilities in all areas and at all levels of the creative process. We will also hire anyone else that wants to work in an open, accepting and accessible environment and workforce.
We will go toe-to-toe and head to head with other providers of content in seeking as large and diverse an audience as possible. We will differ in that we will be inclusive, not exclusive and accessible and of interest to all. We will attempt to build a media home known to everyone in the world – with and without a disability.
Viewers know where to go for sports, news, music, comedy, and drama, even for re-runs, game shows and kids shows. Soon we will all know where to go for anything concerning the lifestyles of people with disabilities presented in a news and entertainment format that is accessible to all.
Then we will no longer have to ask, plead, beg, advocate for coverage of our community, or a more “accurate” and authentic portrayal of our community, or for a chance to be employed in the industry and opportunity to participate in the creative process or for content and advertising that is accessible to all our peers. We will have our voice.
That is some of my thinking on Disability and The Media. Let me know if you would like to work with those of us volunteering in this effort. We welcome and need you.