How strongly are disabilities exemplified in the media? Movies, television, and stories influence thinking and establish social norms. Disabilities have endured misrepresentation, defamation, and lack of representation in the media news and entertainment for decades. People with disabilities and their concerns are either invisible, marginalized or depicted by negative stereotypes in the media. How do we change this?
There is no simple answer. But there are things we can do to make a change. We must collectively ‘define’ our message. Teach others to look at the person as a whole, not in terms of the disability. We are not victims. We are not inspirational or looking for pity. We simply are people – people who happen to use a wheelchair as a means of transportation.
I see my (personal) role as encouraging disabled people to think big. Cultivate large ambitions- not allowing barriers, physical or social, to hinder your dreams. The tools and solutions to overcome the lack of representation in the media lie within us, the ones that live with a disability. We must all carry with us a confident belief that all disabled people can make a huge impact, even whilst these annoying barriers do exist. We can tear them down one barrier at a time.
So, who are you in this story? Maybe you’re not living with a disability. Perhaps, you know a friend of a disabled person, maybe you’re an employer, a customer service worker, community organizer. Maybe you’re a film producer! What is your role?
Educate yourself by getting to know someone with a disability. See the unique person that they are. Start by allowing yourself to develop a friendship and then allow your new friend to grow and expand. Don’t pigeonhole them based on preconceived thoughts. Ask the important questions about their experiences and perceptions.
In this new found friendship, be open to learning something new. Being open to this process could possibly teach you something about yourself. How does any of this relate to the media? As we all make our individual efforts to educate and learn about people who live with a disability, we will see the strong link that binds us together. Media in many cases should reflect our day to day interactions. This is of course how we find entertainment to be ‘relatable’.
As for me, I will keep writing. I will speak louder. I will live boldly! In hopes I have made a change.
Push on and dream big!
Image credit: Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash