It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My Entry for Tomorrow's Disability Blog Carnival: Inconsistancies in the Media

I want to introduce myself to all the new readers who have found my blog through the disability blog carnival. I’m Cheryl, I’m 22, I live in Maryland and I go to Towson University. If you’d like to know more about me, click “about” over on the right. I hope that after you’re done reading this post you will continue to browse the rest of the posts that I have here. I know that most of them are a bit long, but if you have the time to get through them I think they are pretty insightful.

For my contribution to the blog carnival I’ve decided to write about the inconsistencies I’ve found in the way that the media covers people with disabilities/ disability issues. More specifically, I am going to reference three articles from my college newspaper, the Towerlight, in the order I found out about them.

diversityI don’t usually read the Towerlight, but late in September as I was leaving the gym I happened to glance down at the newsrack and notice that they had decided to do a special “diversity” issue. The cover of the issue features a full color border of faces of students of different races. It was just faces, so there was nobody in a wheelchair or on crutches or anything. Including myself I can think of 9 current students that they could have contacted to get a photo of, and I am sure there are more students who I don’t know. The picture on the left I got from the Towerlight website. It isn’t an exact recreation of what appeared in print, but It’s pretty close. I didn’t even have to open the issue for my blood to boil. I knew what the issue was really about. But I had to open it just to be sure. There was not one single article about religion, about students with disabilities, or about people with alternative sexual preferences. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally fine with the Towerlight printing a special issue that focuses on race, but please call it what it really is. I wrote a letter to the editor that was printed in the following issue, and had several able-bodied friends thank me for doing so.

Dan "King Gimp" KeplingerTwo weeks later the cover of the towerlight featured an amazing article on artist Dan Keplinger’s gallery opening. I again wrote a letter that was printed in the paper, as I decided that if I was going to complain I also had to give thanks where thanks was due. Dan has severe CP and paints with a paintbrush attached to his forehead. The article somehow managed to portray him as just a regular (albeit famous) guy. It starts by talking about his paintings, briefly mentions his CP, of course goes on to mention his Oscar winning movie, then goes back to focusing on Dan’s paintings and who he is as a person. In the article Dan’s CP was very nicely presented as just one factor of what makes Dan, Dan.

A few days later I went on the Towerlight website and typed “Keplinger” into the search box, as I wanted to send the article to someone. Dan’s been at Towson for almost 10 years I think. In December when he got his MFA it was his 3rd degree from Towson. So of course I found that the Towerlight had written more then just one article about him. I found a 2004 article that made me livid. Here is the first sentence of the third paragraph: “Beginning his education in specialized programs and schools for children with cerebral palsy, Keplinger spent the first few years of his life adjusting to his disease.” The fifth paragraph states: “Keplinger refuses to allow his disease to be a crutch, and his self-given nickname, King Gimp, demonstrates his humor.” As I’m sure all of you know, a disease can be a disability, but not all disabilities are disease. CP IS NOT A DISEASE. I know that different people wrote all of these articles, but I cannot understand the differences in the use of language. At least I used this as a learning opportunity. Not long after, I guest lectured in a class where I had the students look at the three articles and then I discussed them.

When I found out that this was the topic of the blog carnival I started thinking about how this inconsistency flows over into other forms of media, like movies. There are movies that I own that are WONDERFUL and then there are other movies that are absolutely horrid and really piss me off. Then I started thinking about the inconsistencies in actual people with disabilities. There are people (the people reading this blog for instance) who are capable of really making a difference in the way things progress. We are how good articles, good movies, etc get produced because we know how to get our voices heard and how to get people to listen. Then there are others who contribute to the detrimental media portrayals These are people who either do not believe that their voices can be heard or people who have been conditioned (thanks ableism) to really truly believe that this is the way that we should be portrayed. Somehow I have a feeling that this is the larger group. If we could just somehow figure out how to recruit these people we would have more troops to mobilize and things would continue moving forward like they are but at a much faster pace.


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