Thinking and Writing About the Disabled: Courageous or Burdened?
Mary Johnson’s article in the Indiana University School of Journalism website titled “The ‘Super-Crip’ Stereotype—Press Victimization of Disabled People” raises an interesting ethical issue which may extend beyond the way the news media may describe the disabled but perhaps is only a reflection of the way the general public themselves may look at them. Do the reporters and the public think of the disabled more in terms of their wonderful and “courageous ” accomplishments rather than what burdens every disabled person, to one degree or another, is bearing every day? It did take a long, long while for for the burdens and prejudices suffered by the disabled to be recognized and finally signed into a law, the now almost 18 year old “Americans with Disability Act” in the United States, to attempt to help mitigate them.
The author concludes:
Disability rights is not a heartwarming feature story and disabled individuals should not be used for inspirational sagas. If they’re newsmakers, they should be covered like anyone else - the disability noted matter-of-factly only when its relevant to the story. If they’re not newsmakers, why are they being covered? Because their lives are unusual? If so, we should ask why, looking for the real story behind the "unusual." Typically, it’s lack of opportunity, barriers, or discrimination. Those are stories. And they should be investigated and reported as they are for any other minority.
In considering the significance of Mary Johnson’s view, one would wonder whether the disabled, themselves, want to be identified primarily by what they can do rather than what they can’t?
Read her article and then let’s hear from you what you think about the way the press and public may look at the disabled. ..Maurice.
Graphic: Photograph I took 5-29-2008 of Edouard Manet's painting "The Rue Mosnier with Flags" (1878) at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California.
ADDENDUM 6-1-2008: To read from a blog written by a disabled person go to "Bad Cripple"