Posted in Books, literature and other media, disability civil rights, Paralympics, Public Perceptions of Disability, Stephen hawking

“Look Up At the Stars and Not Down at Your Feet”

898CF0A5-AB7F-44EE-A38A-EA46E047497ED9E2FF2A-5D55-435D-94C2-DB4FD5D38D35

In the last week, I have read  several articles (two of which are attached below) about both the Paralympics and the death of Steven Hawkings. Various viewpoints  have been expressed, but the ones that got my attention were the ones who were critical about the emphasis by the press on disabilities.

The main objection seems to be about the press’s focus on  Mr. Hawkings and the Paralympians  “overcoming” their disabilities and being a source of “inspiration” for others. The critics refer to this as “ablest” discrimination, of putting people with disabilities in a separate human category and not thinking of them and their accomplishments in the same way as people without disabilities. In this way, the argument goes, they are trapping these people into a stereotype.  And a natural consequence is that this “differentness” easily slips into a license to discriminate, consciously or unconsciously.

While this is a very understandable viewpoint, I wonder if we might be in danger of missing the bigger point here. I have definitely been a victim of disability discrimination,  with people being both overly patronizing and overly judgmental. And while these attitudes have definitely had negative consequences, I don’t think it helps if I respond by trying  to ignore my disability. It is part of who I am.  And I have learned the hard way that if I try to minimize or  ignore it, I run the risk of injuring myself, both physically and emotionally.

So when I read about people like Steven Hawkings, Helen Keller and Ed Roberts,  I am inspired – not just by their accomplishments but by the way they have dealt with their disabilities. Dr Hawkings made no attempt to divorce himself from his disability when he suggested that we  “look up at the stars and not down at our feet,” and that he had traveled the universe “from my wheelchair.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2018/03/14/stephen-hawking-paraly mpics-london-games/426291002/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/03/14/some–angry-how-media-covering-stephen-hawking/423996002/I    

 

 

Posted in Books, literature and other media, disabilities and movies, disability civil rights, Public Perceptions of Disability

They know Whereof they Write

 

 

stock-vector-illustration-person-with-arm-raised-ideal-for-visual-communication-information-and-institutional-5754960193604401F2-E910-4AE2-9DBA-C071A79F82A0

 

Tonight is Oscar night, and much has been made about the fact that Hollywood is finally becoming more diversified. There is a lot of buzz over films like “Get Out” and “Black Panther,” as there should be.

But how is Hollywood treating peoplewith disabilities these days? One could easily point to heavily nominated films like “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri” as evidence that people with disabilities are finally coming into their own.

But are they really? I have attached two articles written by people with disabilities, who have a decisively personal take on these movies. The first, by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, discusses her reaction to the main character in “Shape of Water.” As a woman who uses a hearing aid and has vision difficulties, she could relate to much of what the heroine (who is mute) goes through. But it was gut-wrenching for her to hear the heroine say that she was “lesser” than other people, and she was glad that her love interest (a monster) did not realize this.

“At its core,” writes Sjunneson-Henry,”…the Shape of Water asks us to consider what a freak is. Is a monster a god? Is a disabled woman a freak? An outsider? Can she be loved or understood by her own kind, or are the monsters the only ones who can truly understand her?”

https://www.tor.com/2018/01/16/i-belong-where-the-people-are-disability-and-the-shape-of-water/

In “Three Billboards,” one of the main characters is a dwarf. To the movie’s credit, he is portrayed by Peter Dinkladge, an actor who is in fact a dwarf. But to Eva Squiers, a writer who herself has a form of dwarfism, there was still a whole lot wrong with the way the character was portrayed.

“Dinklage plays James, who introduces himself as the ‘town midget’and whose primary function in the film is as the butt of many jokes,” she writes. “In the cinema where I saw Three Billboards, the audience cackled whenever James spoke. This was painful enough as a response to the script’s cheap shots at short-person jokes – for example when James excuses himself to use the “little boys’ room” or is asked if he can juggle.

“But I was more baffled when the people around me laughed at distinctly unfunny scenes of James playing pool, holding a ladder or asking Mildred (Frances McDormand, whose performance has put her in the running for a best actress Oscar) out to dinner. The source of this hilarity seemed to reside in the mere fact that James existed and that he was short; how funny that he, with his non-conforming body, should have the audacity to present as a desiring subject! What a laugh! This clunky reliance on ableist tropes as a form of humour was disappointing coming from a film lauded for its “moments of sharp, cinder black comedy.”

com/film/2018/feb/01/three-billboards-portrayal-of-dwarfism-is-reductive-and-ableist-and-i-would-know

There are a variety of opinions about both of these movies, and the two writers here do not necessarily have more of a “vote” than anyone else. But because their disabilities continue after the movie is over, they have a particulary knowledgeable perspective that should be heard.

 

CARE T0 COMMENT?

 

Posted in Books, literature and other media, disability civil rights

Who Says Disability Devices Can’t Be Cool?

https://wordpress.com/view/dis

holds card with text unable on old wood plank

 

Six  years ago, my 90-year-old mother-in-law was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and given just a few months to live. Now it’s 2018, and she’s going to Tai Chi and line dancing classes.

Now if she would only wear her hearing aides…!

I could not help but think of her when I read the attached piece in the New York Times. It highlights an exhibit in the Smithsonian Design Museum that features products that are designed for people with disabilities. These are familiar products: prosethics, canes, shoes, etc. But instead of the usual clunkiness of such devices, they are cool and stylish.

And why not? As the article points out, there’s no reason why disability devices can’t also be hip and fashionable. And check out those hearing aids!

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/24/arts/design/cooper-hewitt-access-ability.html?ribbon-ad-idx=4&rref=arts/design&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Art%20%26%20Design&pgtype=article