How harmful can the media be in the portrayal and perception of disability? A new PSA causes a divide between the disabled community and disability advocates.
As lively, curious beings, we say and do a lot of things on impulse or instinct. We say things to sometimes lift a weight off our shoulders, make others feel better or announce something to the world—or to whomever will listen. We ask questions, not to be intrusive, but rather to fulfill a part of ourselves that has somehow been left empty in some way.
If we don’t get the answers we want, we press on until we find a suitable solution—or learn to adapt to the ones we’re given. By the same token, we often make assumptions first and ask questions later. We do it without thinking or being aware that we may be doing any harm. This is all a part of human nature. Perhaps more importantly, however, it’s a direct byproduct of curiosity.
That’s the point where the pendulum can swing either way. Curiosity can lead us into deep water, or it can open doors—particularly when disability is involved.
According to a recent article posted on Upworthy.com, some beg to differ about the positive side of disability after watching the PSA dealing with Downs’ syndrome, as shown above. The video, produced by the Italian advocacy organization known as CoorDown, was released on March 21, World Downs’ Syndrome Day.
19-year-old AnnaRose Rubright, who has Downs’ syndrome, stars in the PSA and describes how she sees herself:
“Isee myself meeting someone that I can share my life with. I see myself singing, dancing, and laughing until I cannot breathe, and also crying sometimes. I see myself following my dreams, even if they are impossible — especially because they’re impossible. I see myself as an ordinary person with an important, meaningful, beautiful life. This is how I see myself.”
At the end, Rubright asks, “How do you see me?”
As the video plays out, the audience gets subtle indications that she’s imagining what her life would be like if she didn’t have a disability. In addition, actress Olivia Wilde portrays a character who’s living out Rubright’s real life, with the heartache struggle and painful moments.
While many are praising this as a positive, even inspiring juxtaposition, disability advocates argue that the video “implies that disability is something that should be invisible.” Moreover, writer David Perry wrote, “The broader disability rights movement has worked long and hard to promote disability as an identity and an aspect of diversity to celebrate,”
Perry’s argument is supported by this March 21 article he wrote for The Establishment. He concurred with other advocates who shared similar views on social media.
So as readers begin to let this sink in, I’ll leave them with this: Who’s right, and who’s in the wrong here? Most importantly, what’s wrong–and what’s right?
Photo Credit: euranet_plus/Flickr