Where Are All the People with Disabilities?
By: Brian Elliott
Not seeing/placing people with disabilities in all types of media continues to portray that we are unwelcome from social lives, activities, and businesses while supporting the impression that those with disabilities are unusual. We know for a fact that is not true. Statistically speaking, according to the Center for Disease Control, 25.6% of adults in the U.S. has some form of a disability while in Michigan the rate increases to 28.2%. Using these facts, disabilities are all around us. This brings about the question… Where are all these people with disabilities? As someone that uses a wheelchair, when I go out I don’t see many other people with visual disabilities and rarely encounter another wheelchair user in the general public. Think back to the last time you saw a person with a disability in a show, movie, or even an advertisement. Was it easy? What was the context used? The lack of representation in the media of people with disabilities of all types is both a missed opportunity and a representation of our society in general.
Why do we generally stare at people? It’s human nature. Curiosity. It is not something we have experienced or see very often, so we are curious. I can admit I’m just as curious as the next cat. Regardless, what if we had amputees, oxygen and ventilator users, people with depression, autism, Down syndrome, sign language, cerebral palsy, white canes, dwarfism, slurred speech, and so many other forms of disabilities with people of all ages portrayed across all media to increase their exposure as examples? Through the increased media exposure it would start to break down the barriers and stigmas that shroud people with disabilities. Some companies such as BBC Studios, have implemented an inclusive rider to incorporate such changes. Through increased media exposure normalizing people with disabilities being active community members, the urge to stare would be less and less as we grow more accustomed to seeing ALL people as viable participants.
These simple steps towards greater inclusion will be beneficial on all fronts. People with disabilities can recognize that we are not alone, instead we are welcomed and deserve to enjoy all the services and comforts as everyone else. Businesses would have the chance to welcome a whole portion of the population that was feeling segregated and opening the door for more cross-cultural interactions and conversations to take place between community members. Also, these inclusive measures increase potential for employment opportunities among people with disabilities. You’ll be amazed at what people with disabilities bring to the table when they are asked and when their spot has been modified to allow their full participation.
As we venture into 2021, let’s make a collective effort to include more people with different abilities and backgrounds. Actions and speaking out shouldn’t necessarily always have to come from the person with a disability either. You can attend public meetings for city council, planning commissions, school boards, and while in businesses ask how they intend to include people with disabilities and if they were sought out for input on how decisions and policies will impact their lives. There is a wealth of information, life experiences, personalities, and capital around us that our communities will benefit from tapping.
For some examples, these four holiday movies are inclusive of people with disabilities on screen.