Communicating Disability

Media is a huge part of today’s society and is a way to quickly spread stories and accomplishments globally. It is important to consider however, that we do not see as much coverage of disability in media and if we do it is usually to inspire others instead of just using it to appreciate those that are different. People with disabilities are as much of a part of society as anyone else and need to be included in the media in such a way. Including people with disabilities into the media makes people like those included, especially children, feel less estranged from society and more included. In this exhibit, there are various articles about people who have disabilities and show more than just inspiration, but just wonderful stories about what the people themselves are doing and how they are contributing to the world and the media.

In general, we know that words can have a great deal of power and can have major impacts on how people think and feel toward certain things, even if it is subconsciously or consciously. This also works the other way as well. We are able to get a sense of how one feels or thinks about something from the words that are used to express themselves. So with this in mind, we should look at how disability is referenced in the artifacts and look at the specific word choices used and see if there are certain connotations that are coming across. As for which artifacts, newspapers are an effective representation of how a community and the media can portray their outlook on the topic. Maybe even personal writings or reflections can be used as well to understand how an individual is affected.

The articles that have dates tend to be from the 1990s, with some from the 1980s and some in the early 2000s. Person-first language was developed in the late 1980s, so it is not surprising to see it sparsely used in these older articles. Nowadays, it is more commonplace to see person-first language when talking about people with disabilities or medical issues, but there are still instances of people not using it.  This is typically done out of ignorance rather than hate.

All of these articles have good intentions with a common theme of spreading disability awareness. The proper research and language is essential in order to avoid disrespecting people with disabilities. The difference between writers that have knowledge about respectful language versus the ones that do not is very obvious.

Exhibition Guide: Communicating Disability