On Thursday October 24th Steve Brookes came to give a presentation on the representations of disabilities in the media. Steve is a person that has been living with many conditions that have restricted his life, some physical and some mental and he openly explained that not all conditions are obvious but can still be devastating to those inflicted.
For many years now Steve has been campaigning for better recognition of these issues by blurring the lines between the definition of disabled and able-bodied and changing the way they are portrayed in main stream media.
The majority of us have aspects that even in small ways place constraints on the way we live our lives, such as irrational fears and phobias, then there is mental health issues ranging from depression to obsessive-compulsive disorders. Some of us suffer with minor physical problems, weak backs, painful joints and migraines but we learn to live them, adjust to cope and would never consider ourselves disabled. Steve goes on to suggest that disabled is a label that should not exist, that we are all unequal and different, with a variety of strengths and weaknesses and we use them to navigate our world. Sometimes others have strengths even stronger than ours so by comparison does that makes ours weak are we then less able or by comparison disabled.
Whether it mental or physical we all carry handicaps and our limitations are a matter of degrees and Steve Brookes had successfully forced me to rethink my perceptions on what exactly is disabled.
Even though we all carry disabilities there is a disparity between the afflictions that regulate our lives and there are those that carry a greater burden, however, this is not an advocation special treatment, what we should be after is a fair and equal opportunities. If someone struggles with stairs then lifts and ramps should be provided, if someone cannot see the words can they be read. This is not privilege but allowing all parties to meet and operate on a level basis.
The media heavily influences our perceptions of disabled people. Advertising alone already creates an ideological world of perfection and places it on a pedestal as something which me must strive to reach if we are to be considered ‘normal’. Media is very clever at negating pessimistic introspection and we project ourselves into the roles presented to us. This erroneous fabrication succeeds only in sullying our own understanding of self-image. Adding to this are companies that prefer to perpetuate the myth that ‘disabled’ people are in need of our sympathy and support. This is a common tactic employed by charities seeking to raise funds often to help those with impairments and unwittingly promote a detrimental stereotype.
Because the media has the power to influence on a global scale it is vital that the portrayal of those considered disabled changes. Having a disability should be inconsequential, it should bear no relevance in an advert and become just part of the overall message. The goal is to increase inclusivity and by extension remove the public perceptions of seeing a person with a disability as anything less than a more able-bodied person.
At the end of the lecture Steve then challenged the group to come up with an image that resembles something from mainstream media and would represent a person disability in a positive way. I teamed up with Amy from the photography course and together we created this image.
I felt that the image does reflect positively on people with disabilities. Here we have a blind person taking a photography course, this shows that the person has not become restricted in their ambitions and I also felt it presented the university in a good light, as they were able to work around the physical problems the person has and allow them equal opportunity to participate on a degree course. Unfortunately the blindness of the person is very obvious and this did not meet the requirements that Steve was after. Rather than highlight a person’s debilitation it should be amalgamated within a scene so that it becomes almost unnoticeable. Some people will see it but it shows how the disability has not prevented the person from enjoying photography and they are engaging with able-bodied individuals on an equal basis.
Over all I think the image is positive and does not fall into the negative stereotyping used by charities, it mostly suffers with being a little to specific.