Here's How Stereotypes about People with Disabilities Perpetuated


By: DiversityWorking Press
Date Posted: May 29, 2016

One sad truth about people with disabilities is able-bodied people have built myths or false beliefs about them.





Films and books are said to have this tendency to create an image of a person with disability as not “normal” or as somebody to be pitied.

Stereotypes about them as commonly portrayed in media include being portrayed as victims – in order to gain sympathy from audience; as heroes – being able to overcome disabilities in a heroic way; or as villains, such being mentally deranged and doing criminal acts. (Media Smarts.ca)

This is the issue revolving the upcoming film, “Me Before You,” which is based on the bestselling book with the same title, written by Jojo Moyes.

An article by Eonline.com quoted an excerpt by Emily Ladau, a self-described "physically disabled woman who uses a wheelchair and believes all lives have value," from her piece for Salon about her grievances with Me Before You. "The book overflows with dehumanizing stereotypes about disability, from implications that disabled people are things no more active than houseplants, to assumptions that disability is a fate worse than death," writes Ms. Ladau. "Based on previews, it seems the movie will be just the same."

Another article describes the film/book as being “selfishly biased' against people with disabilities (National Catholic Register), portraying the character Will, who became a quadriplegic after meeting an accident, as clinically depressed with suicidal ideation.

Moreover, the film uses a cast of able-bodied actors. As an article on Upworthy.com quoted disability rights blogger Kim Sauder as saying, "It’s a film about disability and assisted suicide which is troubling enough, but is made worse by the fact that it uses a non-disabled actor in the role of a quadriplegic." The article continued: Quadriplegic people are perfectly capable of leading rich, full lives. According to "Me Before You," however, living a life in paralysis is not a life worth living very long.

Indeed, people with disabilities are perfectly capable of living life to the fullest, but filmmakers and storytellers seem to cater to age-old formulas that perpetuate stereotypes against them, and films most especially, are a powerful medium that create a huge impact on viewers.

Hence, in the world of work, the myth or the stereotype that people with disabilities cannot work as well as able-bodied people do still persists, and often, workers with disabilities are compensated with “sub-minimum wages.”

Currently, in the US, with specific authorisation from the federal government under a provision in an old law, some employers can pay disabled people less – sometimes much less – than the national minimum wage. According to the National Council on Disability, an estimated 420,000 disabled workers across America, the vast majority of whom are in sheltered workshops run by non-profit organisations and most of whom have a learning disability, fall under the exemption. (The Guardian.com)

At least, New York has long been a staunch advocate of diversity and of the rights of people with disabilities. Recently, a bill was introduced by Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) with the aim of helping boost business opportunities for people with disabilities.

When passed, the New York State Supplier Diversity Act will also include businesses owned by veterans and those with disabilities in the state's nearly $250 Billion dollars spent on contracted goods and services. (PR Newswire)

People with disabilities do not need pity, but understanding and appreciation of their unique talents, skills and capabilities. What those without disabilities are capable of being, people with disabilities are just as capable, barring the realistic limitations of their handicaps.

It is time to do away with all false notions regarding people with disabilities. It is not fair to them, as these negative ideas only limit opportunities for their growth and success in life.

In effect, not only them who are at a disadvantage, but the general society as well if it continues to overlook and appreciate the rich, diverse contribution people with disabilities make.








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