‘Disability in the Media’ Steve Brooks
On October 24th I had the opportunity to attend a discussion with Steve Brookes about how disabled people are presented in the media. Brookes spoke from experience about how people view disabled people – he became disabled when he was quite young so he discussed how life changed for him and how people’s attitude towards him changed. Brookes discussed his own personal experiences and gave the audience some insight into how the media chooses to present those who are disabled and the affect it has on society. The discussion was a real eye opener as I like most did not realise that disabled people are often excluded from advertisements. I cant recall an advertisement that addresses disabled people as well as ‘able bodied’ people. It was also highlighted that disabled people are only represented in a negative way, after Brookes’ explained more I began to agree with the points he made. According to Brookes disabled people are only presented in the following ways; a sympathy gimmick or victim, a burden, pitiable, an object of curiosity or violence, sinister or a ‘super cripple’ (superhuman). Brookes continued by showing us examples of this – in a horror film someone with a mental disability is a villain, a vicious killer who should be feared. In an advertisement a disabled person is a weak and vulnerable person who is in desperate need of help. This stereotypes people and makes people in society believe that disabled people are ‘different’. A barrier is created because of this and disabled people do not get treated with respect or in an equal way to someone who is ‘able bodied’
Brooks mentioned that we are all disabled in some way – so who can really be called ‘able bodied’? The word disabled is a derogatory term, which Brooks drew attention to. He stated that it makes people think that disabled people are less capable – creating a social prejudice against those who are less able. We would assume that a disable person is vulnerable and requires constant help, people treat disabled people differently and this is because of the pre judgments that we have. These pre-judgements are often formed by what we see in the media. Constant exposure to media representations lead to people having a set ideology of groups in society, a status comes with disability, just hearing the word disabled makes us think ‘different’ and ‘less capable’. Brooked made me more aware of this issue – people are people, we wouldn’t want to be constantly judged in a negative way, so why is it okay to feel pity toward someone who is disabled? Brooked made me realise that ‘disabled’ people are underestimated, they are strong people who often don’t let their physical or mental problems hold them back.
Brookes highlighted that public places are often not built for those with physical disabilities – the environment caters for those who are ‘able bodied’. This makes things much harder for disabled people, they have to adjust to an environment that does not support their needs. The discussion with Steve Brooked has made me more aware about discrimination against disabled people – even the term disabled is degrading, which is something I hadn’t realised. The media needs to gain a better understanding about those who are less able so that people stop believing the representation of the disabled to be true.