Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Disability and Media: Inspiration Matters

Here's a nice story about Craig Blackburn, a man with Down syndrome who plays Santa. It could so easily veer fully onto the Inspiration Porn side of the disability news spectrum (it's not an either/or), and the title does go that way. "Metairie man with Down syndrome spreads cheer now and throughout the year" suggests that the story will be about how people feel about the man, rather than centering him.

But that's not what we get:
  •  Blackburn gets to speak for himself. The whole story is not about how others feel about him. "Blackburn said his goals are simple: "To impact the lives of others by advocating for issues that will result in better lives for individuals with special needs. Success is not measured by competing with others, but by each individual living life to their greatest potential.""
  • He speaks about his achievements: "I met all the requirements, never failed a class nor did I have to repeat a grade," Blackburn said. Now Blackburn volunteers a good portion of time doing work for the community, making it a full circle of sorts."
  • The article talks about his broader life: "He has served as a motivational speaker since 2004. He travels independently throughout the United States delivering the messages of inclusion, ability and full participation in life for all individuals. In 2009, He delivered his first international speaking message in the Middle East in Doha, Qatar."
As I wrote about Alice Wong, the disability community needs inspiration. We need to be inspired by people doing inspiring things, not by disabled people just doing things at all. I'm especially interested in seeing norms shift in local news like this, for all the big national outlets do matter. This article is, in my estimation, a win.

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