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Media Images Of Disability Cause The Disability Community

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"It 's always been my belief that media images of disability cause the disability community some of its most serious and persistent problems..." ~Prof Beth Haller, of media dis&dat

Images of disabled people being depicted in a negative light go back at least as far as the Old Testament, where having a disability meant that you had done something to anger G-d. Disability was equated with sin (Shapiro). In the New Testament you got another choice-you could be "cursed or possessed by evil" (Shapiro, 1994 p. 30). This view perpetuated to the time of Shakespeare, where he gave his Richard III a hunchback (even though the real Richard III did not have such a disability) in order to make him seem more evil. Today, films such as Peter Pan and
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These are all very bleak images of disability. Especially, I thought, since it was 2006. They painted a very meager, maybe worthless, existence. Although I had not heard of the term until just recently, it was very clear to me that night that to those in the room, to be someone with a disability meant to be a Tiny Tim. That is the term (named after the character in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol) disability advocates coined to articulate society 's view that people with disabilities (PWDs) are "childlike, dependant, and in need of charity or pity" (Shapiro, 1994 p. 14).

Most people, I think, inherently feel sorry for PWDs. They feel like we must be suffering or that we are incapable of taking care of ourselves and making our own decisions (Johnson, 2003; Shapiro, 1994). Even if one of us is successful, like historian Paul Longmore who has a PhD and has written several books, but just happens to have gotten polio as a child and has to use a ventilator at night, we are still pitied. "[Once, a stranger] approached him [Paul Longmore] on the street and said, ‘If I were you, I 'd kill myself '" (Shapiro, 1994 p 39).

The image of the Tiny Tim gained popularity in the 1940 's and 50 's when charities focused on finding cures for disabilities such as polio. They realized that pity opens wallets, so they began poster child
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