I feel very strongly on this topic, especially the deaf "disability." I love learning about the Deaf culture, and I know a lot about the history, which, by the way, is fascinating! I think that having knowledge on the history, how deaf people live today, and how they feel about these labels led me to find Riley's article especially appealing.
On 358 (page 2) Riley says, "People with disabilities have always been sensitive to being stared at rather than embraced." One, I think this goes for everyone, disability or not, when we feel insecure, and people stare at us, it's annoying.
Anyway, one of the lines on 361 (page 9) Riley says, "I would add that the media are complicit in this construction of disability because it defines the ways in which people with disabilities are "regarded," enforcing stereotypes that prolong the "domination" (Charlton's term) that has kept the community down." More confusingly at the end of the paragraph he says, "In case of disability, domination is organized and reproduced principally (mainly) by a circuitry of power and ideology that constantly amplifies the normality of domination and compresses difference into classification norms (through symbols and categories) of superiority and normality against inferiority and abnormality."
Here are just some thoughts on how to change this: (Obviously these are not ways to fix anything, just some thoughts.)
1) Teach our children differently.
It is interesting to think about when we were in kindergarden, we learn that "People are born with five senses: hearing, sight, smell, touch, and taste." Why don't we ever get taught later, maybe in grades 2, 3 and 4) when we have better abilities to understand slightly more abstract concepts, that some people are born without one, maybe even two, but that doesn't mean that they are bad, wrong, or stupid. They are unique, just like you may be unique because you have one parent instead of two, you're an only child, you're good at sports, you're good at school, or anything. But actually...
2) Let's teach our children differently... WHEN THEY ARE TODDLERS! :)
Before school, before they are "exposed" to these "disabilities" in person. Media structures our beliefs, right? Right. And it is important to instill good morals and beliefs in our young ones, right? Right. So how about instead of having a show like Dora the Explorer, teaching Spanish, have a show teaching ASL! Then instead of our children having a little bit of education on a subject taught in many schools (Spanish), they will know some ASL, helping them communicate with the other children in their classes (since many schools for the Deaf are being shut down, they will be forced to go to public schools). This would also help them gain awareness, therefore they would be less likely to see them them as "different" in a negative way.
3) But then there are those people who...
On 365 (page 16) Riley says, "Reaching the deaf and hard of hearing circle has always proven to be one of the most difficult media challenges, in part because of the debate over the linguistic autonomy of American Sign Language, which purists would say excludes English-language publications."
Here's a little history lesson for anyone who isn't aware:
(I'm not saying it's bad if you're not aware, it's not your fault, this isn't taught to us!)
Sign Language is only about 200 years old, it was brought to America from France because we (Americans) did not have any way to communicate with the Deaf. The biggest thing separating ASL and English is grammar. So we would say, "I want to drink milk now," and if you sign it correctly, it is in a different order, "Now drink milk I want."
Maybe it is because ASL hasn't been around for that long, so it hasn't had time to grow and change into a more "English" way, but regardless, giving the Deaf a way to communicate is such a gift! We should be happy, and also treat them the same because they are Americans! Let's stay positive :-)
I know this article isn't only about ASL, and I didn't mean to turn it into a history lesson, but these are topics that I have a passion for :-) And I like giving others knowledge on it! I know it would be nearly impossible to include every "disability" in the media, but maybe slowing including some in children's shows would help build knowledge for the future generations!
Do you guys think that this is something that could happen, or a good idea?