I still remember writing my first stories at school. They were all horror tales. Now I can’t even read horror. If I could manage it, you’d find me under my bed at the very mention of something ghostly.
I have noticed a trend in the media in recent years. A lot of actors appearing in wheelchairs and with various disabilities. It’s an interesting move and long overdue. But does it raise awareness of disability? Or merely place disabled people on view? Perhaps tick a box or two?
Put a person in a wheelchair answering a phone and you only show an audience that we exist. It includes us in the public eye. We are no longer ignored. ‘Does he take sugar?’ ‘Wait I’ll ask him.’ But putting disabled people on screen or on a billboard doesn’t say anything about who we are.
The way to do that, is to tell our stories. If you write a love story about people in wheelchairs, then people understand something about who we are, what makes us tick. Create films and dramas about disabled people living their lives; then everyone gets an insight into the day to day realities of disability.
You might say there are loads of documentaries that do just that. But documentaries are a particular type of media. They focus on certain areas and miss out others. Imagine if the only coverage of non-disabled lives was through documentaries. We would have no drama, no comedy, no murder mysteries. Why is fiction focussed around disability so lacking. Are we a different category to other parts of society. One that is either undeserving of fiction stories or perhaps, less interesting?
We need more stories about ordinary disabled people, because we are extraordinary. When illness or accident robs us of our legs, we overcome the limitations by using wheels. When disease and pain crash into our lives, we push through. When everything comes against us, we keep going. Disabled people are shining examples of hope in the face of adversity. Human ingenuity and strength overcoming all odds. Our lives are interesting, dramatic, criss-crossed with tears and laughter. The stories that can be told about disabled people are every bit as exciting, varied, funny, sad, dramatic and mysterious as any other story ever told.
Yet stories about disabled people are in short supply. That needs to change. We make up a significant part of the population 29.5% in 2021(1). Stories aid communication and information. They are the way to fight fear and misunderstanding. Stories have always been how humans have shared an understanding with each other. Not just factual tales, but drama and comedy. It is a wonderful reality that more disabled people have entered the comedy arena. Now is the time to extend that into fictional stories about our lives.
Telling our stories will help the world see us more clearly.
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