A few weeks ago I attended a very enlightening discussion on the subject of “Is It OK?” (as in – is it OK to laugh at Disabled Comedians?)
The general consensus appeared to be that you can laugh at comedy by and about disabled people and their disabilities as long as the motives are clearly not about using humour to score cheap laughs at the expense of the people who have those disabilities.
That gave me another thought. How do we ensure that disabilities are treated with respect when it comes to attempting to educate people about them? Of course, in an ideal world, there should be no difference between the portrayal of Disabled people and able-bodied people in the Media.
Unfortunately, we are about as far away from the ideal world as we ever were.
Which makes books like “A Boy Made From Blocks”, by Keith Stuart, such a welcome breath of fresh air for me.
It is a fiction book about how a man learns to connect with his Autistic son through the medium of ” Minecraft”. You can read Mr Stuart’s experiences of doing exactly that with one of his own sons coming through the story.
Tbere are too many occasions when the portrayal of a disability appears to be the “able-bodied” version of events. I have lost count of the amount of times when people with Mental Health problems are portrayed as mass murderers or suicidal (I have friends with Mental Health problems who happen to be some of the people I feel safest with). As for the physical disabilities? They are all apparently either hardly disabled or they are at the other extreme with no shades in between.
We all need to ask ourselves if the portrayal of disabled people is accurate – both as far as the storyline is concerned and whether or not the person playing the disabled character is disabled themself. That is the only way you are going to get an honest interpretation of the realities of being disabled.
We also need to ask ourselves how we can apply what we learn through comedy, reading books with storylines about disabilities, watching TV programmes featuring accurate portrayals of disabilities, into practice in our dealings with everybody we come into contact with.
Then people like me won’t be so quick to take offence when an “able-bodied” person decides to get a cheap laugh by putting on a pair of glasses with extremely thick lenses and starts clowning around because we will know they are not making fun of us for the sake of it.