“Born This Way,” Me Before You, and now the latest, “Speechless,” are among the TV shows or movies going a different route in entertainment, a route the media had rarely dabbled in before: showing people with disabilities. Granted, in Me Before You, the actor playing the male lead in this popular hit romantic movie of this year was not disabled. Still, the movie portrayed what life is like for someone with that condition. Growing up with a disability, I hadn’t seen a lot of shows with people who have disabilities. That was a huge disappointment to me, not seeing anyone I could relate to.
I grew up watching TV, don’t get me wrong on that — I probably had watched too much TV and still do. I am writing this at this time because it is exciting for me to see something different in the entertainment area. I’m an optimist and hope people will get used to seeing someone who may be different from them, which it’s about time for this. People view the world based on what they are exposed to, and seeing people who have some form of a disability is not the norm for many people in our society.
Maybe I look at the world in a negative way when I’m talking about this topic, but when I go out in public places such as restaurants and stores, I notice the stares. The stares are not comfortable to witness, and you can’t do anything about it. I totally understand little kids staring. That doesn’t really bother me because they are looking at the world for the first time. I smile at them, and sometimes they smile back. Older kids, and even so-called grown adults, yes, I have a major problem with them staring. It’s probably a good thing I have a speech impediment because, knowing myself, I would probably would tell them off. I’m always thinking: “Why don’t you take a picture? It will last longer!”
The only logical conclusion I can come up with as to why some people stare at those different from them, is that they have stereotypes of the way some people are. I’m not going to go into them because they are harsh, but I have cerebral palsy. I do make light of my situation. I never want to feel sorry for myself, and I don’t want anyone else to, either. This is the only life I had ever known and ever will, so I want to make the best of it. But I can see the lighter side of the picture. I understand I don’t sound normal; in fact, I sound like Chewbacca from Star Wars. Having a disability is not the end of the world. Yes, I wish life were a little bit easier for me, but I think most people with a disability — or without — think this along the way. You just have to play with the cards you were dealt by God.
My hope for the new television shows and other media that portray people with disabilities is they might change some people’s views on how they perceive people somewhat different from them. The media is a powerful tool; it helps set up the way society views the world. It is a sad thing to say, but it’s the truth. It looks into different situations and breaks down what is being portrayed at the time; thus, making their audience aware of certain circumstances.
Having to deal with the outside world all of my life, I am really hoping that these columns and also these new forms of entertainment that portray people with disabilities may enlighten society. That having some form of a disability is nothing to be afraid of or a reason to feel sorry for individuals. It’s just a way of life that some people must deal with. People are just people — with no exception.
(Bill Adams is the Self Advocacy Specialist at STAR, Inc., in Portsmouth, and is Past President of People First of Ohio. For more on STAR or the Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities, check out the SCBDD Facebook page or website at [http://www.SciotoCountyDD.org<http://www.SciotoCountyDD.org]www.SciotoCountyDD.org<http://www.SciotoCountyDD.org>. For more info on People First of Ohio, visit www.PeopleFirstOhio.org.)