Revolution has two meanings.
Revolution (meaning one): a progressive motion of a body around an axis so that any line of the body parallel to the axis returns to its initial position while remaining parallel to the axis in transit and usually at a constant distance from it.
The world of disability is progressively moving forward with better ideas, policies and methods. But what about image? The way we are judged by the outside world? Are we stuck on this axis, moving but in the end right back where we started?
I’d like to think that I don’t care what people think of me or am affected by judgements, but truth be told we all are affected. And I, for one, prefer not to be seen as the following:
A spiritual omen. I am like this because I’m a gift from God to humanity, or because disability is punishment for my sins or those or my parents or I’m just evil--hmm, which is it?
A freak show. One day, instead of hiding the disabled from the public because of shame and humiliation, someone decided they could make money off of them, and Barnum and Bailey made lots of money. The bearded woman, the elephant man, the Siamese twins. So sometimes people with disabilities look like freak shows--get over it! I’m throwing my stare back at you tall blonde that looks like Barbie, and handsome fellow that looks like Ken--no one looks like that anyway, who’s the freak show?
An object of sympathy. I really don’t need the pity or the high pitched Ohh accompanied by a head tilt to the right. Really, I don’t. My life doesn’t suck as bad as you think it does.
Superhuman. Yes, I leave the house on a regular basis and I have a job. I go on dates, travel and drive a car. Yes, call me super-fantastic because I do the things you do--just don’t make me wear a cape, tights and a mask.
A medical model. Yeah I’ve been a model once or twice but not for those medical books that only show images of the horrid conditions I must endure as a person with a disability. Someone please hurry and find a cure for this “condition.”
I prefer to get real. Let’s get real.
What we need is an army of people to start an image revolution--people to start viewing images of people with disabilities in a positive manner, photographers to take shots empowering the person, large corporations to use successful people with disabilities as their spokesperson or face of the company, fashion editorials to include the beauty and style of men and women with disabilities, school systems to include their students with disabilities in mainstream activities and use it as an opportunity to educate other students that differences are normal, Hollywood to begin casting the role of people with disabilities with actual people with disabilities not actors pretending to be so. By doing all of the above people will begin to view persons with disabilities as contributing members of society and valuable to our communities. In fact, I see it as a way to address the root of many problems such as employment, housing, recreation and education.
It’s time we reclaim this freak show and reframe what people see as ability, beauty, success and authenticity. Let’s get images out there for and about people with disabilities, let’s get people gawking at us because they sure do out of the corner of their eye when they pass you on the street. Let them look. Let them see us. We are not invisible.
Revolution (meaning two): sudden, radical or complete change; a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something.
Revolution. Let’s do it.
*definition of revolution from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary