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The Missing Jigsaw Piece (Or - How "Education" About Disability Is Not The Last Thing We Need To Change)
Here is a question for you - are you aware there are Disabled people in existence in yourlocal community???  Are you aware that the person typing this blog post is disabled???

You are???  Oh good!  That means I can get rid of the "Awareness Training" (otherwise known as stop walking around with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears - we do exist you know)!!!

Do you think you, or the people around you, would benefit from being educated about the challenges people with disabilities face in their daily lives???  You do??? Oh good - you see (please excuse the pun) I can educate you about sight problems - and I know quite a few other people who could educate you about the difficulties faced by other people with disabilities (mainly because they face those difficulties every day of their lives).

But how can I be sure that the education I can provide you will change your perception of people with disabilities???

You see - I am battling against a two-pronged attack as far as changing people's perception of disabilities is concerned - the Mainstream Media and the Government.

The Government seems to be under the rather strange impression that all disabilities are the same and every disabled person should be in paid employment (doesn't matter if the job they are in is suitable for them in the first place).

However, the Mainstream Media is (in a way) more to blame for the public perception problem as far as disabilities are concerned.  And you may be surprised to know that - in this case at least - the journalists do not get most of the blame.

If I want to be educated about being from a Black and Ethnic Minority background I can watch "Eastenders".

If I want to be educated about the effects of a parent (or carer) of a child being beaten up by the aforementioned child I can watch "Coronation Street".

If I want to be educated about the effects of Bullying at school I cn watch other Soaps.

If I want to see an accurate portrayal of some one like me on TV I have to find a mirror to place in front of the screen after switching the TV off.

When you think about it that is kind of worrying.

Let's face it - even the wildly distorted and negative storylines surrounding Mental Health in Soaps ("If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this programme..." "Hello??? Yes - I would like to report that I have friends who have got Mental Health issues and - not one of them has acted in the same way as your characters - even when things got really tough.") are an improvement on the total whitewash that physical disabilities get in Soaps.  Disabled people are either portrayed as in a wheelchair or totally blind (the easy options) and they are supposed to float through life just like anybody else.  Of course we cannot have a seemingly able-bodied person walking into either the Queen Vic or the Rover's Return and start complaining because they cannot see or read something, or even start using sign language (as in British Sign Language for the Deaf instead of the various gestures which can be interpreted as swearing) - that sounds too much like real life.

Until we start to see a broader range of disabilities accurately protrayed in our Soaps (preferably played by people with those disabilities) we are never going to change the public perception of disabled people.

There are reams and reams of information on how people with disabilities "should" act - there is very little on how people with disabilities "do" act.

Changing the public perception of people with disabilities will only start when we "normalise" them and make them an accepted part of society - this means getting a wide variety on TV - particularly in programming families are likely to watch - just being themselves.

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