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Stephanie McLean - Libraries, media, and disabilities


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This was presented at the readers' advisory seminar 22 March 2017

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Stephanie McLean - Libraries, media, and disabilities

  1. 1. Libraries, media, and disabilities Stephanie Maclean Librarian State Library NSW
  2. 2. Reasons clients with disabilities won’t come to the library •They can’t – building is inaccessible •They’re afraid of being judged for needing help •They don’t realise what it can offer them •They feel like the staff don’t understand them or their needs •They’ve had bad experiences previously
  3. 3. Language • Person with a [can insert type here, e.g. learning] disability • Not “disabled person” • Person who is blind or has low vision • Not “vision impaired” • Person living with mental illness • Not “crazy”, “psycho”, “suffering from [illness]”, etc. • Person who uses a wheelchair • Not “confined to a wheelchair” • People first, always • Not their disability, and not a euphemism and never slurs like “retarded”
  4. 4. People without disabilities are not “normal” compared to those with them
  5. 5. d/Deaf/HoH •deaf – medically deaf, not part of the community •Deaf – culturally Deaf, part of their community with their own culture and language (Auslan), do not have a disability •HoH/Hard of Hearing – has a hearing loss •Hearing impaired – older term, mostly medical, not considered appropriate by the Deaf •Auslan – Australian Sign Language
  6. 6. Stereotypes of people with disabilities in media • Pitiable and Pathetic • An Object of Violence • Sinister and Evil • Their Own Worst and Only Enemy • Super Cripple • Sexually Abnormal/Asexual • An Object of Ridicule • Burden • Incapable of Participating in Society • “Normal” • Atmosphere or Curio • Plot motivation
  7. 7. Stereotypes of people with disabilities in media • Pitiable and Pathetic • Reliant on person without a disability • Sympathetic is their main characterisation • An Object of Violence • Victims of violent crimes • Sometimes implied that it is necessary for society’s sake or for the victim’s sake • Sinister and Evil • Their disability reflects their evil (described as twisted body, etc.) • Evil because they’re disabled (mentally ill)
  8. 8. Stereotypes of people with disabilities in media • Atmosphere or Curio • A “freak show” or as something exotic to add mystery • A lesson of what could go wrong • Super Cripple • Given superhuman abilities that overrides the disability • Praised for relatively “normal” activities • Inspirational because they have a disability • An Object of Ridicule • Portrayed as a fool • Survives because of luck not skill
  9. 9. Stereotypes of people with disabilities in media • Their Own Worst and Only Enemy • Self-pitying and need to ‘think positive’ • Just need to try harder • Burden • A drain on society or an individual without a disability • Linked to “Pitiable and Pathetic” but in a purely negative light • Sexually Abnormal/Asexual • Seen as impotent or having no sex-lives • Often suggests adultery is okay if it’s a person with a disability being cheated on
  10. 10. Stereotypes of people with disabilities in media • Incapable of Participating in Society • One of omission, wherein you don’t see them as a “normal” part of society • If there, they are usually of a lower societal status • “Normal” • Portrayed as part of society but are only one- dimensional or part of the scenery (but not as Atmosphere) • Plot motivation • Temporary disability just to motivate the character • Often forgotten about once it’s been “overcome”
  11. 11. “Disabled people often function as an emblematic screen upon which non-disabled people's fears and anxieties are projected, rather than functioning as three-dimensional characters or representing disabled people's own experiences.” Simpson, C., & Matthews, N. (2012). DANCING US TO HER SONG. Australian Feminist Studies, 27(72), 139. doi:10.1080/08164649.2012.677117
  12. 12. Books with characters with disabilities • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews • Cinder by Marissa Meyer • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven • Wonder by RJ Palacio • A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman • Game World by C. J. Farley Some literature can be triggering for people that have the disabilities represented in the book, so be cautious!
  13. 13. “We have been pitted against each other and made to feel like there are limited seats at the table for those of us that fall into the category of “other.” As a result, we have become afraid of one another. We compete with one another, we judge one another, sometimes we betray one another. Sometimes even within our own communities, we designate who among us is best suited to represent us and who, really, shouldn’t even really be invited to the party. As “others,” we are taught to be successful we must reject those “other ‘others’” or we will never belong.” Washington, K. (2015). "OTHERS" MUST STICK TOGETHER. Vital Speeches Of The Day, 81(5), 147.
  14. 14. Thank you!