Disability and Language: a NY Times Article Review

This comment was left on a post by William Peace on his blog, Bad Cripple.   Therextras wrote " Thank you for an excellent expose of a typical media dissemination of
language and attitudes we would like not only to reform but squelch. I
hope you sent some response directly to the newspaper." 

Team [with]tv would like to second that remark.

Here is an excerpt from William’s post. 

Monday, May 12, 2008

Disability and Language

Yesterday a long article appeared in the New York Times entitled
"Taking a Chance on a Second Child". The article was written by Michael
Winerip, a Pulitzer Prize wining writer. Mr. Winerip is a seasoned
reporter, graduate of Harvard University and a gifted writer. Yet a day
later I remain stunned and outraged by the language Winerip used. The
article in question is about Jordana Holovach, her son Jacob who is
severely disabled, and her decision to have a second "healthy" child.

tone of Winerip’s article is shocking. Each and every mention of
disability is overwhelmingly negative. The language is antiquated,
insulting, and devalues the life of a child and by extension all
disabled children and adults. Among the snippets I found particularly
appalling include the following:

In referring to Ms. Holovach’s son: "And as much as she loves that boy
and as hard as she’s worked to make him whole…she felt snake bit"

Ms. Holovach’s son is "confined to a wheelchair".

Holovach’s son was responsible for her divorce: "Her first marriage
ended in divorce under the strain" and "Jacob was a big reason".

Before Ms. Holovach’s son was born "they were successful people" (note tense).

Oh don’t stop here.  Keep reading, there is more….

Then stop by Patricia E Bauer’s blog for this additional link.

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv

[with]tv Launches New Radio Program for People with Disabilities…and everyone else!

A Different Perspective – Press Release

Coming Soon: a one-hour, weekly Internet Talk Radio Program entitled A Different Perspective set to premier on Webtalkradio.

A Different Perspective will be hosted by Howard Renensland, CEO of [with]tv: "a television channel of, by, and for people with disabilities…and everyone else" and PWdBC, a 501 c 3 dedicated to training people with a disability for careers in film and television.

To quote Mr. Renensland, “My experience of the past 23 years raising
and advocating for my daughter with disabilities has convinced me that
the single most debilitating factor limiting people with disabilities
is not their disability, but rather their image as portrayed in
mainstream media and the factors that contribute to that stereotypical
image. [with]tv will alter this situation by fully employing people
with disabilities in a mainstream media company where they, people with
disabilities, will control the medium and the message.”

A Different Perspective will present an
entertaining discussion of current issues from the perspective of
people with disabilities. Howard will, with the assistance of guests
and [with]tv volunteer reporters from the disability community, provide
this perspective intended for all listeners – not just those with a
disability. The ongoing progress of [with]tv, PWdBC, and the work of
the volunteers turning this vision into a reality will be discussed as

Inquiries regarding advertising and corporate sponsorship are
welcome. A volunteer staff is seeking audio commercial placement along
with advertising and corporate sponsors for A Different Perspective, [with]tv, and PWdBC.  More information can be found on on Blog [with]tv and on the web site.

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv.

Why We Need TV and Movies That Include People with Disabilities: Part 104

So there I was today on NPR’s “On Point” program with two terrific blind professionals and I was feeling like the school kid who has to use the bathroom and can’t wait any longer to announce the matter. I needed to say that the reason blind people are so woefully unemployed and the reason that the public marvels at the accomplishments of exemplary blind professionals like Gordon Gund or David A. Paterson is that the film and TV industries continue to make blindness look horrible.  Who wouldn’t imagine, after seeing that dreadful movie “At First Sight” (with Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino) that being blind isn’t  a minimal life? That movie came out at the same time as my memoir “Planet of the Blind” and it reinforced every cliché about blindness that I was trying to conquer. If the human resources professionals saw a prime time television show in which a blind person confidently uses state of the art assistive technology—heck, even showing the non-disabled characters a thing or two about the gizmos, well that would be as big a step toward changing the climate of unemployment for the blind as our well intentioned celebration of Governor Paterson’s oath of office. Let’s face it: the public thinks that blind people are scarcely able to navigate their living rooms. How could they possibly serve as good employees? That Ph.D. or Master’s degree must be some kind of a trick. That’s it! The “brainiac” blind woman or man is probably “faking it” just like those guys you see  begging for money with the phony sunglasses. Yep! That’s gotta be it! How do I know this at (insert company name here)? Because I just saw Disney’s film version of Mr. Magoo. Now there’s a blind guy for you! Ha! I laughed til  I dropped my popcorn on my plaid shorts. Boy Oh Boy  was that ever a good movie!

In case anybody’s wondering, I was once interviewed by a producer of ABC’s television program “20/20”about the possibility of an interview associated with the publication of “Planet of the Blind”. What did I do to ruin the deal? I mentioned that ABC is owned by Disney and that the new film of Mr. Magoo was a disgrace. They were very nice as they showed me to the door.


Professor Stephen Kuusisto
Department of English
The University of Iowa
308 EPB
Iowa City, IA 52242


Remembering Mr. Magoo

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv

Your Opinion? Disability & Media Consumption Survey

Originally posted on Blog [with]tv

My name is Anna Pakman and I am a first year MBA student at Columbia Business School. I am
conducting a survey as primary research for my paper on Media Consumption &
People with Disabilities for my Consumer Behavior class. I would appreciate it
if you could take a few minutes of your time to answer some questions about
your consumption of television, film, Internet, and radio programming. As you
probably know, the Nielsen ratings track media consumption for just about every
population EXCEPT our community so the only way I can get this data is through
your assistance. All individual survey responses are anonymous and will be kept
strictly confidential.

You’ll find access to the survey on Blog [with]tv

The deadline for filling this out is March 31, 2008. Please feel free to
forward this on to any and all individuals and organizations that may have an
interest in completing the survey or getting their constituents to do so.

Should you have any further questions please feel free to contact me at apakman09@gsb.columbia.edu.
If the survey presents any problems for those using screen reading software
please let me know and I can figure out another way to get it to you.
Unfortunately, I need to use Qualtrics as it is the only surveying
software provided by Columbia University and I have no control as to how
accessible/unaccessible it is. If you have a lot of trouble, please record your
problems and e-mail them to me so I can forward it on to our IT people who can
then relay this feedback to the vendor. 

Thanks in advance for your time.


Anna Pakman
MBA Class of 2009

[with]tv Recommends the Inclusion Daily Express

Good luck trying to find this much information anywhere else on the web. 
~ C. Kuusisto

International Disability Rights News Service

Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights, self-determination
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv

Hope for the Media

by Stephen Kuusisto

I teach English at The University of Iowa and some of my classes are
focused on disability in the literary arts. One book that I like to
give my students is the groundbreaking history of disability in the
movies The Cinema of Isolation
by Martin Norden. This book shocks students when they first encounter
it, for few realize that movies have featured disabled characters from
the very beginning of the film industry. What’s even more eye opening
is how poorly Hollywood has treated people with disabilities from day
one. The old footage rolls again and students see malevolent and
monstrous "cripples" for disability functioned in these old films as a
metaphor rather than just being a part of daily life.

When those early movies weren’t using people with disabilities as
figures of moral judgment they eagerly used them as low comic
characters whose afflictions were funny because the lame tried to walk
or the blind tried to do the work of the sighted. "Low comedy" means
humor that relies on slapstick or vulgarity. "The Three Stooges" are a
good example of low comedy. In turn, of course, "High comedy" uses
verbal sophistication and artful disguises to achieve its effects.
Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure or All’s Well That Ends Well are good examples of the genre.

What the students find out all too quickly is that first in movies,
and then in television, people with disabilities have been almost
uniformly presented as "figures" who represent immorality or
ineptitude. Between these two poles one also finds Victorian
representations of absolute purity like Charles Dickens’ "Tiny Tim" who
stands for the angelic compensations of suffering and whose presence in
the story is necessary if Scrooge is to be redeemed. Alas, Tiny Tim is
as unreal as all the other stock disabled characters in TV and film

When my students look for contemporary depictions of real people
with disabilities in the media they discover that the field is still
quite narrow. Some of them point to the current "reality TV" series "Little People, Big World"
on the Learning Channel. Others point to "Monk", a detective show that
features a leading man who solves crimes because he has an
obsessive-compulsive disorder. In the movies there have been some
notable triumphs over the past thirty years like "My Left Foot" and
"Children of a Lesser God" and students eagerly mention Marlee
Maitlin’s character on the hit TV show "The West Wing".

There have been some undeniable advancements in the representations
of people with disabilities in Hollywood and the TV industry.
Nevertheless it remains hard to find substantive mainstream reporting
about disability on network or cable TV. When disability does appear on
the nightly news or as part of a daytime interview program like "The
Oprah Winfrey Show" often presented as an "overcoming story"- a
narrative in which a person  with a disability is either cured by means
of medicine or spiritual belief, or in turn they are distinguished by
their ability to inspire others by successfully denying that they have
any kind of limitation. As any person with a disability can tell you,
we need better reporting.

Real people with disabilities are impatient for change and ready to
take their places in the media arts. I believe that our time is coming
– perhaps slowly, but surely.

Disability in the media is the topic of the next Disability Blog Carnival, to be hosted on Blog [with]tv Thursday, January 10.  JOIN US!

Submit your blog article to the next edition of
disability blog carnival using our carnival
submission form
. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival
index page

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv

Monica Moshenko Interviews Howard Renensland, Founder & CEO, [with]tv

Monica Moshenko, host of Disability News & Views Radio Show has interviewed [with]tv Founder and CEO, Howard Renensland.  On her website she introduced Howard by writing this:

Howard Renensland, Father, Advocate, Actor and CEO & Founder, [with]tv

is a start-up corporation devoted to providing television and Internet
programming of, by, and for people with disabilities. Driven by his own
experiences the past 22 years advocating for his own daughter Victoria,
Howard found the single most debilitating factor limiting people with
disabilities is not their disability, but their image in mainstream
media. There is no mainstream television channel in the world
addressing the needs of and targeting people with disabilities as
viewers, consumers and participants. Howard resolved to change that by
creating , an inclusive media outlet that defines all people by their
talents and the quality of their stories, rather than by disability; a
place where his daughter Victoria and everyone else can work in a
universally designed workplace with a welcoming, inclusive workforce –
with-tv is born. Listen to this compelling interview with Mr.
Renensland to learn more about with-tv and how you can get involved
now! http://www.with-tv.com Television of, by and for people with
disabilities…..and everyone else.

Renensland, President and Founder of [with]tv, has been a professional
actor, writer, director, and teacher for thirty years. He is a member
of Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio
Artists, and Actors Equity Association. Mr. Renensland has appeared in
over 400 television commercials, numerous radio ads, and hundreds of
print ads as well.


Thank you, Monica!

Cross-posted on [with]tv 

[with]tv Blog Update

Dear Friends,

Blog [with]tv has a new address!  www.withtv.typepad.com  Remember to change your links!

As a volunteer working with the folks at [with]tv I have recently been honored with the title “blog master”.  In that capacity I am writing to disability bloggers I know and respect to ask for support.  I (we) are hoping you would be willing to either write a post, submit a post you’ve already written, or even join us as a “columnist” and submit posts whenever the mood strikes.

Posts can be submitted to my attention at articles@with-tv.com. The blog can be found at http://withtv.blogspot.com/. It is a work in progress and I (we) sure
would appreciate your support. While you’re
there, please sign the Guest Book and let us know what you think. We’re working hard to spread the word. Anything you can do to help would surely give
us a boost!

Thank you,

Connie Kuusisto
Blog Master, [with]tv

P.S.  A person need not be a blogger to submit articles to [with]tv or to sign the Guest Book.  Anyone interested in the topic of disability is encouraged to participate.

Cross-posted on [with]tv