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Saturday, February 13, 2010
Why Equality is Elusive: Part II
Skeptics may wonder if I am being unfair in my last post. Surely images of the sort I posted are unusual. Sorry, but this is simply not the case. Take the above image from a notorious notorious ad campaign in 2000 that appeared in dozens of outdoor and sporting magazines across the country. I recall seeing this ad and being shocked. I was not alone. Nike received a wave of complaints and not only pulled the ad but issued an apology. If anything is unusual about the above Nike ad it is the fact it was pulled. Imagery of this sort is sadly the norm and abounds. I see it every day on television, in newspapers, on the internet and in a plethora of magazines. Some people in disability studies call such images examples of the "defective person industry". The fact is mainstream imagery associated with disability is overwhelming bad. There is simply nothing cool whatsoever about disability. Disability in the minds of most is bad, inherently bad. The only exception I have come across in my life time is sports. Adaptive sports, especially mono skiers, have made major inroads toward being cool. I am not an elite adaptive athlete but I sure do appreciate the trickle down effect they are creating. I will surely never enter the X Games or even come close to what athletes such as Tyler Walker can accomplish on his mono ski but his accomplishments resonate within me and the general public. I know this because when I ski there is a residual cool factor I find captivating. When I ski I am not the poor bastard that uses a wheelchair and lives a limited existence. No sir. I am another guy out skiing, one who is cool in the eyes of many. This is liberating and I only wish more people with a disability could find a way to access the slopes. If I am to ever truly be equal in American society the above Nike ad will be replaced by radically different images. Those images may be starting to change with adaptive athletes and I hope will be accompanied by those that depict people with a disability active in every facet of society. When that day takes place I will enjoy real equality. I hope to live to see that day.