I just got an email that truly pissed me off. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) invited me to the 2011 Gala in Washington DC. Last year I thought about going. This year no such thoughts entered my mind. In fact the mere email notice made me mad. Why am I mad? How about this--the AAPD Image Award goes to to the cast and creative team behind the television show Glee. Glee? Glee? No it cannot be Glee--you know the show where Arnie dreams of walking and portrays an image of disability that is one gross stereotype after another. And yes the same Arnie portrayed by an actor without a disability. A modern day equivalent of white people putting on black face circa 1930. Were the people at the AAPD smoking dope when they made this decision? Maybe they dropped some acid. How can the AAPD be oblivious to the fact Glee has enraged people with disabilities. Has the AAPD read anything about the outrage directed toward the show Glee? I am far from alone in expressing my outrage at the way people with disabilities are portrayed on Glee.
If the Glee reference were not enough I was more outraged by the list of speakers. A few token crips are on the agenda--no surprise there. The AAPD tagged Stevie Wonder and Bob Dole among others. But also speaking is Gerald Arpey, the President and CEO of American Airlines. Yes , the CEO of a major American airliner is asked to speak. This person works in an industry that has a long history of discrimination against people with disabilities. Why just last year the DOJ reported complaints against the big American carriers, airlines like American, rose sharply. Come on, how oblivious can the AAPD be? I do not expect much from such galas. They are all about show not substance But the AAPD must make some effort to ground such a gala in reality. Of course prominently displayed in the email was the offer of sponsorships. Opportunities are available from $1,000 to $250,000. Yikes that is a lot of money. Instead of patting themselves on the back fro a job well done perhaps the AAPD could look into the following states:
California: Budget cuts threaten developmentally disabled children. See also ADAPT protests at what they dubbed Arnieville.
South Carolina: An all out effort is being made to reduce disability services.
Illinois: Budget cuts across the board that affect elderly and disabled people. Some worry entire programs will be eliminated.
I could go on state by state. Who gets hurt? People with no voice, no connected lobbyists, those that can least afford to suffer, those most in need. I have yet to read one thing the AAPD has done to stop the budget cuts that hurt people with disabilities. What I wonder were organizers thinking? It is obvious the AAPD is divorced from the reality most people with disabilities experience. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would not invite the cast of Glee or CEO of any American airline. But hey what do I know. I have only been thinking and writing about disability rights since Bob Murphy put the idea in my brain shortly after I was paralyzed. His book, The Body Silent, changed my life. To me, this is only another example that those in Washington DC politics are a class apart from the average citizen. But for now I am just mad. Furious in fact. The AAPD can go kiss my skinny Irish ass.
Paralyzed since I was 18 years old, I have spent much of the last 30 years thinking about the reasons why the social life of crippled people is so different from those who ambulate on two feet. After reading about the so called Ashley Treatment I decided it was time to write a book about my life as a crippled man. My book, Bad Cripple: A Protest from an Invisible Man, will be published by Counter Punch. I hope my book will completed soon.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011
AAPD Oblivious to Disability?
Posted by william Peace at 8:58 AM
PhD 1992 in anthropology Columbia University, I am interested in disability rights and bioethics.
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They've obviously got some very bad event planners. More likely than not, they contracted a company to plan the event. I would like to think that it was a lot of miscommunication between client and contractor.
Becs, Sorry but this is inexcusable. Glee has riled up may people in disability rights. To give them an award much less an invitation is an insult. As for the CEO of American, maybe the company donated big bucks--a fact i can thus overlook. The AAPD surely wants to fill the coffers in this economy. Perhaps such a possible donation was even part of the DOJ lawsuit with American carriers found guilty of violating the rights of people with disabilities.
And my friends wonder why I hate Glee. Lord, and the association that is supposed to represent us is this blind? How frustrating... :/
Feisty, I have found most people with a disability despise Glee while those without a disability do not find the show objectionable. I find it hard to imagine there was no actor in America with a disability that could have filled the role with great skill. Could it be the show had no interest in hiring an actor with a disability? Hollywood has an aversion to hiring anyone with a disability. Indeed, actors can advance their careers giving a realistic portrayal of a person with a disability. Ugh, the portrait of disability on film is uniformly horrible.
I watched exactly one episode of Glee over Thanksgiving, because my wicked stepmother insisted on streaming it to her computer while we made the dressing & peeled & chopped vegetables for the Thanksgiving turkey. It was that episode with Gwyneth Paltrow, who should be ashamed of herself. Looking at this show strictly from a writing perspective for a moment, and not from a disability studies perspective (we all agree it's a highly offensive show), I can tell you, this show is atrocious! The writing is stale, clichéd, formulaic, and utterly predictable. Seriously, whomever is writing this trash should be thrown out with it. It's so embarrassing, I hope for their sakes they didn't put their real names on it. This is a prime-time soap opera, and it has about as much quality as a soap opera- none! Soap operas are the biggest offenders when it comes to the abuse of disability as a rhetorical prosthesis. Prof. Stephen Kuusisto has a wonderful post about this issue on his blog Planet Of The Blind. It's dated 3/31/09 and titled "Disability As Rhetorical Prosthesis". It's well worth digging out and reading.
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