Labor Day again, and that clown Jerry Lewis staggers through a numbing day, rattling his tin cup for money for MDA. Crips have been complaining and protesting for years about Lewis's attitude and derogatory decriptions about people with disabilities. The mainstream media has taken little note. But this time, Jerry let fly a crude anti-gay remark -- and you can read about it, and hear about, just about everywhere. The gay community has media clout. Good on 'em.
The disability community has a long way to go to match that clout. We're working on it, and making headway. But it always seems to be somebody else's job.
We even have trouble getting other groups interested in our issues.
Last weekend, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Assocation held its annual meeting in San Diego. I was on a panel about disability and coverage of disability issues. There were five panelsts named; one was sick and could not come; two failed to show. Not that it mattered much; only three people turned up to hear the discussion.
So it goes at most such events. The panel almost always outnumbers the audience at disability sessions at journalism gatherings. Nobody wants to be disabled -- or think about it. If they have a disability, most journalists don't want to admit it. Journalists, like most people (I would say), think of disability as an individual medical issue, not as a social-political-economic issue encompassing a huge class or group of people.
It is ironic that on Labor Day many people with disabilities have to protest and demonstrate to claim our basic human rights instead of focussing attention on our epidemic unemployment and poverty.