It is wise to view disabilities, mild or acute as gifts. These impact us socially, emotionally, physiologically, and psychologically. What’s important for such persons to know is that they aren’t spiritually disabled. Stephen Hawking (b. 1942), English theoretical physicist, author and Director of Research at the Centre of Theoretical Cosmology with the University of Cambridge, explains, “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things that your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.” His advice and comments ought to be taken seriously by all of us.
According to Jewish laws, lepers were considered unclean. They lived in segregated communities and were seen as outcasts. Jesus broke this stereotype when he socialized with them. His relationship with afflicted persons, angered the religious leaders of his day, for he healed many with maladies.
Paul, one of Jesus’ leading apostles, grappled with his own affliction. He was truly grieved and was in anguish by a thorn in his flesh, was never relieved of suffering, although he earnestly prayed. He was told that God’s grace was enough. This shows how we must look at afflictions which befall us. Christian theologians speak about the redemptive nature of suffering. Believers, walking in the light, offer them up to God, as substitutes for a world riddled with sin.
Images of the Disabled
In some films and TV programs we often see emotionally, and the physically disabled, portrayed in negative ways. What makes it worse are scenes which show them involved in criminal activities of sexual abuse, violence, theft, and murders. We often see depictions of those with deformities portrayed as freaks. However, socially responsible programs, seriously deal with issues show caregivers, mental health workers, drugs and alcohol addiction specialists, helping deal with these problems. Often, the disabled are referred to as victims, but they don’t see themselves this way.
Eva Mendes (b. 1974), actress, model and singer, believes, “People are incapable of stereotyping you; you stereotype yourself because you’re the one who accepts roles that put you in the rut of this stereotype.” This performer was reacting to the roles in which she found herself. But what about the those who have no say about the negative images about them in the mass media? It’s hoped producers and directors become more sensitive to their plight.
Understanding of the Disabled
From time to time, there’s a ray of hope about these disadvantaged persons. Telethons take the lead in raising money for their causes. Some public-service programs focus on finding cures, for diseases, e.g., cancer, HIV-AIDS, Parkinson’s , and sickle cell anemia. Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797), Anglo-Irish statesman, author and political theorist, stated, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” He was looking at the situation where some professionals take the low road in exploiting the disabled, as opposed to building them up.
Like citizens in democratic societies, the mass media has a social responsibility to its audience. It ought to reach out to every segment of the population. Such action has ramifications for media professionals to provide healing for the afflicted. Daniel Day-Lewis (b. 1957), English actor, observes this, “ In a landscape, which every single day of my life is enriching.” This hope is when we realize our world is blessed with talented and disabled people. It’s for them to bring their gifts to the salad bowl, of our local, national, and international culture. Their gifts enrich our lives.