Saturday, January 07, 2006

Respect for the Disabled

I read a blog by a Canadian disability activist that led my thoughts to this subject, and they have been tumbling around ever since. She had two posts that prompted me to leave comments.
1) Tucker Carlson of MSNBC referred to Canada as a retarded cousin
2) A deaf teacher was lauded for her achievement despite her disability

First, let's look at Tucker Carlson's story. I did not see the broadcast; I read the quote provided on the blog.

The complaint was not so much that the insult was directed toward Canada, but that the phrase "retarded cousin" was used as an insult. In this day of "political correctness" Mr. Carlson should have known better. He was being informal, but the description he may have thought was cute was actually denigrating,

It is sometimes difficult to know exactly what terminology tells the story without being hurtful. Media professionals are trained to use words as tools. They, above all others, are capable of promoting fair and accurate portrayals and are remiss when using negative descriptions reporting the straight news. Carefully selected words tell stories, relate feelings and reinforce positive attitudes.

Now, the second complaint.

The problem was the reporting of a Maryland teacher honored with advanced certification. The teacher was identified as deaf. She is deaf, but was that the story? Miss Yamada won regardless of her hearing so should that have been mentioned? The statement added that she was certified "despite her disability." An accomplishment is not achieved despite something. She won the certification because she was good – not despite her deafness. The word "despite" is often demeaning and should be used sparingly.

There is, however, another side of this question. News of an accomplishment achieved by a disabled person may inspire another disabled person to try something previously thought unattainable. It may also give a positive image of a disabled person to the able-bodied.

A news story includes WHO WHAT WHY WHEN WHERE HOW
But, a well-delivered news story also includes RESPECT

Here are a few links to related topics:

Canadian guidelines for word usage
A blog covers news concerning disability
News of persons with disabilities, special reports, and opinions


1 comment:

Michael Tyas said...

That wasn't nice of him at all. Take him off the air!

-a Canadian.