New TV Ad Targets Trump's Treatment of Disability

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A new political ad airing on TV in battleground states is taking aim at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s treatment of people with disabilities.

The 60-second spot is being aired by Priorities USA Action, a political action committee that endorses Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and features Chris and Lauren Glaros, a couple whose daughter Grace was born with spina bifida.

In the ad titled “Grace,” the Glaroses are shown discussing life with their daughter before the video cuts to the once-viral clip of Trump mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthogryposis, a condition that impairs his arm movements.

“You ought to see this guy,” Trump is shown saying of Kovaleski, whom he met a dozen times in the 1980s as Kovaleski covered his business career. In the clip, Trump widens his eyes and splays his arms, seemingly mimicking Kovaleski.

In the ad, Chris and Lauren Glaros are seen reacting to the CNN footage interspersed with their comments.

“The children at Grace’s school all know never to mock her,” Lauren Glaros says in the ad. “And so for an adult to mock someone with a disability is shocking.”

“When I saw Donald Trump mock somebody with a disability, it showed me his soul,” Chris Glaros added. “It showed me his heart. And I didn’t like what I saw.”

Priorities USA Action, which previously aired two spots attacking Trump’s stance on women, will run the Glaros ad in states such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire, according to The Los Angeles Times.

“Voters’ knowledge of Trump is a mile wide and an inch deep. As a result, the most devastating attacks against Trump are with the very words that come out of his mouth,” Justin Barasky, communications director of Priorities USA Action, told The Mighty. “We’re still early in our paid media campaign that will ultimately reach millions of voters on a great number of issues that highlight his divisive, dangerous record.”

What’s your take? Let us know in the comments below.

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How We Can Truly Fight Disability Bias in Entertainment

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Editor’s note: On June 7, 2016, Gary Owen agreed to remove the segment in his Showtime special in which he depicts people with intellectual disabilities. Effective immediately, the special will still be available On Demand but will not include this portion. More details here.

During the summer of 2006, Oakland, California was plagued by a rash of murders. I was home from college that year and got invited to participate in a “stop the violence” campaign. The campaign was headed by an organization called the Ella Baker Center that believes all people have a right to justice and respect. The lead organizer was excited because she got a rap star named Mr. Fab to lend his support. Fab was getting a lot of airplay at the time with a song about Vann’s brand shoes. Personally, I thought the song sounded like someone rapping a book report on the subject, but he wanted to assist the campaign and who was I to judge.

A few weeks after the campaign started, I heard more of Mr. Fab’s rapping. The artist seemed to use the phrase “yellow bus” in every song he rapped. He even had a local radio show called “The Yellow Bus Hour.” Mr. Fab wasn’t talking about the yellow buses kids in the country or on sports teams ride. No, he was talking about the short bus that is typically used by special-ed students. “You know that I’m a ‘retard,’ see the yellow bus,” Mr. Fab raps in one of his songs.

By the time I had a full grasp of Mr. Fab’s lyrics I had lost track of my comrades, otherwise I would ask them if they were concerned about the subjects the artist was rapping about. However, later that summer I noticed the possible influence of Mr. Fab’s rhymes on the community. I was packing up my things after a disability rights presentation at a youth program when a student said “My friends and I are just like you, we love to go dumb.” My heart sank, having spent the last hour talking to students about offensive words like “retarded.” I wondered if I needed to bring a thesaurus to my presentations and start going over all the terms that were similarly offensive.

I had a hard time understanding the willingness of advocates to not question someone who raps about yellow buses, but I had seen it happen before. A few years ago, a hip-hop group called the Black Eyed Peas released a song called “Let’s Get Retarded.” Since the band had been labeled in the media as conscious hip-hop, they got a free pass by the press for penning a song with offensive lyrics about intellectual disability.

The Peas themselves didn’t feel completely comfortable with their lyrics, since the version that gets played on the radio is called “Let’s Get it Started.” When I heard the version with the R-word I thought it was a parody. By only putting the version with the R-word on the album, could the Peas be thinking that the people who invest in the CDs don’t have qualms about their word choice because they are diehard fans?

I believe disability is thought of as a “safe” topic to lampoon on a hip-hop track. The backlash from using disability stereotypes isn’t as severe as it would be if racist or homophobic language was used. For instance, if the group released a song called “Let’s Put on Blackface,” I bet there would be some explaining to do.

This double standard of what cultural images are OK to showcase also happens in the world of film. Hollywood seems to reward actors like Sean Penn and Dustin Hoffman for taking on “challenging” roles when they portray people with disabilities, but playing someone of a different gender or race sometimes results in accusations of cultural appropriation. I have heard directors say that they feel they have to cast able-bodied actors as disabled characters so distributors will feel comfortable marketing their films. Yet it’s hard to believe that statement, because one sees relatively unknown actors playing people such as Nelson Mandela. These films still get distributed, not to everywhere in Middle America, but to many large cities. Every famous actor had a breakout role. It’s wrong to assume that audiences are not interested in seeing unknown actors.

It would be interesting if films starring non-disabled actors who portrayed people with disabilities had to face competition from movies that gave a more authentic version of the story. We could call them “crip versions” and release them in movie theaters or on YouTube. Maybe having versions of a so-called “Oscar worthy” film produced by and starring people with disabilities would get Hollywood to reflect on their bias against casting people with disabilities.

Another issue I see when it comes to film and other artistic mediums is the way people with disabilities are shown as “the other.” I often hear directors or painters say, “I’m trying to capture how so-and-so experiences the world.” While I agree that people have different perceptions, artists have a tendency to show people with disabilities as being burdened by isolation all the time. This is particularly true of people with autism or mental illness. Some artists are oblivious to the fact that people with disabilities can have friends and large support networks.

Simply boycotting artists, actors and singers who exploit people with disabilities does nothing to further dialogue. As I am writing this, a petition is circulating to get the TV network Showtime to remove a special by comedian Gary Owen. On the show Owen, uses the word “retarded” and questions whether people with disabilities have sex. Although I get the intent behind the petition, I believe a better way to deal with the issue would be to have a conversation with Owen. I would be curious about his past experience with people with disabilities. Did he interact with them at school or at the arcade growing up? In his act, he says he has a cousin with a disability. I wonder if Gary’s cousin thought his routine was funny, and therefore the comedian decided he had the OK to take the material out to the public.

There is a lot to learn from Owen, but if we ban his art we won’t get to have the conversation. Instead we may create another First Amendment martyr who will prosper at comedy clubs, billed as “the man who took on the Special Olympics.” Another unintended consequence of censorship is that TV execs might take things to the extreme and decide it’s too much of a bother to incorporate characters with disabilities into their product. While this idea seems far-fetched, it could already be happening. Writers and producers who are scared of offending us might already have decided to avoid the topic in their work. Threats of boycotts and censorship might lead to fewer roles for people with disabilities, not more.

Instead of asking for censorship to prevent stereotypes in the media, we could use these incidents to get artists with disabilities more exposure. Imagine if Showtime put together a special where comedians with disabilities confront stand-up comics who mock people with impairments. That would be ratings gold. This pattern could work similarly for musicians. Let’s say some artist made a track using the “R-word.” Instead of boycotting that artist, we could pressure them into giving musicians with disabilities exposure. Getting people to recognize the talents of people with disabilities may have more of a positive effect than any boycott could.

Some advocates want censorship of Owen, because they think people will be influenced by his stand-up routine. However, simply putting a routine on television will not start a new fad where making fun of disabled people is cool. I believe that by calling for more constructive criticism rather than censorship, people with disabilities will gain more. When Mr. Fab was ready to support the “stop the violence” campaign in Oakland, somebody could have asked him why he raps about yellow buses. When the Black Eyed Peas recorded the song “Let’s Get Retarded,” couldn’t someone have asked if there was a less offensive word to put in the song? Someone could also ask the director of “The Theory of Everything” why he felt it was necessary to include a scene where Stephen Hawking is dreaming about walking again at the end of the movie. These questions should not cause embarrassment, but rather lead to reflection.

In progressive circles, one questions race or questions gender. I would love to see activists add the phrase “question ability” and start addressing those stereotypes. If we could get more folks from Hollywood execs to kindergarten teachers to begin to think about their own judgments about people with disabilities, we might see shifts in understanding and acceptance.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie, show, or song that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Why We Need Better Public Restrooms for People With Disabilities

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I’m not a fan of public restrooms, but I’ll use them. When you need to go, you need to go!

I’m the type of person who uses tissue to flush and unlock the door. The type of person who makes sure my bag hangs on the back of the door and doesn’t touch the floor (yuck). I’m a lover of automatic sinks and flushes (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write), and I like to use my side or foot to open the door to make my swift exit.

Now that I have a child with disabilities, public restrooms are my arch-nemesis because the powers that be and building standards decided a room with some handrails was sufficient enough to tick a box that said “disabled.”

I remember when it dawned on me that my son had become too big for baby-changing tables. I realized there was no other option but the restroom floor or leaving and rushing home. How had no one thought of this? Does no one care?

Forget about the mother who has to lay her son on a filthy floor.

Don’t worry about a carer’s back while he tries to lift his loved one out of a wheelchair.

Forget about the parent with a wheelchair and specialist equipment trying to maneuver in a tight space.

Out-of-sight, out-of-mind, right?

Restrooms for people with disabilities need a bench, a hoist and more room for wheelchairs, equipment and a parent/carer to assist. Yet this seems to be a big ask.

Ignorance is bliss for many, but it really isn’t for us. We shouldn’t have to put photos on social media of children lying on restroom floors to highlight the need for these facilities. It’s common sense. Why doesn’t everyone see this? My beautiful boy deserves more than a restroom floor and all of those germs.

Thankfully, organizations such as Changing Places and Space to Change are raising awareness and building facilities for people with disabilities. Both organizations have created amazing facilities designed to make going to the restroom much easier for the disabled community. We’re all fighting for the same cause — to be able to take our family members out without having to worry about them lying on a restroom floor or rushing home because there are no appropriate restrooms.

Unfortunately, there are only 840 Changing Places facilities in the UK. This just isn’t enough.

So I ask you to please help by raising awareness for Changing Places and Space to Change by visiting the MyChangingPlace website or reading this petition on Change.org. It would make such a big difference to so many people. We all need to fight for this. I don’t want our loved ones to face this challenge any longer.

If you’re in a position to do something about this, then please take action! And if you’re in my shoes, visit the Changing Places and Space for Changes websites. Talk to fellow campaigners. Send information to local places of interest. Tell them why we need this. Raise awareness.

One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.

Follow this journey on Brody, Me & GDD.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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5 Myths People With Invisible Disabilities Desperately Want Busted

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As a young woman battling serious illness with multiple hidden medical devices, I have found there is a high rate of unnecessary and hurtful comments by those who assume I am not sick. This encounter seems to be a reoccurring experience for many patients battling hidden or invisible disabilities. After surveying a small population of chronically ill individuals on Instagram, it seems there are five specific stigmas patients desperately wanted dispelled.

1. Wheelchairs are only for people with paralysis. There is a large stigma surrounding wheelchairs and their uses. Many people believe these mobility aids are for patients who are unable to not use them. This is in fact only one use of a wheelchair, and a very narrowed view of its capacity to bring mobility to individuals. Wheelchairs are mobility aids, meaning anyone needing assistance with mobility can benefit from it. Whether it be severe fatigue, muscle weakness, joint pain or a connective tissue disorder that makes the body unstable, many individuals require the use of mobility aids. These patients might not look ill and may even be able to walk; however, that doesn’t mean they can walk for long distances, walk without causing extreme pain, or walk without damaging their bodies. These patients may use wheelchairs while out shopping, on a vacation with family, or while attending a long event. On good days you may see these individuals without the aided mobility of their chair but, that doesn’t mean tomorrow they wont need it.

2. Disabled parking spots are only for those with mobility aids. This is a myth that causes so many people already battling emotional trauma due to serious illness unnecessary distress from cruel comments. Many patients prescribed accessible parking spots have an invisible disability, meaning you cannot see their ailment. The use of a mobility aid such as a wheelchair, walker or crutches is only one of the criteria that qualifies an individual for these parking stalls. The Department of Motor Vehicles expresses the qualifications for a placard vary by state but, some of the medical conditions that could allow you to receive a placard include:

The loss of use of your legs or hands.

The inability to walk a certain distance without resting.

Heart, lung or circulatory disease.

Strokes or epilepsy.

Mental health problems.

This list, while unspecific, gives great examples of conditions you would be unable to see, but would cause the individual an inability to park at the back of a crowded lot. Cancer, cystic fibrosis, congestive heart failure, pulmonary fibrosis, COPD, and neuromuscular disease are just a few of the conditions that could be incorporated in this list that may not require the aid of a visible device, but absolutely would require the patient to have a closer parking spot. Never judge an individual by what you can see — they may be hiding more than you know.

3. Service animals are only for those who are blind, and they must wear a vest. As there is a high prevalence of serious illness in this country, many individuals have turned to the use of service animals. A service animal is defined under the Americans With Disabilities Act as, “a dog that has been individually trained to do work, or preform tasks for an individual with a disability.” Today, many patients battling illness benefit from the use of a service dog that can alert them of an impending medical situation. Dogs can be trained to specialize in many different areas such as diabetic alerts, severe allergy alerts, visual assistance, hearing impaired assistance, mobility assistance, psychiatric assistance, seizure alerts or medication/injection alerts. Pups undergo years of training to properly alert their owners of these conditions, which in turn creates a better quality of life for the patient. While many people who possess service animal may look healthy, they are battling disabilities that require assistance they cannot provide themselves.

Please keep in mind that you may not be able to tell this animal is on duty if the individual doesn’t have a visible disability, especially since there is no ADA requirement that states a service animal must wear any form of distinguishing identification. Always use caution before petting an animal as they may be executing a life-saving task.

photo of woman looking healthy next to photo of her wearing medical devices
Chanel demonstrates how her illness is invisible.

4. Accessible restroom stalls are only for those with mobility aids. This is another myth where patients with invisible disabilities take the brunt of hurtful comments directed out of ignorance. Accessible restroom stalls, while made large to accommodate those with mobility aids such as wheelchairs and walkers, are not only for that purpose. These large stalls can also accommodate people who need extra room to perform tasks such as draining an ostomy bag or drainage bag, or even releasing stomach acid by a tube-fed patient. These stalls are also used by those who need the aid of a bar rail to access the toilet. Though the person may look like a healthy individual, they may have a medical device hidden under their clothes or have a disease that caused deteriorating joints. Please be respectful and avoid judgment when someone exits an accessible stall.

5. If you aren’t “obviously ill,” you do not have a serious disease. If you have read all the way to number five, you have more than likely seen a theme throughout this post: Invisible disability is misunderstood. Many ailments, conditions, illnesses and diseases are often well-hidden. While that lovely young woman pulling into the accessible parking spot may look like a flourishing, well-put-together individual, she could be battling for her life with medical devices hidden right under her clothes — a feeding tube, central line, ostomy bag, and catheter could be just out of sight.

That young gentleman with an adorable furry Labrador may look like he is simply taking a walk with man’s best friend, but wait another moment and the dog is now visibly disturbed, attempting to alert his owner of an oncoming seizure. The middle-aged man walking into the accessible restroom stall may have serious muscle weakness from a degenerative illness, causing him to need the hand rails to pull himself up off the toilet, and the beautiful college student using a wheelchair may have lung disease and cannot breathe well enough to make it across campus on foot.

Never be quick to judge those around you, as they may be fighting a war within their bodies you simply cannot see.

Follow this journey on The Tube Fed Wife.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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New Film, 'Me Before You,' Draws Criticism From Disability Activists

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Warning, this article contains spoilers. 

“Disabled bodies are capable bodies. It’s time our media portrayed that.”

“Stop perpetuating the idea that disabled people only exist to make you feel better about your life by comparison.”

“Disabled people are constantly told that we’re a burden and should put abled people before us.”

These are just some of the criticisms the soon-to-be-released movie, “Me Before You,” is drawing on Twitter. Outrage towards the movie has spawned hashtags #MeBeforeAbleism and #MeBeforeEuthanasia as well as a protest by anti-euthanasia activists at the movie’s premiere in the U.K.

'me before you' movie poster
Warner Brothers

The movie, which comes out on June 3 in the U.S., is centered around the fictional story of Will Traynor –– a wealthy, young man who becomes paralyzed from the neck down in an accident two years prior to movie’s storyline. Traynor, who is played by “The Hunger Games’” Sam Claflin, struggles with his newfound disability and feelings of hopelessness. These feelings lead the character to believe he is a burden on those he loves and that his life is better off ended.

These feelings change when Traynor’s parents hire a young caretaker for him, Louisa Clark, played by “Game of Thrones’” Emilia Clarke. (Warning, key plot details follow.) Clark and Traynor fall in love; however, the film concludes with him ending his life through physician-assisted euthanasia.

The U.K.-based group, Not Dead Yet, has protested the movie calling it a “gross misrepresentation of the lived experience of most disabled people.” Protesters at the movie’s premiere added to the criticisms calling it a “disability snuff movie.”

Jojo Moyes, author of the book the movie is based on, has yet to respond to recent criticisms, but in a 2013 interview, Moyes told Goodreads she has “gotten thousands of e-mails about this book and a lot of them have come from quadriplegics or caretakers of quadriplegics, who have said, ‘Thank you for reflecting our lives and also for making a quadriplegic male a romantic hero who is sexy!’”

With the largest criticism of the movie being that it ignores the feelings of those who are actually disabled, it may come as a surprise that Moyes does not consider herself a stranger to the disability community. In the same 2013 interview, she said: “I have a child who was born deaf, so as a mother of a disabled child myself, one of the things I found most frustrating when he was small was not his disability, to which we adapted very quickly. Very quickly it becomes the least interesting thing about someone you love. It was other people’s attitudes.”

In an earlier post on her website, from 2008, she also noted she would “HATE anyone to consider my son inferior” because of his deafness and advocated for better understand between hearing and Deaf cultures.

What’s your take on this? Let us know in the comments below.

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Pennsylvania's 'Let's Think Again' Campaign Calls Out Disability Stigma

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“Hiring disabled people is a huge risk.”

“Most ‘disabled’ people are just scamming the system.”

“I could never do what disabled people do. They’re such an inspiration.”

Those are a few of the phrases printed on paper thought bubbles recently posted in Pennsylvania as part of a statewide Stigma Project.

A Stigma Project thought bubble reading 'There's no such thing as a learning disability - people just need to work harder' is displayed next to the 'What are you thinking?' slogan.

  A Stigma Project thought bubble reading 'They call it 'ADHD'. I call it bad parenting' is displayed next to the 'What are you thinking?' slogan.

The campaign, co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council and Pennsylvania-based marketing firm Suasion, aims to call attention to stigmatizing thoughts surrounding disability.

Last month, representatives from Suasion, along with student volunteers from Millersville University, posted signs with these provocative statements and others derived from focus groups consisting of people with and without disabilities. The thought bubbles were accompanied by the slogan “What Are You Thinking?” in hopes of encouraging passersby to consider what organizers see as subtle stigma.

“Stigma is not owned by people with disabilities. It’s the attitudes and beliefs of the general public that we need to change,” Graham Mulholland, executive director of the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council, told The Mighty. “We were looking for a campaign that directly confronted the beliefs that people had about people with disabilities.”

bubble that says they call it adhd i call it bad parenting

A volunteer holds up a 'What Are You Thinking?' thought bubble next to a decorative statue of a pig in Pennsylvania.

Mulholland said the campaign’s provocative approach was designed to be refreshing.

“Enough is enough,” Mulholland said. “[We’re] not going to use a cute kind of approach anymore. We want to challenge people.”

As motivation for the campaign, Mulholland and Suasion representatives cited a 2014 study, conducted for the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association, that found 79 percent of respondents thought society perceived people with disabilities “with discomfort and awkwardness.”

Though the paper campaign has come to a close, Suasion and its partners aim to keep the conversation alive through a website created for the campaign, LetsThinkAgain.org, which features videos of people with disabilities reading and reacting to the phrases on the thought bubbles. The organization has also created a pledge to end stigma and a quiz to help users gauge their stigma, both of which are available on the website.

Users can also connect with the campaign via its Facebook and Twitter feeds.

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