Our Society

New York City, the most populated city in the US. A couple of summers ago I got the chance of a lifetime to go to New York and see some shows on and off-broadway. The airport’s ramp was at a 45-degree angle and it was supposed to be “accessible” also, there were barely any ramps and if there were ramps they were torn up and barely in any accessible condition. As someone who uses a wheelchair for long distances and standing for long periods, I was hurt by the structure of the city. For being one of the most populated cities in the United States it wasn’t too accessible.

 So why is this a problem? 

Why should we care? 

The CDC states, “61 million adults in the United States live with a disability”. That is one out of four adults, in this country. They could have a visible or invisible disability. 

The bias or discrimination against a disabled individual is ableism. A big problem in today’s society. 

Today I am going to discuss this issue and spread light on ableism in our society. So, let’s go to the subway and talk about the issue of ableism by stopping at Brooklyn to talk about stereotyping, Manhattan to talk about normalizing offensive words, and finally go to Times Square to talk about the misrepresentation in the media.

The bright lights of Brooklyn make you want to close your eyes. 

So, imagine a version of an American in your head. A lot of people will think of a white, straight man with his life put together. But in reality, it is different, 51% of people on earth are women, 1 in 4 people have a disability, and 1 in 5 adults have a mental illness. 

After I tell you this, do people still see a white, able-bodied man?

What causes us to think this way? 

The way that this stigmatism grows in our culture.

One of the smartest men on earth was in a wheelchair. Steven Hawking had an IQ of 160 and the average person has an IQ of 100. 

The reason why I point this out is that there is a stereotype that disabled people are unintelligent.

The TV networks like to show people that are white and not diverse. 

Especially when talking about disabled individuals. Can you think of a queer, woman that is disabled on your TV screen? 

A research paper by the Media Institute, states that there are 4 disabled queer characters on cable and 6 disabled queer characters on streaming networks. Most of the people are still white. Also, their disability is usually a burden to the other characters.

Imagine seeing no one on TV that had any of the same problems as you. 

Manhattan is a normal city for people to remember, and the normalization of ableism and everyone being abled-bodied makes people think it is ok to say offensive things because they have no idea about what is going on in another person’s mind. 

Do you all know what the word cripple means? As someone who has a physical disability, this word makes me cringe. The definition is damaged and malfunctioning. By the 1970s changes were developing and terms like a cripple and a host of others became offensive terms because they focused on a person’s deficits rather than the person themselves. 

This makes people only think of their disability, not their intelligence.

Another effect is people thinking less of someone because they are neurodivergent or have a physical disability. This has been happening my whole life. I was looked down upon because I had a limp. It hurts a lot.

I have many examples of adults making fun of or telling me that I was faking, but this one stands out the most. I have an eye condition called exotropia, where I have double vision and need to have things enlarged to see the text better. I have had many problems in the past getting the correct accommodations.

But you might be asking, do your accommodations give you an advantage?

 No, it tries to equal the playing field. Let me give you another example of my eyes being not nice. When I did not use my accommodations, I got in the bottom 9% of the whole state, but I got all advanced with my proper accommodations. Showing my full potential as a student.

Times Square is bright, loud, and in your face, but the misrepresentation through media isn’t as much. 

Before I start this section I want to say that I am not autistic, but I will be speaking about the Music situation and after you read this, I recommend seeing an autistic individual’s view on the movie and the situation itself. 

I watched a video where an autistic creator called the film a “neurotypical heroism film”. 

Sia, a music artist, made a movie about an autistic girl, named Music. She wrote the screenplay and worked with a group called Autism Speaks. They are known to be a “Hate Group” from autistic creators and advocates. They try to “cure” autism. They are known to not have autistic people on their board and only a small percent of their profit goes to charities that help autistic people. 

She also used a neurotypical girl to imitate an autistic individual. I do NOT blame the girl for being a part of this movie. She was a minor and reports are saying she felt uncomfortable playing this character. 

Before you ask Tori, why didn’t they just have an autistic actor play the character? Sia says, in a now-deleted tweet, which was screenshotted, “Special abilities are what I’ve always said, and casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.” 

She says she tried to but the autistic actor was too stressed, so she fired her. 

Sia didn’t say anything about accommodating the individual with autism. This quote made me want to hit a chair. 

One the “Functioning Levels” is an outdated term from the Nazies and two she thought that imitation would be better than accommodation.

The part that personally affected me about this situation was when Sia said in an interview with Variety, “They are not called special needs, they are called special abilities.” Think about that. If that was true I would be a superhero not a student in high school. 

Sia also stated that she spent 3 years researching and didn’t even know the correct terminology. I have known about the fact that I don’t have superpowers since I was around 3. 

She should have hired disabled writers, hired disabled actors to play disabled characters, and hired disabled consultants for authenticity and sensitivity. 

If someone didn’t know that this movie was not fully researched and accurate. They might try to help their autistic kids using methods in the movie. 

There is more than one scene in the movie where the adults restrain Music and encourage restraint. The use of restraining someone is why multiple autistic children and teenagers die. 

In addition, I looked at the parent advisory section of IMDB and it said “Despite this movie being claimed as a “love letter to autistic people” there are multiple musical sequences with flashing lights and bright colors, which could be distressing to some autistic viewers.” 53 out of 71 parents found this severe. Nowhere in the description were there mentions of the harm restraining someone can do.

Now, why am I so mad about the situation?

This is not the only time. The disabled community has been misrepresented a lot over the years.

 Helping the general public continue stereotyping people with disabilities who do not have enough of the ability to do jobs. To represent our people. 

For example, Artie in Glee was misogynistic (in my opinion) and an able-bodied actor playing a disabled person. Glee itself had a whole episode about the glee club finding out what it is like to be in a wheelchair. They had a musical number where all of them used wheelchairs as props. Wheelchairs should never be used as props. 

Artie also helps the stereotyping of disabled people are only white, straight men. 

I started working on this speech to show a light to my life and my options as someone with a disability. 

I am not a white straight man. 

I am white, but I ain’t a man and I ain’t straight. 

I want to make this clear that not every disabled individual has the same opinion on the issues in my speech and that’s ok, but we still need to treat people with respect.



CDC – Disability Impacts All of Us

Youtube Video – Chloe Hayden – An Autistic Reacts to “Music” by Sia

Austictic’s Twitter Thread 

Oxford Dictionary Definition of “Cripple”

Planning Across the Spectrum – Here’s Why You Should STOP Using Functioning Labels (Article)

IMDB – Parent Advisory Page – “Frightening & Intense Scenes”

AWN – Article about Autism Speaks

GLAAD – Media Institute 2018-2019 – Report – Pages 24-29