Keep it Simple Stupid

Breaking the stereotype of disability.

The media loves a good stereotype. It keeps things easy when they need to simplify complex ideas. A stereotype means there are pre conceived ideas that need no explanation and really the storytelling is done with just one image.

In our time poor world, stereotypes allow journalists to reach deadlines quickly, cut copy and keep it simple. Of course the other side of the stereotype is it is often wrong, poorly conceived and fictitious.

So what happens when you are perceived as a stereotype and you want to break out of it?

I have just come to the end of a 3-year documentary project where we followed a group of men with varying disabilities who create a theatre show about their mothers. The show was a great success and the documentary is testament to that. When we set out to make the film we had one ambition in mind, to not portray these men as disabled, but purely as men.

In a country ranked 21 out of 29 of OECD countries for its treatment of people with a disability I know we have created a tall order. Australians are not only uncomfortable with disability; they’re not used to seeing it on our big screens.

When Packed to the Rafters cast a disabled brother to one of their main characters, they chose an able bodied actor to play the role. For whatever reasons the producers chose to do this, what they did do was tell their viewers that a person with a disability was incapable of being on mainstream TV.

And after watching a recent Insight on gene screening to eliminate disability it is clear it is not just a problem with our media but our society. By seeing disability as a burden or difference we keep perpetuating the stereotype.

The only way we can overcome the stereotype of disability is by seeing beyond any inabilities, accepting them as part of our society. But most of all for their humanity.

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