15 March, 2013

mixed feelings

The family I work for went to a protest against the cuts to classes, programs, and teachers at City College of San Francisco. CCSF offers non-credit classes aimed at disabled people which cover all kinds of subjects, from arts and crafts to trying to get a job. Anna goes to CCSF drama classes three days a week and clearly likes getting to see people she knows, listen to music, and participate as much as she can in the acting and dancing. It's a big part of her life and it doesn't even cost anything, so it's horrible to think that this opportunity could be taken away from her and all the other people who benefit from it.

Anna got to be on the news representing the point of view of disabled students, and her mom was interviewed explaining how the cuts would impact her.

I thought it was cool to see people I really like on TV talking about something really important, and Anna has a great sad face. But I also felt frustrated, just like I do about most representations of disabled people in the news. I've been in class with lots of the other developmentally disabled students who were at the protest, and most of them could have answered questions with speech, sign language, or AAC, some of them very fluently. Instead, the reporter chose Anna, who couldn't answer the questions and had to have her mom speak for her.

Of course, Anna is great and I think everyone should pay more attention to the point of view of people who don't use language. But if someone really wanted to put an interview with Anna on TV, they would need to really get to know her and learn about how she communicates. Someone who was willing and able to put in enough time could make a longer video showing Anna's feelings about her classes. But Anna couldn't give an interview in the form of a couple of sentences on the evening news.

When looking for an interview in the form of a couple of sentences, the reporters decided to go past all of the protesters with developmental disabilities (many of whom were older adults and not with family members) who could have directly talked about their experience in exactly that form. They found someone who couldn't talk about her experiences in that form, and was with her parents, and had to have her parents talk about her experience. Surprise surprise.

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