Misconceptions of Disability
Image: Stella Young with red hair, red lipstick, and red polka dot shoes.
Stella Young (1982-2014) was a multi-hyphenate talent – a comedian, broadcaster, public speaker and passionate disability rights advocate. Her TedTalk is a brilliant takedown of the drastic contradictions around disability in the media – “we've been sold the lie that disability is a Bad Thing, capital B, capital T. It's a bad thing, and to live with a disability makes you exceptional. It's not a bad thing, and it doesn't make you exceptional.” (Young, 2014).
In her work, she used comedy as a tool to challenge and shift misconceptions around disability. As editor and a columnist for ABC’s Ramp Up site, she wrote on a wide range of subjects such as disability arts funding, the Paralympics and the inherent political nature of expressing public joy as a disabled person. She was involved with the Youth Disability Advocacy Service, and established the LiveAccess Project, an initiative that advocates for access to live music venues in Melbourne Australia (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2014).
Developing an Understanding
"No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. Smiling at a television screen isn't going to make closed captions appear for people who are deaf. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshelf and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into braille." (Young, 2014).
"I started calling myself a disabled woman, and a crip. A good 13 years after 17-year-old me started saying crip, it still horrifies people. I do it because it's a word that makes me feel strong and powerful. It's a word other activists have used before me, and I use it to honour them." – Stella Young, writing a letter to her future 80-year-old self (ABCnet, 2014).
Watch her TedTalk below, I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much opens in new window.
“And in the past few years, we've been able to propagate this lie even further via social media. You may have seen images like these.”
“These images - there are lots of them out there - they are what we call inspiration porn. And I use the term porn deliberately because they objectify one group of people for the benefit of another group of people.”
— Stella Young from her TEDx talk about how disabled people are portrayed as 'inspirational.'
“I dance as a political statement, because disabled bodies are inherently political, but I mostly dance for all the same reasons anyone else does; because it heals my spirit and fills me with joy”. This article opens in new window lists 17 things Stella Young wanted you to know about disability.
You Can’t Ask That
You Can’t Ask That is based on an unscripted documentary series from ABC Australia. Each episode asks a group of people with the same disability a variety of awkward, inappropriate, or uncomfortable questions and gives them the opportunity to speak for themselves and share their experiences, resulting in raw and surprising insights (CBC Media Centre, 2019).
The series is produced by Pixcom opens new window, an independent television and multiplatform production company, based in Montreal. You Can’t Ask That is broadcast on the CBC opens new window and on AMI-tv opens new window.
This is the first CBC series to use Integrated Described Video (IDV) opens new window (CBC Media Centre, 2019).