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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Speaker criticizes images of disability

“Attitudes are the real disability,” was the focus of a presentation given by Henry Holden yesterday on the effects the media have on perceptions of people with disabilities.

“When I was four years old, I was fortunate enough to contract polio,” he said. “I say that because it has not stopped my quality of living.”

However, he said the media often portrays disabled people as not having the same quality of life as someone who is able.

Holden, who is a professional actor, comedian and activist, showed through a slide show various photos and articles from newspapers that have depicted people with a disability to be “sad,” “small,” or “sick.”

“One image showed a girl slumped in a wheelchair that was too big for her and she was frowning. Another image showed an article titled, “Handicapped Kids are People Too.”

?If it had said black kids are people too or Jewish kids are people too, people would have taken offense to that,” Holden said.

Rather than these types of images, Holden said people with disabilities should be shown as active members of everyday society.

“That’s what we need to see more of; people with disabilities part of the everyday American scene,” he said.

“Because the media has portrayed those with disabilities in a sometimes negative light, Holden said many people feel disabled people cannot do certain things.

“Many times people look at someone with a disability and think we’re sick or about to die,” he said.

“olden said he performed in numerous plays in high school, but one year, even before auditions, he was told he would be the assistant director because he went in on crutches. Later in life, he was turned down for a teaching job because he had polio.

“People with disabilities want to be included in society, but you can’t be included if you?re not given the opportunity,” he said.

“lthough Holden felt the media more often than not portrays disabled people as weak individuals and does not include them enough in everyday photos or stories, he said the media does have the potential to “get it right.”

“They’ve done in it in the past,” he said.” A lot of times the media thinks if we have a character with a disability we have to focus on that. They should just include these people in everyday life.”

“olden said the print media is not alone. David Hall, who uses crutches, is the only actor with a disability on weekly prime time television.

“I want it to get to the point where people watch television and if they don’t see someone with a disability they think it’s not a true picture,” he said.

About 25 students attended Holden’s presentation.

“It was an issue for a lot of people, whether they have a disability or not, because he expressed that attitudes are the real disability,” said senior Corey Fountain.

Holden said he has an important role in teaching people about disabilities, which is why he gives the presentation at numerous colleges.

“The media has a disproportionate amount of influence in our lives,” he said. “A lot of people don’t see people like myself who are active. If you don’t see us, we don’t exist.”

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