Monday, June 30, 2008

De-politicizing an important accessibility story?

The Associated Press wrote a story June 29 about the court ruling that blind and visually impaired Americans deserve accessible money. But instead of focusing on the disability rights efforts and political issues surrounding this significant accessibility issue, The AP story turned it into a profile of American Council of the Blind attorney Jeffrey Lovitky and his deceased love Sandy Welner, who was visually impaired.

The story says: "For the lawsuit filed on behalf of the American Council of the Blind was never just about discrimination or changing the currency so the blind can distinguish a $1 bill from a $20. It was about a brilliant, gifted woman who changed so many perceptions and overcame so many obstacles that those who knew her never doubted her ability to continue inspiring enormous change, even from the grave."

Disability studies scholar Cathy Kudlick, who is visually impaired, alerted me to the article and says it is an example of "the way disability activism is de-politicized in the media."

I agree. The media need to be careful when they write in-depth profiles of one or two people for stories on important disability rights topics because they can be accidentally discounting the hundreds or even thousands of disability rights advocates who work for years to make these changes happen in American society. These types of profile stories also discount the real significance of the accessible money story -- that America is making one more positive step toward equal access by all people to society.