I spend a lot of time thinking. It’s one of the hazards of being an author. Sometimes my thoughts lead to a new story idea or solve a problem, but sometimes they show me a problem I hadn’t previously noticed or paid attention to.
Today is one of those days where my deep thoughts refuse to be ignored, so I thought I’d share them with you. 🙂
The Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, started yesterday with the opening ceremony. During the Olympic Games a few weeks ago, I got excited because there was talk of greater coverage for the Paralympics. I’ve spent the last few weeks waiting with great anticipation for the start of the games because I was under the impression they would be widely viewable on television. Yesterday, I found out just how wrong I was.
NBC hold the broadcast rights for the Paralympics. That means they’re the only ones who can legally show the events in the United States. Normally this wouldn’t be much of an issue, but for those of us without cable, that means only one channel will be able to air the Paralympic events. After seeing the schedule, I am seriously disappointed with NBC. That one channel I get will show precisely two events on the last day of the Games. They say that they’re giving the Paralympics 70 hours of coverage. That’s seventy hours in a twelve-day period. After the almost constant coverage for the Olympic Games, a measly seventy hours (almost exclusively on one premium channel) is disgusting.
My local news has yet to mention the Paralympic Games. I totally expected to see a brief mention of the opening ceremony on last night’s newscast, but the closest they came was mentioning the punishment swimmer Ryan Lochte received for lying about getting robbed at gunpoint in Rio.
And this is where my deep thoughts begin.
The disabled population is largely ignored in the United States, unless they can be used to raise money for something. Do you know that the most disabled people I’ve seen on television are in commercials for various organizations trying to get donations? And most of those are for veterans. There are a lot more disabled people who never served in the military, and all people with disabilities, regardless of what caused the disability, deserve treatment equal to the able-bodied population.
Yet, the lack of attention for the Paralympic Games is indicative of how American society views the disabled population. There are world-class athletes competing in the same venues swarmed with media mere weeks ago who are being completely ignored. The only difference I see is that a few weeks ago the athletes were all able-bodied. This time, each athlete has a disability of some form. They trained and worked just as hard (if not harder) to get to Rio as their able-bodied counterparts, but from a media standpoint, they might as well not exist.
Take a look at television and movies. How many people with disabilities do you see? People talk a lot about the need for diversity in media, yet even a majority of those discussions revolve around skin color and sexual orientation. What about those with disabilities? Are they not part of society as much as anyone else?
If we truly want equality for all and to see true diversity, we need to stop ignoring people with disabilities. We need to stop hiding them in the shadows and treating them as second-class citizens. Nothing would make me happier than to see a person in a wheelchair or on crutches play a lead role in a TV series. Or to have a blind person or someone who is hearing impaired be the protagonist of a movie. Or just to have athletes with disabilities receive the attention they deserve for making it to the Paralympics.
This country has a lot of problems, and as long as we continue to pretend an entire segment doesn’t matter, the claims of equality will fall flat.
If you’re in the United States and you want to view live streaming of Paralympic events, you can do so at TeamUSA.org.
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