Friday, February 6, 2009

Woman with X

Yesterday I read the story of Sally Ann Heath, who plays basketball and has cerebral palsy, at Media-dis-n-Dat (news story was originally published in the Augusta Chronicle). I was struck by the difference between Sally's statement:

"There's something out there for everybody," Sally Ann said. "Never give up,"
and her coach's:

"A lot of kids see the wheelchair as an obstacle and not an opportunity," she said, but Sally Ann demonstrates an important lesson. "If you put your mind to it, nothing is impossible."
What Sally and her coach say are quite different. Not everything is possible with disability, and people don't tend to see their wheelchairs as obstacles. But Sally's right (go, Sally)--there is something for everyone, and we shouldn't give up.

NOTE: I want to point out this is not BA Haller's article, but just one she has found. Her blog is one of the grooviest on the disability web.

Continually frustrated by stereotypes and disablism and inspired by ADA mad-libs (go read!) at New Mobility, I designed a generic article about an individual with disability. Jane's story is a composite of many I have read in this vein in a variety of mainstream publications and newspapers. Journalists, save yourself time, borrow someone else's cliches:

Woman with ____x________ Has (opposite of x) (e.g., heart transplant/big heart; wheelchair/great strides; blindness/great vision)

For those who know her, Jane proves that living with _________ doesn’t have to mean giving up your dreams. While some people with ___________ might give up on life or become depressed, Jane keeps going, fueled by her passion for__________.

The ____-year old Jane, who has had __________ since she was _________, was told by doctors that she would never __________(again). She has been proving them wrong ever since. Her spirit of (heavy metal—circle steel, gold, iron) is indomitable as she battles/fights/wages war with __________. (Summary of medical history here)_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“She really inspires me,” says __________. “She shows us every day that anything you want to do, you can do. You just have to really try.” Jane, who has not been able to _________ since ________, says that her hard work toward __________ has paid off.

(Cute childhood anecdote)____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jane indeed proves that you can do _____________ despite being (disablist phrase). "She never complains," says _________. Working ____ hours a day, disability is never an excuse for Jane. "She definitely doesn’t carry a chip on her shoulder because of it. She seems just like everyone else, only ________," ________ said.

Jane, who expresses the desire to open a support group for people with _________, says she experiences the same joys, triumphs, and griefs, as everyone else who _____________. When ___________, one of her friends, __________, she jumped in to help.

Jane is truly one of those triumphant spirits who has overcome her disability, demonstrating to others with _________ the power of a positive mindset. “I’ll never be able to ________,” says Jane, “but I can ___________.”

I suggest sending a copy of "Woman with X" to journalists who write with such formulas.


Penny L. Richards said...

Oh yeah! Excellent. And with a few tweaks, it could also be used for the standard "Heroic/Wise/Longsuffering Parent of a Kid with X" story, too.

FridaWrites said...

Thank you, Penny! We should have several genres of these.

yanub said...

I love your fill-in-the-blanks article! It perfectly encapsulates the able-ism of mainstream journalism.

FridaWrites said...

I can't claim originality for the idea, but it was fun to write/poke at the stereotypes.

Gonzo said...

This made me laugh so much!!
Stories about autistics and their achievements are written in an equally patronizing way.

I have a slight nag, though.
Nothing to do with your writing, it's just the lettering is so tiny, I find it really hard to read!

FridaWrites said...

Uh, oh, it comes across as too big even on my tiny computer screen. I'll check it out on some other computers.

You can change font size by hitting control and scrolling the scroll on your mouse, if you have one, to make it immediately bigger, or go under options and do so--click on "text size" and larger. For accessibility, I don't want my default to be small and will check into this. Thanks for the heads up!

I've been looking into other templates.