A Plea For Showing Disability in Art

“In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

Maya Angelou

This piece first appeared on my author website on 12 November 2020. Reposted here with slight amendments.

I never saw myself reflected on tv or in books. A chubby small town girl who liked to read didn’t really get much airtime on tv.

Still doesn’t.

Not to mention one with chronic illness.

As more minorities speak up and rightfully demand their stories be told, I try to speak out for people with disabilities and chronic illness.

It might be difficult to tell a compelling story of characters who spend much of their time in their homes, yet their stories must still be told. Because we deserve to be seen and others deserve to see us. Because being seen helps validate our existence. Because others seeing people like us helps their understanding of us. Because our story being told can help form policies. Because our stories being told can help another going through same type of story feel less alone.

Telling stories from all kinds of perspectives and about all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds enriches the human experience, not just for people part of those groups, but also – or even more so – for those who have no experience with such an existence.

Empathy and compassion are what makes us human. To reach empathy and to be compassionate means to understand that other people live under different circumstances than you. Having their stories told helps with that.

Encountering people with illness in popular culture helps people not stare at you walking differently to them or holding a cup of water to your mouth differently. It will help people not judge you when you have to take the one empty seat on a train because you cannot stand for long despite being young. It will help politicians understand that even though you are ill you want to be part of society just as much as anybody else.

It is vital to have those stories told – or written – by the people who live the experience. As long as there is no level playing field in the arts, this needs to be the way to do achieve it. Plus, those living it bring insight into the story abled people could never bring to the table.

And so I will continue to push for the stories of those disabled and ill to be told. I push for people with illness and disability to play their part in telling those stories. So that hopefully one day we can look back and realise that we no longer tell the story of illness, but the story of human beings, who coincidentally are also ill.

Until that day comes I will continue to fight for the position of people with chronic illness and disability, and other minorities, in life itself, but also in art and in popular culture.

Are you part of a minority and if so have you ever felt fully represented in popular culture?

x Sandra

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