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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Images of Disability -- Whose Making Them And For What Purpose?

In a presentation given by student Dylan Walters, MA Candidate of Critical Disability Studies at York University, he focuses on the images of disability from the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. I have many times announced how happy I am that Adam has a unique tool -- technology -- through which he is now able to communicate, and soon, make friends and accomplish many things. The rise of online communities is known to us all -- some one million YouTube videos are uploaded every day from around the world. The average YouTube user is twenty-six-years-old. As Dylan noted, "in a mere three years, YouTube has become a fixture in politics, business, education and entertainment." CNN debates and politics are a common feature and Amanda Bagg's video In My Language has reached hundreds of thousands of people. A good question, he asks, is if YouTube archives will be available in the future for historical research. Think of viewing them one hundred years from now. If so, we can continue to investigate how YouTube might have shaped our views -- from war to disability.

Below, Dylan showed (one of many -- I've only put one up here on this blog) shameless pro-war ads to inspire interest via the tragic myth of the disabled. Disability in many of the RAWA ads is the object of ridicule and bodies are rendered less valuable. Dylan says "injured soldiers in the media perpetuate the tragic/courageous myth peddled by many charities through media," and he cites a comment on YouTube: "LOL talking shit on YouTube is like competing in the special Olympics...even if you win your still retarded."

He asks "should there be an accountability on YouTube?" And then I questioned the same for blogs that proclaim their hate of autism or autistic people or the "neurodiversity movement," or some bloggers who mis-characterize autistic rights advocates because they don't inspire enough pity for autistic people. Should parents be banned from showing their children stimming in order to show the "worst" of autism (or any aspect of one's Person that should remain private, particularly if permission to publish has not been received) -- of course "stimming" as something terrible is a matter of opinion. Remember, every picture has its frame. Should Autism Speak's video Autism Every Day -- that frames autism as horrible for the purposes of raising millions of dollars -- similarly be banned? I mean, not one autistic person was interviewed and of course the point of view is terribly biased. No one questions that a parent might become depressed, but it is only a small piece of the picture being provided for public consumption. And folks, it has cornered the market.

These are very difficult questions, but ones that need to be asked because it means censorship. Yet, we do censor lots of other racist and hate-inspired material on the Internet. Why not when it comes to disability?

The bottom line here is that the use of people with disabilities for gaining support for war -- or for charities -- explicitly without their consent is a matter of "use." No person should be used for any type of profit, for the whole purpose of BEING is self-determination. Every person has this right.

Below, I have posted the Afghanistan video, then a video by a group OUTSIDE OF THE BOX, who does the same kind of thing that The Autism Acceptance Project promised it would do -- let autistic people do the work and make the films. Next time you see a clip, a report, or a YouTube video, maybe these are the kinds of questions we need to be asking.


Blogger VAB said...

That is a thought provoking post. Our guy is a big YouTuber, with over a hundred thousand views and a hundred subscribers, showing that YouTube can also be a place in which autistic kids can express themselves to their peers without the pressure of real-time time constraints.

You said, "Yet, we do censor lots of other racist and hate-inspired material on the Internet. " I was wondering what you were referring to here. Who does this censoring?

7:17 PM  
Blogger kristina said...

VAB took the words out of my mouth----in light of the controversy about the child against whom the priest filed the restraining order, I've been thinking a lot about how autistic persons are seen. There has been so much emphasis on the size and weight of the child as if these alone make him "dangerous"---I think it is people fearing to see difference among them.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Estee. I hope you are well. Been reading ALL your blogs and wanted to just let you know that I am hoping you are hanging in there and as always I really think highly of all you share.

Love the 2nd video. Being a montage maker. They have a good idea there to help people use their visual talents to create films, ect. The imagination has no limit and great that they are allowing others to share what they have within their creative selfs. For once people are focusing on what others can do instead of what they cant do.



2:51 AM  
Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

VAB -- many agencies do Internet monitoring from Neo Nazi sites and more. Most of the impetus comes from organizations such as the one you see below.

Some other reads:

But the best bet is when organizations like disability rights activists go to governments, change policy so that hate is not okay.

10:28 AM  

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