UIC program focuses on disability studies

April 14, 2013 7:28:53 AM PDT
Pop culture has a lot of influence on the way people think, including stereotypes about people with disabilities.

Experts in the field of disability studies have identified elements that contribute to stereotyping of people with disabilities.

"Where do people get this assumption that's it's so beautiful? That you're out in public, that you got up this morning. It's so amazing they get this from the popular culture narrative," said Alyson Patsavas, a PhD student in disability studies at University of Illinois at Chicago.

"You have people that don't experience disabilities, that don't have disabilities, writing stories based on what they imagine life with a disability would be like," she said.

Alyson also says often times, people with disabilities are not involved in the storytelling or acting process when it comes situations in television and film.

"You get repeated narratives that often bear little resemblance to how disabled people experience their lives," Alyson said.

"One thing that we've heard from our friends in Hollywood who have disabilities who are trying to break in is that there's a huge stigma; once you've identified as an actor with a disability, you get put into certain casting pools," said Carrie Sandahl, a professor and director of the graduate program.

"The Screen Actors guild commissioned a study that shows only one-half of 1 percent of words spoken on television are by people with disabilities," Sandahl said.

However, the professor feels people with disabilities are starting to take control.

"When we see representations in the media that we feel represent more closely out lived experience?or are interesting to us, we let the media know," said Sandahl.

"You have a lot of blog creativity. You have websites. You see people with disabilities kind of taking the media that they can control, and there's really a ton of stuff out there that is, I think, showing a readiness for us to enter more forcefully pop culture," said Sandahl.

To learn more about the disability studies program at UIC go to http://www.uic.edu/gcat/AHDIS.shtml.


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