This just in … all over this great country of ours, disability is becoming an ever-more-popular topic in mainstream media. The kinds of in-depth, penetrating stories you would normally find in disability studies journals or fine publications like this are popping up in the daily newspaper. This borders on exciting.
No longer are these pieces centered on kids with disabilities who do seemingly incredible things. “He can even speak Russian!” “Who ever heard of a miniature golf champion in a wheelchair?” You will now come across thoughtful, incisive writing on disability in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and even the haughty pages of The New Yorker. Some of the time, the subject matter can surprise you. The Post had a piece recently entitled “Digital Disabilities — Text Neck, Cellphone Elbow — are Painful and Growing.” I’m getting frozen shoulder syndrome just pounding this keyboard all day. It ain’t paralysis, but like the man said, it’s painful.
The NYT leads the current onslaught of litterature d’invalidité. Since August of last year, they have published a weekly essay on disabilities in the opinion section of the Sunday paper. The beauty is that they are all written by people who have disabilities. The Times is merely the vehicle.
Here are two completely different stories to illustrate my point. One showed up in the NYT a few weeks ago and is in the running for all-time favorite. It’s called “Stories About Disability Don’t Have to be Sad,” written by a precocious middle-schooler, Melissa Shang, who has a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. Her point is simple: “My story is not a sad one.” She hates that young people, in particular, see disabled kids as “miserable people to be pitied.” She wrote a book about a disabled kid who loved her life. One professional reader rejected it by saying that the character didn’t suit such a lighthearted story. Where’s the hospital bed? The rejection, the loneliness, the “I’ll show them” winning the 100-yard dash?
Shang hates all that. She