Out of the 7 billion or so people living in the world, around 1 billion (15 percent) have a disability. The word “disability” is often associated with a negative connotation. Society treats people with disabilities in two different ways. They either rule them out as incapable of living a normal life and pity them for it. Or, they poke fun at their differences for own personal pleasure. But why is this? Why not treat these people as what they are? People.
A lot of it has to do with the way media portrays people with disabilities, specifically in the world of children’s entertainment. The popular film production company, Walt Disney Studios, has contributed to many of these negative stereotypes whether intentional or not. Unfortunately, children do not realize that they are categorizing people with disabilities because of the ways Disney incorporates Disney characters into their films.
For a more detailed look at specific Disney films, please watch this informational video.
With these inaccurate portrayals, more and more people are judging those with disabilities. The main idea more people need to understand is that all disabilities are different and should not generalize such peoples into one category. In 2005 NPR journalist Janeal Lee released a podcast addressing specific stereotypes towards the disabled community that exist today.
Unfortunately, Disney’s films do not recognize these issues. Instead, they use characters for entertainment value. In recent years, however, more and more people with disabilities have spoken out about these offensive manipulations.
Just a few weeks ago, contemporary artist and activist Alexsandro Palombo released multiple drawings he had created, depicting the coveted Disney princesses, with disabilities.Palombo’s artwork is not only creative and beautifully made, it also serves to make a powerful statement. Why aren’t there any Disney princesses with disabilities?
The release of this artwork has been recognized by families with disabled children, all around the world. In a recent article published in the Washington Post titled, “Disney’s Next Movie Should Have a Disabled Princess”, author Kesten Ott-Daul expresses her concerns with Disney’s issues in addressing disability. Ott-Daul is a mother of two girls, one of which is born with Down’s syndrome. In her article Ott-Daul gives perspective on how children view Disney films, specifically her oldest daughter who does not have Down’s Syndrome. After watching Disney’s latest release Frozen, Ott-Daul’s daughter appeared sad and confused. When asked why, Ott-Daul’s daughter simply replied with “there are no princesses like Delaney.”
It is the unfortunate truth that Disney lacks accurate representation of people with disabilities mainly due to the way society treats people with such differences. But are people with disabilities really that much different than us? We are all humans living on the same planet and surviving on the same basic needs. Yes, people with physical disabilities may appear physically different, and people with mental disabilities may have their own challenges, but why should these people be treated any differently?
Without proper representation, more people with disabilities will continue to be stereotyped. The worst part is that kids don’t realize that they are even doing it. They just repeat what they see in their everyday lives, and that includes Disney films.