e d g e - education for disability and gender equity

CULTURE
CONTENTS

1
Introduction
2
Stereotyping
3
Disability in Media
4
Disability & Art
5
Charity Images
6
Telethons
7
News Media
8
Disability Culture
 
9
ACTIVITY
10
RESOURCES
   
6. TELETHONS

Jerry Lewis with MDA 2001 National Goodwill Ambassador Sarah SchwegelSome charity organizations were spectacularly successful in using mass media to raise money for research and services for people with particular disabilities. One example is the annual Jerry Lewis Telethon, sponsored by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). During its fifty-year history, the MDA Telethon has raised over $1 billion.

Many people with disabilities have criticized the Telethon, and similar advertising, for perpetuating negative attitudes about disability. The late Evan Kemp, Jr., an attorney and advocate with a neuromuscular disability, who also served as Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was an outspoken critic of the Telethon.

In a 1981 editorial for the New York Times, Kemp wrote: "The very human desire for cures for these diseases can never justify a television show that reinforces a stigma against disabled people. These prejudices create stereotypes that offend our self-respect, harm our efforts to live independent lives and segregate us from the mainstream of society. The telethon encourages public prejudices...

"When a telethon makes disabling conditions seem overwhelmingly destructive, it intensifies the awkward embarassment that the able-bodied feel around disabled people. By arousing the public's fear of the handicap itself, the telethon makes viewers more afraid of hanicapped people. Playing to pity may raise money, but it also raises walls of fear between the public and us....

"Problems of economic waste, demoralization and segregation can be solved only when disabled people are depicted in the light of our very real accomplishments, capabilities and rights. If it is truly to help, the telethon must show disabled people working, raising families and generally sharing in community life."

(Next - Section 7: News Media)


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