Having disabilities are gifts that impact us socially, emotionally, physiologically, and psychologically. What’s important to know is people aren’t spiritually disabled. Stephen Hawking (1942–2018), an English theoretical physicist explained, “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things that your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.” Hawkins’ comments ought to be taken seriously by the disabled and those concerned with their welfare.
In Jewish laws lepers were considered unclean. They lived in segregated communities and were seen as outcasts. Jesus broke this stereotype when he socialized with them. His relationship with them angered the religious leaders of his day. And he healed people with these maladies.
Paul, one of the leading apostles grappled with his own affliction. He was truly grieved by a thorn in his flesh, and was never relieved of this suffering, although he prayed for relief. He learned that God’s grace was enough for him to bear such an affliction. This only goes to show how we must view affliction when it befalls us. Christian theologians know about the redemptive nature of suffering. Believers walking in the light should offer up their suffering to God.
Images of the Disabled
In some films and on TV we often see emotionally and the physically disabled portrayed negatively. Scenes show them involved in criminal activities, sexual abuse, violence, theft, and murders. We view depictions of those with deformities portrayed as freaks. However socially responsible programs dealing with these issues show caregivers, mental health workers, drugs and alcohol addiction specialists handling these problems wisely. At times the disabled are often referred to as victims although they don’t necessarily see themselves this way.
Eva Mendes (b. 1974), an actress and singer said, “People are incapable of stereotyping you; you stereotype yourself because you’re the one who accepts roles that put you in the rut of this stereotype.” Mendes was referring to her acting roles. But what about the disabled who have no say about the negative images presented about them in the media? It’s hoped that producers and directors become more sensitive to their plight.
Understanding the Disabled
From time to time there’s a ray of hope concerning the welfare of disabled people. Telethons take the lead in raising money for their causes. Some public-service programs focus on finding cures for diseases, e.g., cancer, HIV-AIDS, Parkinson’s, and sickle cell anemia. Edmund Burke (1729–1797), an Anglo-Irish statesman and political theorist wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Burke was referring to the situations where some professionals take the low road in exploiting the disabled, rather than building them up. Mass media has a social responsibility to its audience, and ought to reach out to every segment of the population. Their programming should provide healing for the afflicted.