For those who may not know, today is Disability Awareness Day. All I can ever hope to do with this blog and with using my voice is to raise awareness about mobility impairment and muscular dystrophy. If I’ve done that with at least one person, then I’ve succeeded.
I have very few “rules “for myself when it comes to posting on social media other than trying to remain positive/funny. One that I do have though is never to tweet/post about the Kardashians. They take up way too much of the pop culture tapestry as it is with absolutely no merit for it (I’m not including Caitlyn Jenner in that as I think she’s doing a lot to help a community that hasn’t had the voice they deserve for decades). I don’t even want to say anything negative to give them more promotion.
However, recently an Interview Magazine article and photo shoot came out featuring Kylie Jenner. I’m not going to post the photo here. If you’d like to see it for yourself, I suggest Googling it. The cover photo displays her in a blinged out, gold and black wheelchair. Does Kylie Jenner need a wheelchair? Of course not. Why did they choose to shoot her in one? To cause controversy I’m sure but also because it’s supposed to symbolize the struggles she’s gone through and the limitations she faces as a celebrity or something ridiculous. The reason really isn’t important. The most important thing is that it’s completely and utterly WRONG.
The Mighty did a great piece on it that sums up why talking about this photo is so important. Not only is it cruel and ignorant to post a picture of someone (especially someone as vapid as Kylie Jenner) in a wheelchair who will never understand what it’s like to need one, the “symbolism” as The Mighty article author points out, is completely misguided. A wheelchair isn’t a representation of people’s limitations who need to use one, it’s a tool for empowerment and freedom for them.
Do you know what it’s like to live in a world that largely isn’t set up for you, Kylie? Do you know what it’s like not to be able to get into a building because there isn’t wheelchair access? Do you know what it’s like to get stared at (when you don’t want to be) or have people treat you differently because you’re in a wheelchair? Do you know what it’s like to be stressed into a tizzy every time you travel because of flights, delays and accessibility when you get to your destination? When you go on your fancy trips across the world, I bet the fact that someone else may never be able to travel there or do the things you do doesn’t even cross your mind.
I’m obviously still incredibly maddened by this photo even though I myself am not in a wheelchair. Many of my peers and friends are; many people in general are. This blog shouldn’t have even need to be written because the picture shouldn’t have even been taken. Even worse, the fact that it would occur to someone that this isn’t right but then they choose to publish it anyway because they know it’ll generate press is disgusting. I think Interview and Kylie knew exactly what they were doing.
We live in a society that still has so much progress to make when it comes to understanding people with disabilities and what it’s like to live with one. I am glad that I happened upon this photo on Disability Awareness Day though because I don’t think there could be a better example of why awareness is so important. The fact that there are people out there who would even come up with this as an idea for a photo shoot shows how much insensitivity there still is out there about this, and a serious lack of understanding still to boot. And I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of being considered a) an outlier of society, b) a second class citizen, and c) misunderstood by the whole of society all of which are evidenced by this photo.
I doubt we’ll ever get an apology from either of them and even if we did, it wouldn’t be genuine. This is exactly why we need days like Disability Awareness Day though and why it’s so important for all of us to share our stories. The more people know, the more they can understand and the more people understand, the more we will get the acceptance we deserve in mainstream society and the more our rights as human beings will be recognized.