(This post has been re written. Originally titled “Theres a Bear Out There” it was rewritten to focus the theme of the article on the negative portrayal of people with a disability in Fundraising. It was felt that the original article detracted from the essence of this message. Ed)
I found myself staring at a bear. He had been posted on Facebook. He was a kind of sorry looking bear. He had no eyes and no ears and he had stubby little legs. He looked almost like a double amputee. The bear was sitting sorrowfully on a wooden floor surrounded by wooden blocks and wooden toys. He is a bright yellow bear. He stands out from the toys that are reds, blues and greens. He looks so lonely and so sad. In the background on a blue wall were the words, “WE NEED YOUR HELP.”
On the toy blocks that surrounded the bear is the name of one of Australia’s most respected educational institutions, The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children. To my horror I realized that this sorrowful and pathetic looking bear was part of a fundraising campaign for the institute which supports young people who are deaf, blind or deafblind. This eyeless and earless stuffed creature was representing young people who could not hear or could not see or who had a dual disability and were deafblind.
I was furious. This bear is one of the most offensive things that I have ever seen that has been associated with people who have disabilities. I wanted to reach out and destroy this bear so that it was never seen again. I wanted to find every picture of this bear and throw it on an almighty bonfire and burn it into oblivion. I wanted to find every picture of this bear that exists on Facebook and zap it into cyberspace with the delete button.
In my time I have seen some pathetic depictions of people with a disability. I saw the very awful Cora Barclay advertisement of a young lad signing slowly and painfully and then in an all most sing-song voice breaking into speech and saying, “NOW THERE IS A BETTER WAY” I have seen the organization I worked for endorse a poster that had pictures of finger spelling saying – HOW TO SAY I LOVE YOU – and then directly below this having the picture of two hands pulling dollar notes from a wallet. I’ve read the insulting views of Dimity Dornan who, knowing full well she was insulting many deaf people all over Australia, called deafness the “scourge of the world” – Oh yes I’ve seen it bad but this bear is far worse than all of these examples..
What this eyeless and earless bear suggests is that to be either deaf or blind is to be less than whole. You immediately look at the bear and you tell yourself something is missing. It is meant to evoke pity. It is designed to make the viewer feel that to be either deaf or blind is soulless, tragic and pathetic. BUT there is hope, and you can provide this hope by donating money so that the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children can save these children.
I have just come from the National DisabilityCare conference in Melbourne. At this conference I have had the enormous privilege of mixing with some of the finest people with disabilities in Australia. These people have intellect, great passion, untold skills and are living life to the full. I came away from this conference on the most enormous high.
You see, people with a disability all over Australia are living the most brilliant lives. They are contributing to this great nation and making it a better place. Not because they are poor, sad and tragic people, like that bloody bear, but because they are skilled driven and motivated people contributing to every aspect of life in Australia.
This BEAR depicts people with a disability as poor and useless creatures that can only be saved WITH HELP. Well, I am sorry, you can screw your help because people with a disability are done being portrayed as victims, hopeless and needing to be saved.
My friend Bill, on seeing this pathetic excuse of a fundraiser, had this to say.
“Talk about perpetuating stereotypes. In this day and age this sort of advertising has no place. The board of the Royal Institute for the Deaf and Blind Children should all be forced to resign over this. “
We all know that they will not resign. At the very least they should pull these advertisements down immediately – This bear is doing untold damage to the image of people who are deaf, blind, deafblind and all people with a disability!
Just get rid of it NOW – PLEASE!