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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Airing Out a Pet Peeve with Oprah

I have little more than a pet peeve to post about, but before a whole week goes by I figured I’d post something. I was a captive audience of Oprah early this week, and from what I could tell by reading the closed-captioning while pedaling on an exercise bike, it was another show on how little girls are given impossible body images to try to duplicate.

It’s a great show to do, and a great message to send out. My problem is that in all the years I’ve seen her show, I’ve never once seen her do anything in the same regard for people with disabilities. This is a woman who has done shows on just about every topic imaginable . . . at least twice. She prides herself on exposing societal ills, championing people without a voice, and so on.

No, I haven’t seen every Oprah show, but I’ve seen more than any guy’s fair share. I’ve watched her tackle racism, adultery, every unheard of disorder you can think of, and . . . well, the list goes on. I have even watched her praise and gush over people with disabilities. Yet, never once have I seen her address real issues of the disability community.

People with disabilities face the same sort of images that are impossible to attain. Media defines the successful person as perfect people running on the beach or letting their hair fly around with the top down in their convertible. Sure some people with disabilities will enjoy such things, just like some little girls will be models.

Unemployment rates among the disabled community are well over 50 percent. The number soars even higher when people who merely milked a minor injury to collect disability checks before returning to work are taken out of the equation. Social isolation runs rampant in the community. Open prejudice against people with disabilities is practically seen as acceptable among most of the population because they are so ignorant they don’t even get what constitutes prejudice toward disabled individuals. It’s another list that goes on and on.

Before her fans think I’m ripping Winfrey, I’m not. It just strikes me now and then how the media ignores people with disabilities. Google the news this morning on “people with disabilities” + “unemployment rates” and you’ll find one – one! – story, which is about elderly people in Europe. Doing the same with “African American” + “unemployment rates” brings up six relevant stories, one of which asked how people will survive when unemployment among blacks hits double digits. A search of just “unemployment rates” brought up over 1,300 stories – the first 3 of which celebrated declining rates.

How many stories would there be if any other minority faced unemployment rates of more than 50 percent?

One more thing: searching “Oprah” provides more than 5,000 results. She’s the one media personality who seems to actually care enough about such issues to bring them to light. Maybe she has on a show or two, but like the rest of the media she hasn’t made it much of a priority. She’s lead the way in so many other ways, I just wish she’d lead the way again.

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