Our Stories: Representation in the media

Ruth’s Story

“Normal is only what we see often. So, let’s change what we see!”

Normal is only what we see often. Think about that statement for a moment. We are all influenced by what we see. Scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram this morning, what do you see? Do you see me?

As in me, I mean a young tube fed and catheterised wheelchair user; an intelligent, talented, public speaker; a loving, kind, and stylish woman? I would guess not, but if you did, I suspect it was a fleeting glimpse. And there’s a reason for that. I’m not there!

I’m used to being ignored but, in the media, far too often I’m not just ignored, I’m invisible. There are still too few people with disabilities on screen and that needs to change.

We are all unique individuals – all different in so many ways, and our differences are both visible and invisible. When I talk to schools and community groups, I use the cake analogy. So – I have a round cake and we split it into ten slices – each represents a part of me. One slice is my disability, my illness which is a big part of me. But there are still nine slices left! So, what fills them? Well – my passionate personality; my amazing Assistance Dog, Willow; my love of creativity – writing, blogging and craft; my thick brown hair and blue/grey eyes; my love of sport – especially playing Wheelchair basketball and skiing down a mountain on an adapted mono ski!

We are all made up of different parts but none of us should be defined by just one part – we are so much more than that – and so I will not let my disability define me.

But unfortunately, still today, too many people see only one part of me – the wheelchair or the feeding tube – but not the person or the potential inside. And that’s why greater representation to increase awareness and understanding matters so much. Imagine a girl or boy in a wheelchair or with tubes watching tv at home and seeing someone like them on screen in everyday situations – what a difference that would make. Today such representation is still a big deal, a viral sensation, – but that’s not as it should be.

All of us are individuals – trying to live our lives to the full – with hopes dreams and ambitions. Having a disability doesn’t define us. It’s our normal! But we need help for everyone to see things that way.

Normal is only what we see often. So, let’s change what we see!