Our lives became a little [EXTRA] special on February 15, 2011 in a way we never expected.

This is about our journey and the [EXTRA]ordinary people we meet along the way.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The [EXTRA]ordinary Face of Disability

I'm just going to put it out there:

Is it just me or does it seem like individuals with Down syndrome are the face of disibility?

Everywhere I turn, I notice that when disibility is portrayed in the media, they often use an individual with Down syndrome. I open up my mailbox, and bam! There is a boy in the Target ad with Down syndrome.

There have been a number of stories in the news regarding this topic and people are paying attention. Is this an [EXTRA]ordinary phenomenon or just good marketing? Should the use of photos of children with a disability in marketing be a big deal? Well I guess it was a big enough deal for me to write a post about!

I do see lots of individuals with Down syndrome in the media. But sometimes I question my obviously skewed perspective. Yes, I admit, I have a skewed perspective. Let me explain...

You know when you buy a new car, and all of a sudden you see that car everywhere? Or if you put your house up for sale, suddenly it seemes like every house on the block has a sign in front of it? Its because suddenly, these things become personally related to you and you notice them more. This is how I think my perspective is skewed.

Hence, I revert back to my first question: Is it just me?

I'll answer my own question: I think it is and it isn't. I think I'm noticing it more because of Wyatt, but I also think the frequency of media using individuals with a disability in the media is rising.

Look at the following examples of recent advertisements or news article samples featuring individuals with Down syndrome.

This little cutie is "the face" of DC Kids Swimwear for the 2012-2013 season campaign

This princess was in the news for her modeling prowess

Everyone knows the handsome boy from the Target ads

Toys-R-Us has featured a kid with an extra chromosome more than once

And don't forget The Pampers Commercial!

The use of kids with Ds in the media is out there, so maybe it's not just me. I think I notice it more, but I also think that Down syndrome, in a way is often used as the face of disability. The first reason for this I can think of is that the facial characteristics of an individual with Down syndrome is nearly universally recognized. Yes, our children look like us (anybody who knows Wyatt can attest to the fact that he looks more like me and Josh than he looks like any random kid with Ds). But there is also the fact that they do have some overwhelmingly common and identifiable facial features. So, because of this, it may be poingant for an advertiser to use a person with Ds because it is a more commonly physically identifiable disability.

The other reason I think advertisers use our kiddos is to represent happiness. This is a good and bad thing, I think. We parents of children with an extra 21st already struggle fighting the generalization that all our kids are happy all the time. This fact is simply not true. I'm not saying that they are not happy, I'm just saying they may not be all the time happy. I mean, you might be happy with you're life, but are you happy all the time? I think not. It is (and let me reiterate thie ) THE SAME with kids with Ds.

Don't believe me? Come to my house. I'll show you Wyatt's alternative superhero personality: captain fussypants face.

Finally, I think that our kiddos are used in media because we advocates are doing our job, and the people who came before us really have done their job. We try to advocate so much for our kids. We want to have them live as 'typical' of a life that they can. People before me have paved the way so that we can see a kiddo in a Target ad who has a disability and it be cool. The disabled population has a place in our society and countless advocates have created that spot. And the overall population is seeing the beauty of our kiddos through the [EXTRA]ordinary faces of those with Down syndrome. Just as people of different races should have been and still be represented in the media, so should individuals with disability. Afterall, they are an amazing part of our community.

Did you know that the Census 2010 reported approximately 56.7 million people (or 18.7 percent) of the civilian noninstitutionalized Population in the United States (about 304 million), had a disability? (according to www.census.gov)

To put that statistic in perspective, let's look at the percentage of people who are Black/African American either alone or in combination with another race, in the US: 

The 2010 Census showed that out of the total population, 38.9 million people (or 13 percent), identified as Black alone. In addition, 3.1 million people, or 1 percent, reported Black in combination with one or more other races. Together, these two groups totaled 42.0 million people. Thus, approximately 14 percent of all people in the United States identified as Black, either alone, or in combination with one or more other races. (Also from www.census.gov).

That means that there are 4% more people reported with a disability than there are people who are black/multi-racial in the US.

I'll be honest, that one kinda blew me away.

So why shouldn't we see people with disability in the media? And I'm not talking about just seeing our kids, brothers, sons or cousins in a pamphlet for toys for "specially abled kids" or in a medical equipment ad in their wheelchair. We should see them in more frequently because they are as much a part of our rich culture and history as anyone else. Personally, I'm glad I'm feeling like we are seeing our kids and adults with Ds more and more! Because I think it is a beautiful honor to be such an [EXTRA]ordinary face for persons with a disability.

So Macy's or Target, McDonald's or Subway, if you call to book Wyatt for your next major ad campiagn, I'll pick up the phone. Because who wouldn't want to see this kid when they open up the mail?

And just to add, you can use Eden, too cause she is equally gorgeous : )

Just sayin'