Catch 22 with Authentic Voices

I work so hard at selling Hollywood the authentic voices of those with
a disability.
My authentic voice of those with a disability and then in the
future other’s can provide their authentic voice of those with a disability through
Abilities United Productions. The crazy part is that the disabled community is
the most diverse – it includes those who belong to all other minorities and
whether a person is born with or acquired a disability the one thing that is a
constant is that the disability affects those of all backgrounds and does not
discriminate – it afflicts those from all races, nationalities, economic class,
gender, lifestyle, age, no one is immune.

 

Forget about the voice for a moment and just concentrate on
the authentic. Being a person with a disability is extremely difficult and
nobody except those with a disability can understand all that it includes. The
problem I have is with the contradiction I face everyday of my life. I try so
hard for everyone else to see me, treat me, love me, hate me, desire me, think
of me as no different then the man standing
next to me. Treat me the same but I am not the same and in no way can expect to
be the same. In this effort I guess what I am really trying to do is have you
treat me as fairly as you would the person standing
next to me. What I want is for you to look at my eyes, my heart, my soul
without the judgments and stereotypes, the pity, the fear of saying the wrong
thing, the book cover, the pre-conceived notions of those with a disability.

 

But how do I get you to look beyond all of that when it
seems my mere appearance cannot help but have those challenges on the front of
your mind? I feel I can only do that if I hide the pain, the challenges that
are physical, emotional, social, economical, because I fear if I show just a
moment of any of that then it will take away from all of my efforts of being
seen as a man first, a person, a human being treated as equal to the man standing next to me. And this is a
challenge that has to be added to those I am already facing day in and day out.

 

I just watched “Talk to Me” with Don Cheadle who is a great
actor and the film was a great story and it reminded me of a thought I have
from time to time and especially when I liken my work of breaking the
stereotypes and ending the discrimination in Hollywood of those with a disability
– to the stereotypes and discrimination of black characters and actors and
people before the time of the great actor Sidney Poitier and the filmmakers
around him in the 1960’s. Interesting part that struck me was the fact that
those of us in the disabled community do not have a spokesperson, someone to
stand up for us on a national stage like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcom
X. Maybe it is because we are so diverse and those with different disabilities
are almost like those of a different race. But when we come together we have an
unspoken connection and can still relate to one another through the common
challenges that at the very least the same in societies’ opinions and treatment
toward us all with a disability.

 

As far as culture that we as a community have and is often
ignored thanks in part because of the Hollywood
stereotypes and incredible discrimination of those with a disability – there is
a voice and in some cases a language that only those within the community can
understand. “That wheeler is twelve years post banged T-7,8 complete! Bagged or
intermitted. Reflex, voluntary, manual, digital, managed, powered.”    

 

We do have a voice and my conflict of contradictions between
the life I lead and the face I present to the world so I am hopefully treated
the same as the man standing next to me is part of that voice! Both are crucial
elements of my life – so writing stories that do not have much to do with the
disability and ones where it is more prevalent as to the character and what he
or she is dealing with are both a part of the authentic voice. I never ignore
the disability in my screenplays and stories but I also do not focus on it –
and I try to show those characters in ways the general public is not familiar
with and then go – WOW! Similar to the audiences’ reactions to the documentary
film “Murderball” about the quad rugby team preparing and going to the
Paralympics and won the Sundance Audience Award! My screenplay, “London Time”
provides moments, certain scenes including the opening scene that changes that
perception, stereotype even when the majority of the story you forget that
Detective London is even in a chair!

 

Other stories it is more prevalent like the three vignettes
about wheelers dealing with love, sex and relationships. Or the “Up, Up and
Away” about the pilot wheeler who crashes in the Rockies on his solo flight to
his writing retreat and it shows the old castaway story in a new light from a
new perspective, well new to the general able bodied audiences and I hope, I
certainly feel it is entertaining!

 

Maybe in some way I will make this challenge of
contradictions more of the make up in one of my characters but in the meantime
I am satisfied that all are authentic voices of those with a disability! The
more that can be shown the better the representation – but first we have to
convince Hollywood that even one of these stories is an authentic voice and
that they better help us portray it on the big screen before a media force
begins focusing on the FACTS of their blatant discrimination and awful stereotypes
of those with a disability on both sides of the camera continues regardless of how one of it’s own guilds – SAG pointed out these facts over 2 years ago and still nothing has been done!

 

Wake up Hollywood – I do not want to focus on the problem
but rather feature the solutions and I have detailed them out in every respect
– and speaking of respect – how is the lyric go from the queen of soul, Aretha
Franklin? “R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means to me!” You better realize
what it means to all of us – all 54+ MILLION AMERICANS with a disability!

 

This is Fair Warning, Hollywood,
otherwise a writers strike is nothing compared to the way of public relations
trouble this will bring! So do you want to talk to me about the problems or the
solutions?
Either way you will be talking about it soon! If we take this to the media to talk about the problems, I already have a list of people and companies who have ignored me and I will not have much of a problem talking about the exact treatment and replies or non-replies I have gotten so far! And if you think you can call on ignorance as an excuse – think again – think again!

I am going to be
“Breaking the Hollywood Stereotypes of Characters and People with a Disability”
and it is your choice to cooperate and be known for helping end the
discrimination and stereotypes or for continuing to repress and ignore those
with a disability. Again, I am going to make it happen, how it happens is your
choice!

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