By ANTHONY THANASAYAN
Do TV shows represent how the disabled wish to be protrayed?
I WAS delighted to read the recent comments by Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim. He called on television and radio stations to provide fair coverage of the various communities in Malaysia.
The minister, referring to on-air shows such as sitcoms, serials and local films, urged those who produce them to ensure that they reflect the culture and aspirations of Malaysians.
I couldn’t agree more with the minister. Although Dr Rais did not specifically mention it, I have no doubt that he would feel the same for broadcast shows that depict the marginalised communities, namely the disabled. Do shows on the handicapped truly represent how they wish to be portrayed? Not too long ago, I caught a local show where “a tragedy” occurred in a family.
A couple rushed to a hospital when they heard that their son was involved in a car crash.
After hours of waiting at the surgery and fearing the worst, the couple met the grim-faced surgeon when he finally emerged from the operation theatre. The distraught parents looked at the doctor who shook his head and said: “I’m sorry. Although your son has survived, he will be paralysed for the rest of his life.”
The parents hugged each other and wept, as if to show that it would have been better for their child if he had not survived at all than to spend the rest of his life as a handicapped person.
Such a portrayal of the disabled by the media is not at all helpful nor is it accurate about the disabled community in Malaysia.
When someone becomes crippled, the most important thing is to give them hope and show them that life is worth living – because it really is.
What is tragic is not that one becomes disabled but rather that we still live in a society that has way to go before becoming fully inclusive of all types of persons. Inclusivity means building ramps for wheelchairs and guiding blocks for the blind, and providing special education for the learning disabled and electronic signboards for the Deaf.
Many of us (especially the non-disabled) place too much emphasis on one’s ability to walk, see, hear or think in a certain way. By doing this, we end up marginalising others that do not fit into the picture.
I happen to know quite a few non-disabled people with all of the so-called “positive abilities”. And yet, they are not content with their lives. Some are depressed, others even suicidal. I am happy that my job as a Petaling Jaya City Councillor (MBPJ) is paying off.
We in MBPJ are doing a lot of things to make a difference to the disabled, for example, by providing user-friendly facilities like wheelchair accessible rest-rooms, car parks, pavements and buildings – new and old – and even some form of public transportation.
All these features offer hope and help to the disabled.
I had quite a shock last week. A private TV station that had wanted to do a story on my life suddenly gave up on me. They turned me down because they wanted me to cry on television. The editor apparently thought a good sob was the best way for someone in a wheelchair to get sympathy from the public.
I simply refused to shed a tear in front of the camera. As a result, I lost a chance to go on national TV. But I managed to keep my dignity, and that to me is more important.