North Lawn Building
July 19, 2013
Speakers: Geri Jewell, actress; Yevgen Borodin, President and CEO Charmtech Labs and Research Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University; Dan Keplinger, painter; Dr. Charles Limb, surgeon, Johns Hopkins Medical Center; Jeffery A. Brez, UN Creative Community Outreach Initiative; Lia Martirosyan, comedian and singer.
Attendees: Marli Kasdan, Alyssa Strasser, Sunny Hor, Janice Wong, Iman Yashruti, Norah L. Crossnohere
Written by Norah L. Crossnohere
Although nearly 15% of the world is disabled, people with disabilities are underrepresented in the art and the entertainment industries. Primetime television suffers from both a lack of roles filled by people with disabilities, as well as a ‘behind the times’ portrayal of disabled peoples. Consequently, the public continues to underestimate the potential influence of disabled peoples in the creative sphere.
Individuals such as Dan Keplinger, who lives with cerebral palsy but works full time as a painter, defy pigeon-holed perceptions that physical disabilities are a hindrance to fine art. Keplinger, who views art as the world’s greatest equalizer between those with and without disabilities, insists that art helps us to look past physical differences, and instead to focus on shared human emotions.
Artists who are able to overcome social barriers associated with their disabilities have the opportunity to shape policy for disabled people. Stevie Wonder, a Messenger for Peace appointed by the Secretary-General, has been especially influential in pressuring policymakers into creating concrete social development programs that are inclusive to those with disabilities.
Increasing the representation of the disabled community in the art and entertainment industries has the potential to normalize and destigmatize physical and mental disabilities. Decreasing such stigma is essential to reducing the pity disabled people receive, and once individuals no longer feel the need to pity disabled people, true progress and inclusiveness of all people can occur.