This post was written by current DST student Robin Kellner.
My first semester of Disability Studies kicked off with a professionally related elective called “Writing for Disability Activism.” I always had a love of writing but had never been able to get my ideas on paper. My professor, Chelsea Jones gave me the tools I needed to find my voice, which has open up a world of possibilities. For her course, I wrote a short story from the perspective of a woman who is deafblind called “Undone.” Chelsea encouraged to me to try sending it out for publication.
My editing process was based on Chelsea’s suggestions, and some of my own personal critiques. Reading it out loud helped me pick out words that sounded awkward or in need of improvement. After receiving two rejections from online magazines, I stumbled upon the website for “Cripping” the Comic Con. I was intrigued by the description of the symposium and decided to give it a shot. All types of proposals were considered from anyone who was interested, regardless of ability or job title. I was thrilled to find out that my proposal had been accepted and I was invited to present. Since the conference was about disability representation, my presentation focused on the purpose of the scenes, characters and symbols in my short story.
The 6-hour drive to Syracuse was well worth the mileage. Held by the Disability Cultural Center at Syracuse University, the symposium discussed representations of disability in the media. Behind our name tags were three cards: green, yellow and red. Labeled in black for those who don’t see colour, they represented your level of comfort being approached by someone new. If you did feel overstimulated, the symposium space was equipped with a low-stimulation room for breaks. 13 interpreters ensured accessibility for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. “Inclusion is practice,” are words that are true to Diane Wiener, lifelong activist, professor and director of the Disability Cultural Center at Syracuse University.
The symposium launched with a one-woman show by Naomi Grossman who plays ‘Pepper’ in American Horror Story: Asylum. She then opened up about her experience playing a character who has a disability as a non-disabled actor. From comic books to paintings, short stories to movies – all art forms were welcomed. International motivational speaker Becky Curran worked in casting at CBS and she presented on disability in mainstream media. Curran happens to be a little person she shed a light on the impact of media portrayals of dwarfism; “If someone has seen us in a positive light, I’m treated with respect and if someone sees us in a negative light, they’re likely to approach me with fear.”
“Cripping” the Comic Con was truly an enriching experience. It taught me the importance of viewing media representations of disability with through a critical lens. As stated by Curran,“If someone has never met a person with a disability, most of their initial reactions are based on what they’ve seen on TV or in movies.”
More information about “Cripping” the Comic Con can be found at http://crippingthecon.com/
Curran, Becky. “The Ultimate “Mainstreaming.” Disability and Mainstream Media.” “Cripping” the Comic Con: Take Away the Suit and What Are You? Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. USA. 10 Apr. 2014. Speech.
Wiener, Diane. Director of Disability Cultural Center, Syracuse University. Personal interview. 10 Apr. 2014