Sally Champion continues her weekly blog about the process of setting up a part-time business as a writer. She had polio as a child and after years of working nine to five, she is now having to think differently about how to earn her living. Sally invites your comment and advice.
Episode 13 “Visibility is good”
Last week, in my post, I talked to Philip Patston, I Think Differently’s creator and moderator, about visibility. I was worrying about whether using my full name on Career Champion and talking about my personal life, including my experience of polio, were going to disadvantage me in the marketplace.
Philip and I decided in the end that my story was part of my branding.
Philip is also working on the More Diversity on Screen campaign, lobbying the TV and screen media industry to get more people who live with disability represented in TV series, films and commercials. I asked him why he thinks that’s important and how he saw it relating to my own visibility in social media.
Philip had this to say:
We hardly ever see disabled people in the media. Our media scan as part of the campaign found that in a typical week of broadcasting on the main TV channels only 0.5% of programming featured disabled people. (The channels we scanned were One, 2, 3, FOUR, Prime and Maori Television.)
That’s important because researchers, Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne have found that heavy exposure to media alters the viewer’s perception of social reality in a way that matches the media world. They are known internationally for their work on the effects of violence, media, and commercial culture on children. They have also done a lot of work around alcohol and tobacco advertising and the image of women in advertising.
If you apply that finding to disability, it’s little wonder that we have so much inaccessibility for disabled people. People’s social reality, based on the media world, is that people with the experience of disability hardly exist. Yet one in five of us is disabled.
That’s why I believe you being “openly disabled” in your blog is important. Social media is made by ordinary people for ordinary people, so it’s easier to influence others that way. It’s not like broadcast media, which is governed by advertising revenue and popular culture.
Your blog lets people into your world, showing you as unique in your function and experience, yet common in your capacity and desire to work.
My reflection was that, yes, I live in the same world as everyone else. I can still earn my own living (albeit a bit differently) and I need to because I share the same economic reality. Up until now I have tried to meet the working world on its own terms, but now I need to find a more equal match between us.
I see my post now as a message in a bottle, a kind of weekly visualisation, and exercise in self motivation. By being “openly disabled” and by telling my story, with it’s ups and downs, I throw the bottle into the sea and by also doing the metaphorical leg work to rescue myself, I hope to meet up with someone who needs the exact service I can offer.
The More Diversity on Screen campaign is also putting out a message to the world. It’s important work.
Sally says now she feels a lot better about making herself known through her blog. She also wants to let you know she has several work leads to follow up from her recent ring around.