A Conversation on How Disability is Depicted in Literature

Book cover

Over the past few years I have noticed that more characters with disabilities have been appearing in works of fiction. In many ways this is wonderful to see, as we have been a largely under-represented group when it comes to fictional characters. But, as with so many other facets of life, there is also a shadow side – I seldom feel that the characters with disabilities are accurately drawn. Instead, they tend to be depicted as either inspirational or tragic figures. Which, like most other polarities, results in a highly simplistic view of what life with a disability is like.
 
On a recent episode of my A Different Way of Seeing podcast, I raised the topic with fellow author and advocate, Elizabeth Sammons. Together we explored the way blindness is represented in fiction and the often harmful consequences it has for us as persons living with a visual impairment. It was a fascinating conversation and I’d encourage you to take a listen and think about some of the points raised by Elizabeth.
 
Here’s where you can find the conversation: http://iono.fm/e/1173132
 
I also loved the advice that Elizabeth offers to authors wanting to create believable characters with disabilities. Her suggestions on how to research and test the accuracy of the depiction of the disability are great and can be used by writers with and without disabilities.
 
Here are the books mentioned by Elizabeth, as well as the speech she referenced during our conversation, in case you feel inclined to dig a little deeper into the subject.

“Blindness: Is Literature Against Us?”
By Kenneth Jernigan, 
July 3, 1974
https://nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/convent/banque74.htm
 
“Being Seen:  One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism”
By Elsa Sjunneson  
“There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness”
By M. Leona Godin.
 
You can learn more about Elizabeth’s own writing at https://www.dldbooks.com/elizabethsammons/
 
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