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Society's Perception of Individuals with Disabilities and Superheroes

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It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s… Hawkeye? Hawkeye our not so famous superhero has been in the superhero business since 1964 when he first appeared as a villain in Tales Of Suspense #57, however when he joined the Avengers crew in Avengers #16, he rose to fame and has stuck with the Avengers ever since. But there is one thing that makes Hawkeye stand out among the rest… his crippling disability. From the outside Hawkeye seems like a completely normal superhero without any major super power but Hawkeye is completely deaf in the comic books. However, Hawkeye isn’t the only person in the world with a hidden disability millions of people around the world each day are dealing with disabilities that aren’t obvious to the eye. Societies views of disabilities don’t reflect what disabilities actually are. So today we will first make an appointment and look at what a disability is. Second we will take a look and diagnose the cause of these misconceptions, and finally we will treat some solutions to the misconception of disabilities.

So what is a superheroes favorite part of a joke? The punch line! Though punching is recommended in our society so let’s make an appointment and look at what a disability is instead. People throughout society have viewed disabilities as someone in a wheelchair, however this isn’t true for every situation. The oxford dictionary states the definition of disability as a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. The American with Disabilities Act further defines a disability as something that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. However within our society we perceive disability as someone in a wheelchair or obvious impairment. According to an article from Utah State University dated April 3, 2014 writer Thomas Grayson states that “Historically, people with disabilities have been regarded as individuals to be pitied, feared, or ignored” But in a society that revolves around egos we feel the need to put others down, or find the easiest person to pick on. Have you ever the felt annoyed when a person who looks fine parks in a handicap parking spot? This would be due to the view we have put on disabilities, we expect someone old or in a wheelchair to be parking in those spots, however people with disabilities not visible to the eye probably need that spot as well. Handicap parking spots however inconvenient they may be to some, are vitally important. Without handicap parking spots people with disabilities would not be able to get to the places they needed to go. People’s restrictions may not be apparent from the outside but their limitations to function can be debilitating. Each person has their own situation and the way they define a disability is going to be different, therefore we can’t place a mold on disability and expect everyone with a disability to fit that mold, every disability has it’s own parameters and we as a society don’t have the power to set what those parameters are. Now that we have made an appointment and looked at what a disability is let’s take a look and diagnose the cause of these misconceptions.

If I could be any superhero I think I would be Aluminum Girl. My superpower would be foiling crime. However while I was foiling crime we also need to take a look at how in a society we view others with disabilities as people who can not function on their own or need help to live their daily lives. In some circumstances this can be true, but most people living with disabilities are normal people who lives their lives just as everyone else. We as a society get these misconceptions from extreme stories portrayed through the media. In a world where we have access to most information in the palm of our hand, media plays a very important role in our lives. However, people tend to react better to stories that show one extreme or another. So everything we hear about disabilities tends to be ones of pure heartbreak and sympathy. According to an article from ABC dated May 29, 2013 author Christina Ng states that “Almost one in five Americans — 57 million people — have some sort of disability. “ However throughout most of our society these disabilities truly aren’t as bad as the media portrays them. Most people with disabilities go about their daily lives just like anyone else however we see the label of ‘disability’ as demeaning and putting that person on a level where we think that they are incapable of doing anything for themselves. Through news stories to TV shows we see that disabilities are something that everyone wants to stay away from. Take for example the popular TV show ‘Glee’ we all know the glee kid Arte who is in a wheelchair due to spinal injury. The TV producers for glee have tried to make light of his character and show that disabled students can do the same as regular students. And to people watching the show with no disabilities, we see it as a great portrayal of what it’s like to be disabled. To make this character even better, they casted a non disabled actor to play the role of disabled Arte. However, according to an article from The Guardian dated August 19th, 2010 “Execrable episodes like “Wheels” or “Laryngitis” attracted considerable criticism, and revealed an interesting dichotomy among viewers. Non Disabled viewers reacted with praise and pleasure, feeling that these disability-centric episodes depicted disability honestly and accurately, while some disabled viewers felt that these episodes were offensive, appropriative and wildly inaccurate.” This is seen strongly in Glee but also in shows such as Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Switched at Birth, and many more. Even though these TV shows can over exaggerate the real life of people with disabilities it’s very clear they still need to do some research. Even though these TV shows can give a negative light to disabilities there is still hope on how we can change it.

Though after all of this I would have to say that the most confusing superhero film is Invisible Man. It’s very hard to follow. So while we sit in the theatre trying to follow invisible man let’s look at something more realistic and treat some solutions to the misconception of disabilities. All throughout society there are many different people facing their own disabilities and there are many different ways we can help. Throughout our history we have made major progress in the area of discrimination but we could still do more to improve. We can start by combating the media’s poisonous depictions of disabilities. According to an article from BBC dated November 29, 2010 “The survey reveals, for instance, that though 90% of those polled believed the government should provide the necessary funds to make the workplace accessible for disabled people, and 40% thought that people with disabilities turned down jobs, even when they were physically able to do them.” These views have been portrayed in to people through different media outlets and sources. One way we can combat this view is by talking or writing letters to your state legislatures and pushing for more legislation to be passed to benefit those who are disabled as well helping to decrease the discrimination. We all view disabilities differently, if writing letters isn’t what you’re looking at you can simply stand up for those who are disabled. The next time you go to the supermarket and see someone park in handicap parking who isn’t in a wheelchair, don’t judge their situation could be one that isn’t easy to see on the outside. Catherine Budlong mentioned in her article “ARISE: Respect parking spaces for people with disabilities” dated January 12, 2016 “Respect the Signs initiative. The purpose of this program is to draw awareness to accessible parking spots and ensure that only individuals with appropriate passes use these designated spaces” Through this respect the sign you can help out within your own community such as signing a pledge through ARISE and join the initiative in signing their pledge to Respect The Signs. If you notice any local businesses within your community that don’t have accessible parking for disabled write a letter to the store and make them aware that they should get handicap parking spots. Each year there are more and more things people can do to get involved with these projects, all it takes is a step to start the change.

So if I can’t be aluminum girl I would be called Ironic, So that when there’s any trouble and I’m running away, people will be like, “Isn’t that Ironic?”. Or maybe I should just go back to the drawing board… Today we first made an appointment and looked at what a disability is. Second we took a look and diagnosed the cause of these misconceptions, and finally we treated some solutions to the misconception of disabilities. All throughout our society we have seen many different types of disabilities but not all are treated equally. With millions of people dealing with disabilities it’s time for us to take a stance and do something about it. We haven’t always had the most accurate perception of disabilities but we can slowly begin to change that. We need to look at disabilities through a different lens and realize you can’t always see what a person is going through. Hawkeye is one that has gone through great struggles but won’t let villains get in trouble under his watch. Hawkeye may be one comic book hero with no great superpowers but he is empowering people with disabilities all throughout our nation. Simply, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

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Society’s Perception of Individuals with Disabilities and Superheroes. (2019, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
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