Don’t Ask Disabled People These Questions: Video

Listen to this post: 

Ever the critic that I am, I’m going to post a video here that I really enjoyed watching but start you off with critiques of it.

BBC Three in the UK produced a lovely, short video called “Stupid Questions Not to Ask a Disabled Person.” The premise is wonderful. I love all the “Shit People Say to…” videos on YouTube. As disappointing as these moments are, it’s reassuring after I’ve experienced a microaggression to watch one of these and think oh yeah, this is going on constantly. I’m not the only one experiencing it.

Here are the problems with the BBC Three video, cute as it was.

  • They posted the video online and shared it on Facebook without captions. A couple Facebook users commented on their page in a polite, reserved way. They were reassured with a fast response that the captioned version was on its way. The version embedded in this post is the captioned one.

By the way, if you’re reading this and are considering doing a film about microaggressions in the disability community, rest assured that it’s so not OK to post it without captions. How many people will really come back later to check to see that you care whether they can watch it or not? Why would you make people who need captions work harder to access your film? Makes me wonder who produced the film and whether they’re aware what a micro (macro?) aggression it is to provide inaccessible content for and about the disability community. (Side note: I didn’t see a discussion of Audio Description in the Facebook page comments).

  • Stupid? You’re going to use a term that insults intelligence in the title of a film about disability microaggression? I get that perhaps BBC Three isn’t going to use “shit” in their video titles. But stupid? This one goes beyond my capacity to understand. (No, not because I’m stupid but because I assume that when you make a film about a community, you try to not insult them while you’re at it.) Again, I feel it’s not well thought out. Many of us in the disability community get called stupid as a specific disability insult. So um, yeah.
  • They forgot to talk about society! Oops! The social model of disability (where people with impairments are limited and disabled by an inaccessible society, not by their own bodies and minds) is huge in the UK. It’s huger than it is here in the US and on this blog. And yet, when they got to the point in the video where they asked people whether they would change something, we were given answers around their own individual bodies and impairments. Seriously!

Spoiler alert: the people in the movie said they wouldn’t get rid of their disabilities if they could change anything. When you ask, “What would you change?” and the answer is, “I wouldn’t change myself,” how is that the end of the movie? How is there no follow up like this: “Well, then, what would you change?” I find it nearly impossible to believe that disabled people who live by the social model of disability created this film. If they did, then “What would you change?” would have been answered, not given a non-answer. I fear that once again, a movie starring disabled people is made not for us, but for non-disabled society. (Reminder: it was posted without captions.)

I think that perhaps some newly disabled people or people who have not been surrounded by a supportive environment can get a very powerful message from the final scenes in the short where the subjects talk about not wanting to get rid of their disabilities. If even one person has an awakening to a concept of disability pride or self pride, then it is a job hugely well done with this film. But I worry that to many people who have already attained disability pride, that focusing on would you change your disability or would you get rid of it if you could is, unfortunately, just one more unintended but hurtful disability microaggression.

With all that, here is the captioned version of the film. It’s worth the watch, though I would ask that you watch it with a critical viewpoint if you don’t do that already with films like this.