By Bill Sitter, Self-Advocate with Autism
The Greatest Showman is a 2017 movie about the life of P.T. Barnum and how he built a circus empire. A key entertainment in his show were individuals called “freaks.” Many of those folks had various types of disabilities.
The movie has a song called “This is Me.” In this song, the “freaks” wear their differences with pride and acknowledge that people may not understand them. The song begins with lyrics that illustrate the views of some people toward people with disabilities:
“Hide away, they say
Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are”
This sad view is something that I have experienced, even in recent years. People have said to me: “Well you do not look Autistic” and “Please say Aspergers, do not say Autism.” These comments show a person’s ignorance of Autism and that of disabilities in general. People with disabilities, including me, long to be seen as people first – not as “freaks” and not only as our disability. And we want to be viewed as individuals. Not all people with Autism are alike. I often have to remind people that if you have met one person with a disability, like Autism, you have met one person with a disability.
I am a Disability Awareness Player and watching The Greatest Showman reminded me of a Disability Awareness Training. A Disability Awareness Training is another “show” where people with disabilities are the main attraction. However, the goal of Disability Awareness Trainings is to teach neurotypical people to feel comfortable interacting with people with disabilities and to show that people with disabilities have a lot to offer.
The Players embody the lyrics of the second stanza of “This is Me:”
“I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious.”
The Players empower each other and inspire in many ways. They change the way other people view people with disabilities by opening minds and breaking down barriers.
PT Barnum was not a friend to those with disabilities. Fortunately, the world is changing. Society is slowly learning to value people with disabilities. At the same time, people with disabilities are learning to self-advocate, accept ourselves for who we are, and to use our talents to teach others how much we have to offer. The Disability Awareness Players are a big part of this change. If you have a chance to see a Disability Awareness Training, it is an experience you can’t miss.
Want to find out more about Disability Awareness Trainings? Interested in hosting a training at your school, businesses, or organization?