Thursday, November 4, 2010

Survival of the Fittest- Or Not?

Imagine being on a reality show and having a tribe member who is a world class athlete, who has world records in distance running, won gold at the NY triathlon, and has finished the Hawaii Ironman.

And then imagine that you reject her because you don't want to go to the finals with a 'charity case'.

This is not a hypothetical situation. It really happened this season on Survivor. But you see this athlete is an amputee. What the tribe members saw was her disability, not her ability.

The October 20th episode of Survivor: Nicaragua featured the elimination of Kelly Bruno, a 26-year-old medical student from North Carolina. Although she was good at challenges and helped with work around her tribe's camp, she was voted off for one simple reason. Kelly is a below-the-knee amputee. In their on-camera interviews and during their conversations around camp, several of Kelly's tribe mates were heard saying that they needed to get rid of her because no one wanted to go to the finals with "a charity case." They figured that the members of the jury would give Kelly the million dollars because they felt sorry for all that she'd been through in her life.

What they succumbed to was the stigma of disability.

Disability often carries a stigma that many people don't want to be associated with. People with disabilities, whether from birth or acquired later in life through injury or illness, are often marked as being weak, fragile and unable to do even the simplest things for themselves. As in the case of Kelly Bruno, other people may see those with disabilities as objects of pity or people to be looked down upon.

Their loss.

Read more at Suite101: The Stigma of Disability

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